Playing Up an Age Group

GGS Soccer Academy Guidelines for Playing Up

When it comes to playing up, we must always think about the best interest of the development of the player.  Overall, playing up is not a bad thing in itself. There are times where we find an exceptional player who constantly shows a steady technical or physical superiority over players in his or her own age group. In these case, parents and/or coaches may consider letting the player play up. However, in addition to the player’s soccer ability, other factors must be considered before deciding to let the player move to an older age group.

The truth is that the decision to play up is a complicated one. Some leagues have specific guidelines about when they will and will not allow a child to play up. At GGS Soccer Academy, we believe that no matter what your peers, friends, or a league dictates, the decision to play up, should be made on a child-by-child basis. Here are some factors to consider if you are thinking about having your child play up: 

Playing Up can typically occur one of two ways:

  • Via a request by parents/guardians:

    • Request Procedure – Requests must be submitted in writing (email is acceptable) prior to tryouts for the age group being requested. The request should contain all pertinent information (i.e. player’s DOB, grade in school, ODP/National team experience).

    • All requests will be reviewed by the Director of Coaching and technical staff. Players whose request to tryout in an older age group is approved must attend both the requested age group as well as the age-appropriate group tryout.

    • Approval must be requested and granted annually for any player seeking to play up.

    • It is also possible that the request may be denied.

  • Via the technical staff observations of the players’ developmental needs - this means a player may be identified by the           technical staff and then a recommendation made about playing up an age group.

Consultation and Guidelines to play up

  • The Director of Coaching or /and technical staff may consult with previous coaches, tryout coordinators and others as deemed appropriate before rendering a decision. All tryout results, coach’s evaluations and other factors in rendering a decision remain confidential and are not distributed by the DOC or designee.

  • Players and Parents/Guardians will be involved in the decision-making process so that ideas can be shared and education offered as to the benefits of playing up or remaining in their own age group.


GGS’s Guidelines for Playing Up

Who Plays Up? - When it is appropriate for the players’ development, the opportunity for the exceptional player to play with older players shall be considered. For the purposes of this policy, the exceptional player shall be defined as being in the top 50% of players in the older age group highest level team (based primarily upon tryout performance and prior coaching evaluations) for which he/she may desire or being considered for.

When we judge a player’s ability to play up an age group, there are a few questions to consider:

  • Will the player be in the starting line up?
    If the player is not going to get adequate playing time, playing up is not appropriate. In any sport, the amount of playing time is critical to development. The number of touches on the ball. How many times you shoot the ball with a hand in your face. Oftentimes, when a child plays up, he or she spends more time on the bench than in the game, while the coach defers to the older, more seasoned players. So, while playing up sounds like a good thing for your competitive player, it ends up inhibiting their development in the long run. If your child is playing up on a team of older children, make sure he or she gets enough playing time to continue to improve.

  • Is this in the best interest of the individual player?
    During the tryout process, the coaching staff and evaluators will rigorously evaluate any players interested in playing up for their ability to do so. GGS understands this process does not fit every player, family, or coach. However, it is in the best interest of the club and all teams as a collective group. In general, strict guidelines for playing up are also in the best interest of players. A year makes a big difference in the physical and the emotional growth of a child. For the most part, playing age pure provides the best opportunity for the success and development of the individual player.


  • Is a peer group important to my child?
    Does your child live for hitting batting practice with his school buddies? Is your 11-year-old daughter skilled enough to play with the 13-year-olds but hasn’t yet hit puberty, while it’s hard to ignore that all the other girls hit puberty a while ago? How will your son feel if he is the only player getting a ride with mom or dad, while the other kids are driving themselves and going out on dates after the game? The importance of a peer group to your child, and how he or she handles the lack of one, is a critical factor in consider in deciding whether your child should or should not play up.

  • What life skills will my child learn if he/she stays with his peer group? If he/she plays up?
    I think this point is the one most ignored by parents in the pursuit of the perceived glory of playing up. What life skills will your child learn if he or she stays with his or her age group? Most likely, your child will be a team leader, a captain, a role model for the other kids on the team. If he or she is truly one of the most skilled players on the team, the coach will put your child in some kind of leadership role. On the other hand, playing up might mean your child will be relegated to the bench, become merely a role player, or even feel the increased pressure and have difficulty performing because of that pressure.

  • Are they physically capable of competing at this level and emotionally mature enough to deal with the psychological environment to play up?
    Players with the best capacity to handle playing up at the younger ages are those who have reached physical maturity earlier than their peers. However, we can’t forget to consider emotional maturity as well. will he be able to handle the increased pressure of facing mature players’ year older? Some leagues have a guideline that states a player can only play up if he or she is among the top players in that upper division, which seems fair, but what about a pre-teen player that is as skilled as her older teenage teammates but is still a pre-teen at heart?

“GGS’s Technical Staff encourages players to play up. However, playing up is the exception rather than the rule”


How GGS we can create opportunities for our players play up?

  • Inter squad games - Playing older or one level up teams inside the academy has been very beneficial in the development of our GGS’s players and younger teams. This developmental tool provides “resistance” in the players’ development. “Resistance” is the added pressure of time, space and age.  It is the reduced time on the ball, reduced spaces in which to play, and older opposition who are stronger and more physical. This eventually forces our younger players to adapt and learn how to play under pressure.


  • Playing Up at the League games and friendlies: Dual Rostering - Players granted permission to play up may be dual rostered to their own age group. There will be no additional cost incurred to the player for the administration of this procedure or for extra games or practices. The player may be asked to contribute towards tournament expenses if they attend an event as a dual rostered player. It should be noted that when a player dual rosters, the club should declare the player “primary team” and defines which team the player will play with in a state cup and major tournaments. This will typically be the team the player is playing up with or The DOC and technical staff members will communicate what team is the BEST interest of the individual player performance and success. 


  • Training with an older age or up one level team on the club:  One of the most important tools for player development our academy can offer is the ability to have a talented young player training with an older or one level up against their older players, providing an opportunity to accelerate their technically ability as their intellectual understanding of the game because the extra challenge helps to improve their decision-making on the ball.

When parents, players and clubs work together to think through the benefits and drawbacks of playing up, and consider these guidelines, families can make better decisions that keep youth athletes improving his or her skills, playing with the appropriate team, and staying happy!

Approvals/denials associated with requests to play up will not be motivated by any action to intentionally strengthen/weaken a team.

Because of registration/tryout numbers, the Club may seek volunteers to play up to complete a team roster. This is only used on rare occasions to field a team.

The above guidelines serve to give general direction to the DOC or designee and do not necessarily cover all unique situations presented for consideration. The DOC or technical staff member will communicate all playing up decisions.

All decisions are final. There is no process to appeal a decision to deny permission to play up.

All decisions are final. There is no process to appeal a decision to deny permission to play up.

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Golden Goal Sports Soccer Academy  | Phone: 407-450-9560

1820 A.D. Mims Rd., Ocoee, FL 34761 | email:

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