Starting at rather tender young ages and continuing on through high school, girls are sometimes given the choice of playing with the older team, also known as “a level up.” Whether asked because of size, potential, true abilities, or the less altruistic financial factors, the athlete’s reflexive response is to accept the offer.
NOT SO FAST! Without taking away the pride and honor that can often go along with the invitation, coaches and parents alike will agree that there are many situations that call for more careful consideration.
So athletes, along with your parents, consider these questions before jumping one way or the other:
1) 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 assess the consequences of a season without experiencing the competitive floor or field time. The object of each season is to grow. Will the benefits of practicing with this upper level team plus observing them during tournaments outweigh sitting the bench and forgoing competitive play?
2) 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 two or not, are those that flow together as one; those that seem to be able to anticipate each other’s moves, read each other perfectly, and capitalize? 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 permit the potential for this synchronized play down the road?
3) Are you both physically AND mentally ready to play up? Remember it takes both. I have observed circumstances where a young girl’s strength can withstand a faster and stronger softball pitcher, but her mental maturity has not yet caught up. This situation can (and did) pose a danger. Make you’re your mental and physical toughness are equally conducive to the challenge of the higher level of play.
4) Consider the faster pace of a higher level. Can you keep up? What is the appropriate level of intensity that will permit you to thrive?
5) Consider schedules. Do you wish to meet the demands of a tougher schedule and can you? Balance of life is very important.
6) Consider the coach. Whose coaching style is a better fit?
7) There may be social ramifications to playing at a different level than the rest of your peers. Will friends on the team respect your decision to leave them or take it personally and ostracize you socially? Will you feel left out when your peers are at a team pasta dinner without you?
All of the above are factors that can and should play into a decision to accept or reject an invitation to move up a level in sport. Every athlete is different and deserving of a case-by-case evaluation.
Bottom line, make sure your decision is a fit.
As always, look forward to continuing the discussion and hearing your feedback.