Should some young athletes play up an age or two?

Many parents have been asking me when/ should a young athlete play up an age or two if they are good enough. My answer:

It all depends on the young athlete. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers had to play up because he was going to hurt somebody with the baseball at his age. Some play up but are not strong enough, or weigh enough, and end up getting seriously… hurt. And some play up and physically benefit from the increased competition, but when they get into high school, they under achieve due to the pressure from the expectations.

My general philosophy on playing up is based on a 3:1 ratio. If you think your young athlete needs better competition, then have him/her play with older kids once after three times playing at their age. The idea is to give them a taste of what’s needed at the next level and then 3 straight sessions at their age developing what they learned that’s needed for the next level. As athletes pass through puberty, the ratio can be decreased if they begin to pick up the advanced skills quickly.

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