When should youth players start to pursue more competitive soccer?
It’s a question many parents grapple with: at which age should they encourage their children to take their soccer more seriously?
These days, kids are playing competitive club soccer younger than ever, with some of the better US players (with the more ambitious parents) aged 6 even traveling to tournaments as far afield as Spain.
But at what age should boys and girls start playing club? When will playing simply for fun stop being challenging enough?
Parents firstly must be honest with themselves about their child’s abilities. Playing above their talent level can be miserable and joyless even for kids who love the game. It can even turn them off for life.
For Claudio Reyna, the former US national team captain and one of the country’s greatest ever players, the correct age to step up is no younger than 10.
Here’s what Reyna, now Director of Football Operations for MLS’s New York City FC, has to say on the subject in a video for the Positive Coaching Alliance:
About Claudio Reyna
Claudio played professionally for 12 years in three European countries for five different teams: Bayer Leverkusen and Vfl Wolfsburg in Germany, Glasgow Rangers F.C. in Scotland, then Sunderland AFC and Manchester City FC in the English Premier League. When with Vfl Wolfsburg, he was the first American player to ever wear the captain's armband in a European league. Before his retirement in 2008, Claudio played his last professional season in United States with NY Red Bulls.
Claudio represented the United States National team in 4 World Cups from 1994 through 2006, serving as team Captain in 2002 and 2006. He appeared 112 times. He was the first American player to be selected to the FIFA All World Cup team for his performances during the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. He also represented the US in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
After his retirement from professional soccer in 2008, Claudio launched the foundation with a goal to nurture, encourage and develop the sport in America while fighting poverty and childhood obesity.
In 2010 Claudio was appointed the Youth Technical Director of the US Soccer Federation. In 2013 Claudio was named Director of Football Operations by the newly formed MLS franchise New York City Football Club (NYCFC).