The Right Age For Travel Teams And Player Cuts
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This resource stems from a question submitted to the Ask PCA blog. Responses come from our experts including PCA Trainers, who lead live group workshops for coaches, parents, administrators and student-athletes.
"What age is the right age to start travel teams? Should we be cutting players as young as 8 or 9 if the goal of our organization is to develop players for the long term?"
PCA Response By Joe Scally, PCA Trainer-Chicago
There is a general progression from the pure and simple fun of a sport, to learning skills, tactics and strategies, to becoming accomplished and competing at a high level. When the fun goes away, players leave the sport.
Most eight- and nine-year-olds are at the fun stage of their sports experience. Cutting that short often chases them away before they can progress to the next stage, meaning they lose the chance to learn the valuable life lessons sports can teach. The short answer to whether eight- and nine-year-olds should be cut is "no." Everyone should have a chance to play at that age.
With the right support and encouragement most players can reach the accomplished level. We should put little, if any, value on our assessments of the relative abilities of young athletes. Size, strength, motor skills, attitude, motivation, and other traits are fluid qualities for kids at eight and even at eighteen. An assessment of who is the "best" player will change over the course of a single season.
Travel teams for eight- and nine-year-olds are OK as long as the risks and benefits are carefully considered. At any age, travel programs should meet the kids' needs to play, have fun and grow into their sport.
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