There may be a point in your sports development when you are given the choice of playing with the older team, also known as “playing up.” Whether asked because of your size, potential, or talent, your first reflex would usually be to accept the offer.
NOT SO FAST! Without taking away the pride and honor that can often go along with the invitation, you should take some time to think it through.
So athletes, along with your parents, consider these questions before jumping one way or the other:
- Will playing up a level mean sitting the bench with playing time limited to a couple minutes here and there? Take the time to really think about the consequences of a season without experiencing the competitive floor or field time. Your goal with each season is to grow. Will the benefits of practicing with this upper level team plus observing them during tournaments outweigh sitting the bench?
- Teamwork at its best means understanding and combining individual strengths. Have you ever noticed that the most successful teams, whether they contain a superstar or not, are those that come together as one; those that seem to be able to anticipate each other’s moves and read each other’s minds? This obviously comes from time together on the field or court. Consider who your teammates will most likely be down the road. Will playing up a level prevent you from getting to really know and understand your future teammates?
- Are you both physically AND mentally ready to play up? Remember it takes both. You may have the strength to hit off an older and faster pitcher for example, but do you have the courage? Make you’re your mental and physical toughness are equally prepared for the challenge of the higher level of play.
- Consider the faster pace of a higher level. Can you keep up or is it to early for a stepped up level of intensity?
- Consider schedules. Can you meet the demands of a tougher schedule? Balance of life is very important.
- Consider the coach. Whose coaching style is a better fit for you now?
- There may be social consequences to playing at a different level than the rest of your friends. Will friends on the team respect your decision to leave them or take it personally and start leaving you out of the social fun? Will you feel left out when your peers are at a team pasta dinner without you?
As you can see, there are many factors to consider before jumping to a decision. Every athlete is different. So what may be good for you may not be good for your friend.
Bottom line, make sure your decision is a fit.
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