Before reaching a certain age, children should play football in limited terms. Based on different football age categories the field dimensions and ball size varies to match the physical and technical abilities of players.
So, what different arrangements are made for different football age categories? What characteristics separate one age group from the other? We will shed a light on all that in this article.
Ages 6 & Under
Children belonging to this age group are the youngest batch of footballers. They get introduced to football for the first time in their lives. The coaching objective for these kids would be dissimilar to that for other groups.
Instead of making them go through rigorous drills, the coaches should keep things simple and stick to the fundamentals. The goal is to cultivate a long term adoration for the sport rather than immediate development of skills.
Most of these children would not care much about their deftness as a player. They are yet to develop that emotional maturity that would make them understand the seriousness of the game.
So, the supervisors should let them enjoy themselves. Teach them the basics, and lay on the building blocks which would later define them as footballers.
Ages 7 to 9
At this stage, kids become more interested in learning the crafts of the game. They take their first steps towards practicality and begin to realize the significance of playing football with more organization.
This group can be seen as the stepping stone to graduating to more advanced football age categories. Yes, there is a level below it, but at that age, it is more about socializing than gaining football proficiency.
Children become more aware of the coach’s opinion and try to work on their flaws. They also begin to take note of their teammate’s progress and make a genuine effort to not lag behind.
Competitiveness is key to becoming a better footballer, and that desire to become the best of the bunch starts to take prominence from this age range.
So, this is the age when footballers start picking up some individual skills. They learn how to approach the game in a more meaningful and zealous manner.
Ages 10 to 12
It is unlikely that a kid belonging to this group would be a total stranger to football. In lower football age categories, children should have exposure to the game and pick up the skills to compete with similarly aged players.
At this point in their lives, children should have a well-established fondness for football. Coaches need to give new impetus to the development of these players by familiarising them with new skills and trickeries.
Mentoring kids in this age group is more difficult than other football age categories. This is more of a transitional phase, where children delve into the more serious side of the game from the fun aspects.
Therefore, coaches have to tailor their practice sessions accordingly to accommodate this metamorphosis. They need to be demanding of their players but also keep things somewhat entertaining.
The sense of competitiveness gives the players an immense sense of satisfaction as well when they successfully deliver what the coach asks them to do.
Therefore, keeping the players motivated and confident is very important. If the kids can carry the enthusiasm in future football age categories, their long term football prospects would be bright.
Ages 13 to 14
After the kids step into their teenage, they would need to capitalise the learnings of their previous categories and expand their skill sets. They should have the core skills, now it is the time to build upon those.
Adolescence is a complicated time in the human life cycle. Children are exploring their own identities at these times, so they are psychologically vulnerable.
To bring the best out of a batch of early teenage footballers is to connect to them at an emotional level. Coaches need to talk with them regularly, keep them focused, and encourage them to speak up about their problems.
Ages 15 & Above
Football age categories for players aged 15 and above are basically trials for a professional step up. Doing well in these setups could get the players a big break and get them tickets to senior football.
But, the kids in this stage are still mentally and physically evolving. Since it is a launching pad for the next level, the role of supervision is even more imperative in these football age categories than others.
Children from these football age categories need to realize that they are so close to the prize. The likes of Lionel Messi and Cesc Fabregas made their professional senior debuts in the seventeens.
Football Sizes According to Different Football Age Categories
Junior football age categories use a variety of sizes of ball sizes for matches and training. An adult-sized ball could be overwhelming for a young player to control, so the ball size has to be appropriate.
Without playing with properly sized balls, kids would never be able to get a hang of the sport. If the ball is disproportionately larger, it would be harder to shoot, control and pass.
Footballs are available in four different sizes-2,3,4, and 5. 2 is recommended for the youngest of all football age categories while number 5 is the ball size on the senior professional level.
These balls come in specific sizes and weights so that these can cater to various football age categories. Read on to find out which ball size is compatible with a particular age group.
Size 2 is the smallest size of footballs, per official regulations. Circumferentially, it measures only 56 centimetres. In line with the miniature appearance, the weight if a size 2 ball is a meagre 280 grams.
This is the recommended size for U-6 teams. But, it is used by elder football age categories and even senior teams. The small size and lightweight nature of the ball are useful in ball control training drills.
Size 3 is the immediate step up from size 2. It is slightly heavier and larger in dimensions. In precise terms, it has a circumference of 60 centimetres and it weighs 340 grams.
Even though size 2 is the smallest ball in existence, the minimum match size ball is size 3. These footballs are aimed at players aged seven and above.
Size 4 footballs are predominantly used in football age categories between U-9 and U-13. In those levels, size 4 is the first choice for both competitive matches and practice.
It is the last ball size kids would use before they proceed to play with full-size football. In circumference, the ball measures 66 centimetres. It weighs 390 grams, which 50 grams more than a size 3 ball.
Size 5 is the official ball size for senior football. All competitive club and international football are played in size 5 balls. Kids playing in U-15 or above are cleared to play with these balls.
The circumference of a size 5 football is 70 centimetres. It is also the heaviest of all footballs. A fully pumped size 5 football will read 450 grams on a weight scale.
Pitch and Goal Dimensions for Different Football Age Categories
Apart from smaller sized balls, the goal and pitch sizes are also reduced in junior football. Therefore, the game becomes more suitable to the physical profiles of juvenile players.
Playing in compact spaces also allows children to stay more engaged in the game. All players will get more touches, and this would make them more confident while the ball is on their feet.
Nick Levitt, current Head of Talent and Performance of UK Coaching and former English FA’s talent ID manager, had this to say regarding the matter:
As soon as you put kids on massive pitches, adults want to win and pick bigger, stronger and faster kids. They’ll get kids just to whack it over the top and when they get through to a huge goal and a tiny little kid, there’s no challenge for them and it’s very easy for them to score.
“So in theory, with the changes to smaller pitches and smaller goals, you can have much more of a focus on technique and skill development for the future generations.”
U-8 Pitch & Goal Size
The FA suggests that children younger than 8 years old should play 5-a-side matches.
- Goalpost Size: 12 x 6 feet.
- Pitch Area: 40 x 30 yards.
- Penalty Area: 16 x 9 yards.
U-10 Pitch & Goal Size
For children aged more than 8, but less than 10, the FA policy is playing 7-a-side games.
- Goalpost Size: 12 x 6 feet.
- Pitch Area: 60 x 40 yards.
- Penalty Area: 18 x 10 yards.
U-12 Pitch & Goal Size
FA regulations state that children between 10 to 12, should play 9v9 matches.
- Goalpost Size: 7 x 16 feet.
- Pitch Area: 80 x 50 yards.
- Penalty Area: 32 x 13 yards.
U-14 Pitch & Goal Size
The FA permits this age group to take part in conventional 11-a-side matches.
- Goalpost Size: 21 x 7 feet.
- Pitch Area: 90 x 55 yards.
- Penalty Area: 35 x 14 yards.
U-16 Pitch & Goal Size
- Goalpost Size: 21 x 7 feet.
- Pitch Area: 100 x 60 yards.
- Penalty Area: 44 x 18 yards.
For more mature football age categories, full-size dimensions are applicable.
Football age categories are essential to moulding young footballers into full-fledged senior professionals. Youth footballers should follow a proper step-by-approach to develop into a high-quality player.