What football parents can expect from children


My goals:

  • child’s development at different ages;
  • consider how children’s development impacts on them as players;
  • help you consider what you can expect from your child depending on age.


Why can’t he head the ball?”: I’m unable to keep count of the number of times I have overheard this question from parents of young children!


My mention:

Within any group of children there could be a four-year development range. For example: in a group of under 11’s, whilst some will display the average, others could still be displaying the characteristics of an under 9’, whilst others could be considered an under 13 in terms of development. In time, this will usually equal out, but parents and coaches need to be aware of this.


Next, I will highlight the particular characteristics of the different age groups involved in youth football. This will give you an idea of what can expect from your child and how you can use this information to support their development and encourage their continued participation.


Under 8’s
Characteristics: What does this mean?
– Excitable

Expect lots of energy and running around from your child.

– Enthusiastic Build on this, encourage the players, don’t be negative, and focus on development and participation and don’t be driven by results.
– Egocentric Don’t expect lots of passes and teamwork. Encourage your child to concentrate on developing his individual skills.
– Talkative Encourage them to ask questions and communicate on the pitch.
– Short concentration span They will get bored quickly, so organize lots of fun yet purposeful games.
– Limited understanding of space Expect everyone to chase the ball.
– Sensitive to criticism

Be aware of this sensibility.

– Lack of decision-making ability

The more decisions you give them, the less likely they will be to make one. „4 vs4” or „3 vs 3” is the best at this age group.

– Difficulty on judging the speed of moving objects Expect them to air kick and miss the ball. Make sure you don’t criticize them if they do this, but suggest ways to help them to avoid doing this.
– Undeveloped strength

Don’t expect many 20m cross-field passes and work on short passing and shooting.


My mention:

I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve heard a coach spend the entire training session telling the players to be quiet, and the entire game complaining that the players won’t talk to each other.



The average adult can concentrate for 20 minutes, so don’t expect a seven year old to concentrate for more than ten minutes.


Best practice:

Give your child the choice between a theme park, a day at the zoo, the circus, or a trip to the seaside. You will still be there two hours later before a decision is made. Give a choice of two and you will get an answer! Young children have not fully developed their decision-making skills so be aware of this. Don’t get frustrated if they find it hard to make decisions. Make it easier for young children by giving them limited choices.



Under 10’s
Characteristics: What does this mean?
– Golden age of learning

Encourage questions and set challenges to test and stretch the player.

– Increased awareness of others Increase decision-making options and understanding of what children can do to progress play. Move to „6 vs 6” or „7 vs 7” and expect more passes.
– Enthusiastic Don’t stifle your child, instead use this enthusiasm to encourage and develop ability. It might also be a good idea to develop this enthusiasm by going to watch other matches to get a different experience of the game.
– More attentive You can go into more in depth in coaching sessions as the child will have a longer concentration span and will absorb more information. But make sure you explain and check his understanding.
– Enjoyment of challenges Stretch children both physically and mentally by using more advanced coaching games.
– Increased strength Expect more long passes.
– Loss of flexibility

It is important to recognize that this happens and therefore be as vigilant as ever in remembering the warm-up!



Under 14’s
Characteristics: What does this mean?
– Able to develop team play

Develop positional play.

– Enjoy problem solving

Don’t provide the answers – in training set a problem, and encourage them to solve this. We need to encourage problem solving in players as we need them to thrive and adapt in a game when we can’t be on the pitch with them!

– Peer pressure

Be aware of the growing influence of a child’s peers.

– Identify others’ strengths and weakness

This can be both positive and negative. It will be a challenge as to how you encourage the player to evaluate performance in a positive way. This lies in the ability to recognize the concepts of team play.

– Competitive

The players want to participate in and enjoy competition and the physical challenge that comes with this but remember to keep competition in perspective. It’s nice to win, but not at any cost! There are lessons to be learned from defeat – turn it into a positive learning experience.

– Physical change

Be aware and sensitive to the impact puberty may have on the individual. At this age there could be a large difference in size and strength between players – this will usually equal out in time. As a child has a growth spurt, he may become weaker – keep an eye on this. Children of this age could also be susceptible to injury as the muscle and bone develop at different rates.


Over 15’s
Characteristics: What does this mean?
– Growing stronger

Players are reaching adulthood and have fewer growth spurts.

– Greater mental strength

Players will have a greater ability to cope with tough game situations.

– The need for physical challenge

As the body becomes stronger so does the ability to meet physical challenge. Part of this is to test yourself against others.

– More tactically aware

Players will, by this stage, have settled on a preferred position. They will be more aware of their role in the team and of how this supports the roles of those around them.

– More analytical

Players are able to review their own performance and the performances of others, including that of the coach. This can be challenging, but should be encouraged.

– More competitive

This links into the need for physical challenge. Players in this age group want to compete and beat themselves.

– Changes in personal life

During this period, young people will be facing lots of changes in their life, such as moving from school to college or work. This may lead to new friendship groups. Often in these circumstances the football club can be the one constant in their life.


Best practice:

Remember that for all age groups, we must support players to develop, improve and encourage them to think for themselves.



  • There can be up to a four-year development range within any age group.
  • There are development characteristics in children that will influence their football development.
  • Don’t expect lots of passing in the under 8’s but expect everyone to follow the ball.
  • The golden age of learning begins at ten.
  • The under 14’s will begin to develop team play and enjoy problem solving.
  • As a child reaches 15 they are looking for greater challenges.
  • Watch games to see what children at different age groups can achieve – this will help you to be realistic about what to expect from your child.
  • Encourage your child to adhere and respect the players’ code of conduct.



[] Les Howie, The Official FA Guide for Football Parents, (2007), Hodder & Stoughton, Bookpoint Ltd.,  Manchester (UK)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s