Traditional youth sports generally tend to group children of just one age together. Traditional education is no different either. Having one age per classroom isn’t an exception from the norm. There are football clubs and schools which mix ages from time to time but the majority are afraid to do so. Perhaps they do have their reasons such as: lack of experience, stage and peace of learning process, physical (football) and psychological development for younger children. I’d like to share my own experiences. I had been used in a past and present to the idea of a mixed age group. I not only had learnt more about the players I was coaching but find it beneficial for kids themselves and here is why?
I used to play a little game called: “teacher-student interaction” where older kids became a teacher and younger ones became students. That experiences teach older children being patient, develop their communication as to how to talk and listen to their younger peers. In addition, they learn to be responsible for younger pupils learning process. They used their previous footballing experiences and therefore help younger players learn from theirs. Younger players learn how to solve the problems on the pitch by just watching older kids playing the game.
There is no coach involved in a process too much, therefore kids can learn in relation to their ability, learning style and on their own peace.
Younger children learn to be resilient by staying on the ball against older, physically stronger children. Older children learn to be determined to keep the ball against 3 or more younger players. The obvious benefit is better technical ability overall.
Older children offer support in their unique natural way. If a younger child makes a mistake, the older one gives child to child feedback in children own language which is much better received than when coaches try to do the same thing. Child feedback is usually short, simple and easy to understand.
Younger children learn quickly by aiming to standards set by older children. Older kids offer appreciation for younger players achievements and learn how and when to praise.
Kids learn from each other needs when to offer support, when to help to solve the problems on the pitch, when to offer different challenge to the game.
In conclusion, when we land our first job, our work environment is full of mixed age group. Equally, when a young player starts his senior football, the team is full of mixed age players also. These two examples alone should give enough indication to offer the same opportunities for children when they younger. Surely it will prepare them better for their adult life both on and off the pitch. What do you think?