How do you know when your kid has outgrown his team? When should you move him to a new team that will continue to challenge him & help his development? How can you know the answer to that question?
By using the same thing that gets most of us through this thing called parenting...your gut.
You have to know your kid.
My 7-year old son has played for the same soccer team & coach since he began playing at 4-years old. We liked that team & coach a lot. Great kids, great parents. It was the perfect first team to introduce the sport of soccer to Brayden.
But Brayden is REALLY into sports. He loves sports more than Scooby-Doo loves Scooby Snacks and more than Miley Cyrus loves attention.
Last season I started to notice signs that maybe Brayden was starting to outgrow his team. Some of his teammates weren't really into the games or practices. There were times when they could have easily gotten open to receive a pass and didn’t. There were times when they should have passed to other wide-open players & didn't. There were times when they could have won a loose ball but didn't simply because they didn't have the desire to hustle and get to the ball first.
During the off-season, we were presented with the option to have Brayden play on a new team in a different and more competitive league. Since Brayden’s best friend was also going to be on this new team, it was a no-brainer and we jumped at the opportunity.
How much impact do your son’s teammates have on him?
Many of the kids on this new team, including his best friend, came from a team that Brayden’s team played against last season. Brayden’s team lost all three games. These kids can play, so I knew they would help Brayden raise his game.
Have you ever heard the philosophy that, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with?” As I become “more experienced” in life, I buy into this philosophy more and more. I think the same can be said about teammates in sports. If your son is on a team with good kids who love to compete, then his skill level and desire will also increase if he also loves to compete. (Those last six words are key.)
Growth occurs outside of our comfort zones.
Brayden was the most talented player on his previous team. I know that sounds biased coming from his dad, but it’s the truth. He was the “straw that stirred the drink,” as Reggie Jackson would say. During Brayden’s first few years playing soccer, the game came pretty easily to him.
This season has been a different story. Brayden has flat out struggled at times. He’s cried after games and has said things like, “I’m not as good as some of the other kids on my team.”
And THAT’S when I knew we made the right move coming to this new team.
Although it was difficult to see him struggle and look uncomfortable during some games, I knew that it would benefit him in the long run. It’s good for kids to get outside of their comfort zone. That’s where growth occurs.
Now don’t get me wrong. Having fun is still a main priority. I ask Brayden after every practice if he had fun and if he likes his new team. His response is always positive. My favorite response he’s given me was, “Yes, I love my team! All the other kids are so good!”
Brayden’s move to this team and this league can be equated to a high school player going to a Division I school. Future Division I ball players stand out like crazy on high school teams. They can flat out dominate at the high school level. But as soon as they get to college, they’re competing with and against kids who were also the best players on their high school teams and in their high school leagues. In order to be a standout again, they need to raise their game.
Rise To A Challenge
Brayden soon discovered that he could no longer blow past his opponents. His bull in a China shop style of dribbling through traffic wasn’t cutting it here. He's had to learn a lot more about passing and positioning. He's had to learn how to handle frustration. He's had to learn how to handle more instruction from his coaches.
It's fair to say that the majority of the other kids on this team had a higher soccer IQ going into the season. During his first few seasons, Brayden was simply getting by on raw talent and ability. Now he’s had to learn more about the technical side of the game. He’s had to learn about ball movement and strategy.
He’s also had to develop better foot skills with the ball. The 7-Touch Training shoes he used in the off-season have benefited him in this area. By using the Seven-Touch Trainers he gained a knowledge base of how he can use the different parts of his feet effectively when striking the ball in different ways. They gave him a visual reference of all the different ways he could make plays with his feet.
Improvement Begins With Desire
I'll be honest, it hasn’t been easy to see Brayden struggle this season. There were times when I second-guessed putting him on this team. I had thoughts like, “Maybe I should have just left well enough alone.” “I hope I didn’t just do something that will make him not like soccer any more.”
Seeing him struggle in sports was new for me. Until this season, everything came easy to him. But it has been the best thing for him and his development in the sport and as a person. I know this because he’s getting better. There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s far and away a better player now than he was earlier in the season.
Perhaps the coolest thing about his improvement is that a lot of it has come from within. He’s worked hard on his soccer skills on his own. Most mornings when I’m leaving for work, Brayden is already outside kicking and juggling the ball around the yard.
At the beginning of this post I said, “You have to know your kid.” I know Brayden’s drive and competitive spirit. He wants to be the best player on the team. For that reason, I believe it’s good that he’s not. Complacency is the root of a champion’s demise. [CLICK TO TWEET THAT]
This season has taught him the value of hard work. It’s taught him how to handle adversity. It’s taught him to challenge himself and embrace the process of improving himself.
It’s taught me that even though it’s not easy to watch your kids struggle, life is about growth. None of us can grow if we allow our comfort zones to limit our potential.
Thanks for reading.
Kevin Duy is a Sports Dad of three boys & writes on youth sports and parenting.