Should My Daughter Play UP?




The question of whether or not to allow your daughter to play up, is common. The reality is that there is no cut and dry answer. Many people consider ‘playing up’ as a marker of a girls talent, when in truth – all kids develop and master skills at different ages. Additionally, the fastpitch softball community across the United States is vastly diverse. In some areas, where there are literally hundreds of fast-pitch teams – parents are able to find teams for their daughters in their age group, that match their daughters skill level. In other areas, the one or two 10U travel teams may not be packed with talent, and a very skilled and adept player in her age group may be bored or her growth stymied.

Most often, the parents considering whether or not their daughter should play up are in the younger age groups. 14U has a way of figuring things out, and tournament ball at this age is typically make it or break it, with coaches looking to fill teams with kids whose skill levels are on par with one another. It is sadly also, the year that the majority of girls who take up softball as just a weekend hobby tend to give it up for something they are more passionate about. 

We believe that through your daughters softball years, there is a delicate balance that must be reached in order to give her the MOST confidence (on and off the field) as she grows. It is healthy and necessary for a girl to be the least talented player on her team for a while so she will challenged and pushed to improve by her peers. And, it is also healthy for a girl to be one of the top players on her team so she can learn leadership and gain confidence. And it is also important for young girls to be playing with girls who are on her level, where she can settle in and truly enjoy playing the game and growing AS A TEAM! Ideally, the third option is the best, having a group of like-minded girls and parents who share the same passion and goals.

So how does a parent decide? Is it safe, smart, wise, in the best interest of the child to play up? Is your daughter playing at a level that matches her ability? Is her development stagnated? Can she truly handle PLAYING UP? 


The following 6 questions will help you decide.

1. Is your daughter’s knowledge of the game AND skill level so far above her current age group that she is double clutching on throws, holding back, and basically reigning in her skills out of fear of hurting the other players? If so, then playing up may be the best option if you cannot find a competitive team in your area in your age group.

2.  Is your daughter emotionally and socially ready to play in an older age group? There is a BIG difference between a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old? Sometimes finding a HIGHER LEVEL team in her age group even if you have to drive or travel further may be better than subjecting her to the social environment of playing up. We have known many girls who play up, that get left out of the social aspects of the team because of the age difference. Remember…these girls spend a lot of time together.

3.  How mature is your daughter. A larger stature for her age or a big bat for her age, doesn’t naturally equate to her having the same mental capacity for the game as older, more mature girls have. Eventually size becomes non-issue in softball and that 8-year-old who hits to the outfield fence is no longer a super star, but rather a solid batter.

4.  Will she have any friends on the team? Certainly she will make friends, but one of the things that is so beautiful about fastpitch softball is that the girls get to spend time with their friends outside of school. This is also one of the things that the kids enjoy the most – and the building of these relationships can last a lifetime. Remember, girls that are happy playing and HAVE FUN will play longer. Will softball be just as much fun if you play her up.

5.  Does SHE want to play up, or are you a parent that is worrying unnecessarily about your daughters college softball career at the age of 10? In other words, has she voiced frustration or annoyance? Is your daughter unhappy or have you put the tone of unhappiness in her heart? Far too often these days we put an immense amount of pressure on young girls. Much to your dismay, it is important to realize that many of the ‘All-Stars’ at 8U and 10U are simply average by the time they get to 12 and 14U and many don’t even play anymore…

6. Is it safe? Softball is anything but soft, and everything gets harder, faster and more dangerous as the girls grow older. The game becomes more aggressive and intense and safety becomes an issue.

At the end of the day, YOU have to do what YOU think is right for your daughter. 

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  1. Joyce on May 20, 2015 at 12:17 pm

    My daughter has always played up one year. She is the youngest on the team (10U) however, she is still finding herself to have to throw softer to some of these girls on the team, otherwise, they can’t catch her hard thrown balls. She is so frustrated at times with her teammates for this reason and can’t wait until she does get to 14U where the girls will hopefully be better, more committed, etc.

  2. Lori on May 20, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    My daughter has always played up one year. She just turned 9 in February and has been playing 10U since summer/fall of 2014. With that said, she has a birthday that is early in the year and some of her teammates are only older than her by a few months and some by a full year. You have to do what you think is right for your daughter, in our case if we keep her down in 8U another year then we are holding her back and that is not fair to her.

  3. Kim on May 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm

    I have a 15 yr old who just got into softball last year..(spring 2014) but had been playing baseball with the little league..then played basketball for a couple years and we found the county softball league. She did pretty well (middle school league) team made 2nd place… Then the same summer she played the high school and was quickly nicknamed “wheels” for her fast running..and numerous stolen bases. She just started high school this year (2014-15) and made the JV team. However, she was also asked to play on Varsity too. I think the JV team was a little harder for her in such that the other girls (80% of the team) were brand new to aoftball…so she seemed to play on a higher level then the rest? Not saying the others were terrible just that this was a new experience where my daughter had played before. She did very well on the varsity team. Downfall was the girls who were just a bit older were faster and had much more experience. My daughter came to me and said she loved playing for Varsity however she didn’t think she was quite ready (although I think she is good for Varsity next year) so we discussed it and she would like to do just JV next year. So in all that story I guess I meant that it can depend on the girl, her experience, and her drive to play

  4. Cynthia on May 21, 2015 at 3:43 pm

    My daughter is a January baby so at 10 she is one of the oldest in Mite house league and travel ball. I should have trusted my gut and played her up this year but she is a beginner pitcher so she’ll gain confidence on the mound and hitting at least during the first few weeks of coach pitch. I’ve put my daughter as call up for Squirt so at least she can gain some experience with the older girls.

  5. Michael on July 11, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    I don’t think it really matters until she gets into high school. My now 11th grader has played travel since age 9 and stayed with her age group until high school. That’s when you want her playing with other girls from her hs team. She made varsity in 9th grade so we moved up to 18u even though she was 14u eligible. It lets her play with her peers which is important. I enjoyed the article especially the part about 14 being the age of decision. It really is when the coaches kids get culled and the true talent goes into high school ball. Also, don’t sweat the college stuff. I’ve seen too many folks think they had a scholarship all wrapped up and the daughter quit for other interests (especially boyfriends). The “verbal committment” is the best joke around! Just have fun and support your kid as she learns teamwork and discipline and all the other things team sports teach her.

  6. jennifer castileja on July 21, 2015 at 12:24 am

    Playing up not only depends on the child skill level but there competitive fire and parent preferance. Is it jus for fun or to prepare for a excellent high school career and the pursuit of a collegiate athletic scholarship.
    Tourney ball is the were u could possibly play ur age but lil league and pony league yes definitely play up , if not kids will lose intrest in getting better . “HARD WORK BEATS TALENT & TALENT DONT WORK HARD”..Skilled players gotta be challenged.
    My daughter never played softball when she was younger ,She played baseball till 13 years old and when she switched over to softball she tore it up. Jus a few minor batting adjustments but the speed was no match for her when she switched. Her situational IQ was off the charts. She Started all four years in varsity softball but pursued and recieved a full athletic
    basketball scholarship.
    So a recap, i believe its more the parent prefrence, do u jus want to be a trophy chaser and played your age when u know there is no comp. Or are u thinking in the future ,my girl has some game and i need her to give her the opportunity” if she chooses ” to be at her best when it matters the most which would be high school. Realistically, its not like it used to be way back when , kids are getting looks in 4th grade now and verbally commiting to college in middle school.

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