Play Soccer with Older Kids and Improve
One of the things that greatly helped with my soccer development was having an older brother. Because of a 5 year age gap, he was much bigger, stronger, and overall simply a better soccer player than myself. Whenever we would play little games in the backyard, competing was always a struggle, but playing against an older opponent truly helped me learn a lot of new things and also better prepared me to play with kids my own age. If you ever have the opportunity to play a pick-up game with some older kids, or find yourself in an opportunity to play in a league of older soccer players, I highly recommend going for it because it will make you a much stronger player.
There are many factors that go into playing against tougher opposition but the main one I like is the physical strength difference. Older players are much bigger, especially during a player’s younger years. You will be pushed off the ball, you will not be able to run as fast as the older guys, and you will probably lose whatever game you are playing….the first time.
But if you get over it and work around these deficiencies, you will find ways to play smarter. Perhaps your small size will enable you to nutmeg the older player and run below his or her arms to retrieve the ball and score. Maybe you just might manage to squeeze past them and utilize some quick footwork to control the ball.
Playing against older soccer players forces you to adapt your game and always puts you at a disadvantage. How you rise up to the challenge will make or break you. If you are strong-willed and dedicated, training in such a circumstance can be vital to your development.
One thing to note though is that playing against bigger players is often not much fun. You will likely be beaten on several occasions and sometimes even embarrassed as you get manhandled and stripped of the soccer ball. But you will learn a ton, and if you do get that moment of thrill where you sneak past two defenders and score, you will surely be proud of your efforts. Additionally, the player you do beat will be mortified to having succumbed to the skills of a “little kid”.
Additionally, playing a year or two up as a permanent member of a league team is a great experience to rapidly develop. You will be playing against tougher opponents week-in and week-out. Although there will probably be less individual glory as the level of competition is raised, you will become a much better soccer player.
Also, think about young professionals who join a club at the age of 18 and then have to compete for a starter’s spot against several 30 year olds. Being able to keep your composure with older players is something required at every stage of the game, and your ability to play successfully with other soccer players, regardless of their age, will go a long ways to determining how successful of a player you will become.
So, next time an older sibling or neighbor invites you to play some soccer with their friends, take them up on the offer, and make a game of it!