DC is registered in a new soccer league and they didn't have enough players in her age group U12 (Under 12).
Her other options are:
- Her official option is the Girls U14 league because players are allowed to "play up". DC is much, much too small to play in the U14 league. Both we as her parents think so but so does the coach for that team.
- To fudge her age and play on the Girls U10 league, where she would fit in size-wise. For this I worry a little about lying and also about meeting some parents/coaches who really frown on things like this. I think she would be build confidence but not challenged to learn new skills on this league.
- To play the Boy's U12 league. DC practiced with them yesterday and it went "ok". I think this league would be wonderful for her skill building, would be an interesting experience but I worry that the players may be too above her current skill level and the coach thinks the play may be a bit more physical (rough) than DC is used to. I also worry about whether being a weaker member of the team may mean the her team members may resent her for not helping them on the field (coach is not concerned with this).
I'd love to hear your thoughts, especially from parents of girls who played on a boy's team and/or parents of a boy's team that had a female player.
My daughter is 9 (just turned 9 at the end of August) and in 4th grade. She is the only girl on her team. The teams here are broken up by grade instead of age. She is on the 4th-5th grade team. So she is one of the smallest and youngest people on her team. There are kids as old as 11 and much bigger than her. She has no experience as this will be her first year. I'm really not too worried about her, given her personality. I would let your daughter play on the boy team.
~Patti~ Momma to three girls and three boys , First mother to one girl
Certified, card carrying member of the IEP Binder Club
If it were me, I'd go with the boys team. My own DD has always meshed better with boys. What she lacks in ability she makes up with hustle and boys teams appreciate that more. They can be more verbal about your mistakes in the heat of the moment but they also let it go and can be more inclusive during practices and social times. That 13-year-old girl set can take another child's mistakes personally and freeze out weaker players on and off the field. In our experience, the girls play rougher than the boys physically at this age too... lots of elbows and ankles in soccer. My DD is a runner and while not competitive now, when she was, would train with the boys because she found she grew more with them and was treated kinder.
My DS 11 did a summer basketball league and he was with mostly 13-year-olds... some 12's. It was his first time and most of the league has played from age 5. He was very clearly the "worst" player in the league but his team was kind to him. It's true, he didn't get the ball too much during important games but they made sure he got it during practices and anytime they had a good lead (which was most of the time) they made a point to include him.
Of your choices, the boys team seems to make the most sense.
DD1 age 9 plays on several "boys" teams. I say it that way because the teams are not just boys teams, but it is all boys and then just her as the only girl. It isn't ideal but I have really grown to appreciate the experience over the years. It isn't ideal for us because she is also the only girl in her grade at school, seriously, and sports is where we look to find some friends that are girls. DD1 is very attracted to male dominated sports though, Boarder Cross (snowboard team), rock climbing (it is a team!), white water kayaking, and skateboarding. We meet another girl here and there, like rock climbing and skateboarding but with Boarder Cross, her favorite sport, and kayaking, she is the only girl and always has been.
I will say that the perspective of it either being a positive or negative experience will be up to the coach. A coach that treats her as an equal and does not tolerate gender bias is a must and often you do not know until the team is actively occurring. We did have one negative experience with a snowboard coach who just flat out ignored DD1, it was like she did not exist. We quickly switched to another team and her current coach makes sure that DD1 feels included.
Over the years, DD1 has made several excellent friends that are boys off the teams. DD1 is only in 4th grade so I do not have experience yet at the middle school/high school level but in talking with other parents that have been in similar experiences as we have, they told me that they treasured those relationships and bonds, the older their DDs got. The boys that had been their team mates, took more of a protective role of the girls they older they got with other boys who may not always have the girls best interests at heart. Am I explaining it correctly? Anyway, it has been a mostly great experience for us and I now longer discount something just because DD1 is the only girl.
Another vote for the boys team, for several reasons. 1 - if you fudge on her age and go U10 does that mean that if someone finds out and calls her out they will have to forfeit all their games? that doesn't seem fair to your dd or the rest of the team. 2- My ds plays ice hockey. There has been a girl on his team off and on (we play by birth year and since she's a year older it only happens every other year) and the boys don't think anything of it. It did create a bit of drama with other teams this year but not with ours. She brings other things to the table than most of the boys do due to her size but they are just as valuable. And the boys protect her on and off the ice. I'm not sure anyone would want to mess with her off the ice when she very much looks like a girl. She has 13 "brothers" protecting her. And if anyone goes gunning for her on the ice, just because she has a pony tail? yeah, they'll regret it. She usually scores right afterwards :-).
It helps that she also plays on a regional girl's team that came in 2nd in the nation this year.
How "official" is the league and how rigidly are the age rules applied?
If it's a fairly relaxed recreational league, there may be some room for exceptions to the age limits based on height/weight/developmental maturity.
If there isn't any possibility for her to "play down" with the U10 girls, then I also vote for playing with the U12 boys. It seems to be the best of the other options, at least for this year.
It really depends on the level the game is played at in this new league and what skill level your DD has. I am assuming if they don't have teams in every age group for both sexes, then it isn't going to be super competitive. None of the options you have are ideal. Obviously if she is a small U12, playing with the U14 girls is far from ideal. I really wouldn't fudge her age so she can play down, unless this is approved by the league, in which case this would obviously be the best option. As for playing with the U12 boys, again, it really depends on the kind of player your DD is and her skill level compared with the boys on the team. There is little point if they (and the other teams players) are way above her in terms of skill and speed, she will just end up on the bench most of the time. But if they not way above her current level, and if she can rise to the challenge then playing with boys will definitely help her soccer development. Frankly at this age it is all about development, winning games should not be important, so if the U12 boys coach is willing to have her and she enjoys the training and games, I would go for it.
I am the parent of a U13 competitive soccer player (boy) who played on a U10 team that had a girl on it who was their best defender.
I just realized that in my earlier post, I didn't specifically state that you should ask league administrators whether the age limits are rigidly enforced and whether it was appropriate to make an exception for your DD. I don't think you should just go ahead and register as an U10 girl without approval, unless you know it's allowed. I meant to be clear but failed.