When Can Kids Start Playing Soccer? – 4 Things to Consider

As parents, we want our children to be active and healthy, especially during their early years. When considering what physical activities can be good for our children, sports always becomes the number one option.

Nowadays, kinds as early as 3 can start playing sports and even though it’s cute and amazing, some parents wonder if that is their children are actually ready for sports such as soccer, football, cheerleading, or baseball. As a father of a boy and a girl, soccer coach, and having played soccer my entire life, I’m going to focus on Soccer as an introductory sport or physical activity for children.

On this article, I will talk about what to consider when trying to answer the question: When can kids start playing soccer? (and I assume the question is about playing for a team because they can kick a ball as soon as they can walk)

First of All… Safety!

Contact is expected on soccer at all ages, not to the same intensity but there will always be contact while playing soccer. And with contact comes some risks of injuries just like in any other sport or physical activity.

Another thing we must consider is if soccer is a good sport for our children based on their personality and how can they react to that environment. As a father of 2 and having a nephew, I can assure that not all kids are ready to follow direction at a specific age. Again, we are talking about when can kids start playing soccer for a team.

I personally suggest that as early as 5 years of age most kids can be ready to play soccer based on safety only.

Understanding of the Game vs Exposure

Now, once we decide that it is safe for our kids, we get to the next of whether my child is ready for soccer. At this point, we have to consider if we want them to just play so that they stay healthy or if we would like soccer to become their first sport because is in the family. The reason will make a huge difference.

If we just want them just to play soccer for fun, then I would recommend that someone plays with them for a year before they are part of a team. Even though is for fun, kids tend to be very sensitive with being capable of doing what other kids do. Basic skills like kicking a ball, passing, receiving, and dribbling are thing that they should know; and nothing too crazy because they are just entering to the world of soccer. Therefore, I would suggest that at the age of 6, kids are ready to join a team for fun.

Everything changes if our goal is to give our children a fair opportunity to make it to the professional level one day. If you think that I’m exaggerating, I would like you to consider that most professional players retire in their early 30s and they started playing professionally before they turned 20. My point is that exposure to soccer should start as early as possible IF the main goal is to have the children go all the way or at least try to!

With the goal of professional level for our children or at least competitive level, I would suggest to (before signing them up with a team) train your child on your own or have a friend do it. There is no need to sign up for team when your child hasn’t been exposed to kicking a ball. Soccer academies and private coaches may disagree with me but I’m writing this article as a father. (I also coach and I tell exactly the same thing to ALL parents – nothing against soccer academies – in fact, I would definitely enjoy having one). With this in mind, I would suggest to look for a good team or soccer academy when your child is 7-8 years old.

 

Natural Talent vs Talent through Discipline

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Considering the talent of our child can also help us to figure out when is the right time for soccer. We love our children above everything and we know that they are capable of achieving anything that they set as a goal, even when they are in their early years. However, we must also realize that we can do much better if we discover what their natural talent is and push them to reach their highest potential with that natural skill. And as a coach, you can tell when a kid is just a natural soccer player.

I believe that discipline can defeat talent in soccer (and applies to other things in life as well). Now, soccer skills can be mastered through discipline or by nature. Some professional players like Ronaldinho have proof that when they were younger, they had the talent in their blood and all they needed was a soccer ball. For gifted young players, the starting age is irrelevant because once the see a soccer ball, the magic begins!

When it comes to talent and age to start playing soccer, we must look at our children and expose them to soccer. Their personality and skills will tell us when they are ready.

 

 

So, when is the Appropriate Age?

Summarizing everything in a simple number may not be fair because, as mentioned above, it depends on the main reason why we want our children to play soccer. For fun as a physical activity, I would say 5-6. With a purpose in mind and long term goals, I would say 7-8. Either way, we are exposing them to a physical activity to keep them healthy. As a side note, soccer will keep them busy and WILL get them tired (hopefully!). They will release so much energy during practice and games.

What I would expect as a parent is that, by age 10-12, my child has a concrete understanding of the game. Otherwise, soccer is just a physical activity and BELIEVE ME there is nothing wrong with that. Soccer as a sport can develop social skills, communication skills, physical skills, intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, and much more. Children gain a lot more than championships when they play soccer and that’s why this sport is good at all ages.

The real question is: Are they having FUN?

At the end of the day, we want our children to be happy so perhaps the age is not quite important as long as they are enjoying what they do.

Writing this article as a parent makes me wonder how many of us unconsciously put pressure on our children to meet OUR expectations. Expectations that WE could accomplish during our younger years. However, sometimes this pressure leads to better our children and guide them through the path that we have walked on.

No matter how old they are, always keep in mind their Health, Safety, and Happiness!

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Please, leave your comments, questions, or suggestions below. Thank you.

 

11 thoughts on “When Can Kids Start Playing Soccer? – 4 Things to Consider

  1. What a thoughtful post on At What Age Should Your Child Begin to Play Soccer. It was so good to hear this father’s viewpoint.  It is especially valid as he is also a Soccer Coach. 

    Am in full agreement that it should be fun for the child. If they are pushed too young they get resentful and all will suffer as a result. I agree with the writer of this post that learning skills like dribbling the ball and kicking is fine to do on a one on one basis and that as they get more proficient then they can move on to a team.

    Both my sons played Soccer and I think their Coach was rather pleased when they stopped as I was one of  “THOSE” Soccer Moms who liked to coach from the sideline. Oops. Not a good thing, or very helpful.

    The real reason for them leaving is that we left the City we lived in and there were no Soccer Teams in the Village we moved to.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience in soccer, soccer moms are the best! I personally enjoy to watch them get into the game. Some may take it to the next level but it all for the love to soccer, and their kids. It’s awesome!

      It would be great if there can be soccer everywhere! Good luck to your sons on and off the fields!

  2. I love that you said at the end “the real question is: are they having fun?”. That right there is the most important thing! 

    I’ve got twins who play soccer. They started playing at 7 – that was when they showed interest and felt ready to play in a team environment. Before that, whilst they loved kicking the ball around, they really weren’t ready or interested in anything more than that. I think a lot of it also depends on the sports that are big at the school too and that their friends are involved in. With that being said they also love sports that none of their friends do, so go figure! 

    In my opinion, if they love it then I’ll support them. Active kids are healthy and happy kids!

    • Great comment. Having fun in those early years is critical because they will discover their talent in a positive environment where they feel comfortable and happy. I agree, soccer will keep kids healthy and active. Even though is a contact sport and accidents can happen at any time (I actually have two of my players get minor injuries on my game today), soccer players are exposed to activities that will keep them fit. Happy kids are the ultimate reward for coaches! Thank you for sharing such a positive comment!

  3. I started playing soccer since 7 years old. It is easy to learn with simple rule of not using my hands. The running from a soccer match is very healthy for young age. That’s where it builds my physical strength today. From soccer at 7 years old, today I am stronger and didn’t fall sick easily

    • Thank you for sharing your experience. Running on a field will keep kids healthy, active, and mainly/hopefully happy to be part of the sport. Physical strength is key and you are right, it has a critical effect on whether some players get sick, compared to kids that are not as active as soccer players.

  4. Hi Victor,

    Thanks for opening our mind as a parent on this subject matter! As I notice nowadays, not all but most kids are into computer games than playing sports compared to kids of 90’s and 80’s. I totally agree with you that as a parent we must introduce physical activities and sports back to their life especially during their early years, in that way, they might start to love sport and to choose what kind of sport that they want to excel at. 

    I did get love great tips from your article and may apply to it to my kids.

    Glenda

    • Thank you Glenda for sharing your thoughts about my article. I must agree with you about how most kids are nowadays wasting the best years of their lives with video games (they can play for a bit but not all day like some may do). I think that parents should motivate children to play sports or do any activity that will keep them busy and physically active.

      Best of luck with your kids! Hopefully they find soccer to be super fun 🙂

  5. Dear Victor Farfan,

    Thanks for the sound advice on when can kids start playing soccer. I got great insights from your post.

    It’s great to know you are a soccer coach and wishing you all the very best!

    Personally I love cricket and often I felt if I got good exposure from my childhood itself and joined some good coaching academy I would have ended up as a good cricketer. I don’t want my son to feel the same and want to help him.

    May I ask… How to identify the kids natural talent… How to find the right sport for him, whether he is interested in Soccer, Cricket, hockey, baseball etc., So that we can help him to train from the beginning itself. Please advice…

    Wishing you great success!

    Paul

    • Thank you for stopping by 🙂 Well, I think that natural talent is about: 1) being good at something without much practice and 2) enjoying what you do. I think that kids’ natural talents are unique and you can see when a kid has the set of skills to become a superstar. Now, once a natural talent is identified, the next step is exposure and discipline. For example, my sister started to teach me math when I was 6, and I LOVED IT! Then I was exposed to math through school and (long story short) I earned my math degree from college. 

      Kids will show interest for many things, kids will like many things, kids will even be good at many things. It is the parent’s job to see what “comes naturally” to them and expose them to such sport/activity. Best of luck my friend!

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