Your body becomes slower to recover from a game, with increasingly familiar aches and pains haunting the bones and the muscles a bit longer each time.
Slowly, age creeps up on you until one day it jumps right out in front of you. Like the heinous face of a horror movie character staring at you in your bathroom mirror, it’s quite possibly going to scare the crap out if you.
And you know what the worst part is? You’ll realise it has been lurking there for a while, but you’ve just been avoiding making eye contact.
When doubt creeps in
You’ll start to notice things. That burst of pace – it’s gone. That strength to hold off the defender – slowly fading. The ability to go out for a few drinks after a game and still be ok for work the next day – embarrassingly disappeared.
And then at some point, you’ll be playing a game one day and you’ll ask the dreaded question, the ultimate foundation-shaker: “am I too old to be playing 5-a-side?”
Hold on there a minute there pal
If you’re starting to think like that, you need a dose of perspective. You’ve just realised that you’re not as young as you used to be, but it’s not as if somebody has just switched off your life support.
Oh no, you’re far from on the heap. In fact, that’s why we decided to write this article – to give you a shot of reassurance that it’s all going to be ok. Now is the time you should be playing and enjoying your 5-a-side more than ever.
There’s no reason for you to stop playing 5-a-side, just because a little bit (or a lot) of age is catching up with you. In fact, when you consider all the physical and mental benefits that come with playing the game, this is exactly the time you want to be involved, in order to keep yourself in shape.
“But seriously, come on, I’m in my late 30s”
It’s when they’re in their 30s that most people seriously start to confront the issue of getting older.
It’s where the doubts creep in and it’s also a decade of your life that is ripe for living out your first real mid-life crisis.
So go on, start driving that sports car you always wanted but can’t afford. Grow a ridiculous goatee beard. But for goodness’ sake, don’t give up 5-a-side.
Do you need reminding that many professional footballers keep playing well into their 30s? And how about this guy for some inspiration:
“I’m in my 40s – surely I’m too old?”
Yes, you’re too old if you’re still harbouring some kind of fantasy about playing in the Premier League, but the reality is that ship has sailed.
Instead, we’re talking a game of 5-a-side once or twice a week which is perfectly sensible to be playing into your 40s. There are plenty of people who do. Including this guy:
A quick test you can do
If you’re not in peak physical condition any more – even if you can barely remember what peak physical condition felt like – there really shouldn’t be much to stop you getting back involved in the game.
To make it simple for you, we’ve devised a very simple test that you can do to determine if you should still be playing 5-a-side football. It’s super-easy and you can do this test anywhere. Just answer this simple question:
1. Are you still living and breathing?
If you answered yes then congratulations! You can continue playing 5-a-side.
Maybe that seems flippant, but that’s how passionate we feel about 5-a-side. There are so many advantages to playing that everyone who possibly can, should do it!
And there aren’t many excuses either. Nowadays there’s blind football, wheelchair football, and even ‘walking football’ (some will tell you that’s what I have been playing for years). Your local Football Association should be able to point you in the direction of each of these activities, if you ask them nicely.
3 Tips to Keep Going As Long as you Can
If you set your mind to it, you can keep playing 5-a-side as long as you want. But you need to be smart about it and follow these three tips:
1. Look after your body, and your body will look after you
The sad reason for a lot of the drop-outs are through persistent injury. Things such as that old calf-strain that you just can’t shake. They often lead to a prolonged period of absence from the game you love, which some end up never returning from.
Don’t let your body take it from you. If you want to squeeze every last drop of footballing capacity from your body you need to treat it right. That means doing obvious things: eat well, sleep well, do a warm up (yes, pleeeeease do a warm-up as it’s one of the best precautions against avoiding stupid injuries)
Looking after your body should make sure that you can keep on playing through your 30s, 40s, 50s… as long as you damn-well want.
2. Embrace the changes – harness the advantages of age
When players have problems continuing to play as they get older it’s often because of their reluctance to accept the situation. It can lead to a lot of frustration and disillusionment if you’re still trying to play as if you’re 17.
You’ve got to stop charging around like a mad-man, and need to forget the idea of trying to take players on using your no-longer-lightening pace.
Instead, expend your energy wisely, learn about positional play and be that wily old fox that you always used to hate playing against.
Change, adapt, and embrace that you’re smarter and more experienced than you were then. It’s what plenty of players have done to prolong their careers. Giggs, Ronaldo (the fat one, after his knee injury), Steven Gerrard and more have all done this successfully.
An inspirational example, to me, of somebody seeming to get better with age is the guy in the picture below. A lot of people on the 5-a-side circuit will know him as ‘The Cat’ – one of the true legends of the game and still one of the best keepers around. Not only is he still in fine condition but he’s built up so much experience that it makes him an incredibly difficult person to play against. Something that helped him become the oldest person to win a national tournament this summer. Nice one Roger!
3. Preserve the enjoyment factor
For some, it seems that getting older coincided with a disappearance of the enjoyment factor, and that it might never come back.
That often happens when you find yourself feeling as if your game of football has just turned into an exercise in chasing a load of younger men around. That’s nobody’s idea of fun, and in the wrong set of circumstances such behaviour is also likely to land you on some sort of police register.
If you are struggling to keep up with much younger players in a very competitive setting then, instead of deciding to just quit football entirely, it’s a much better idea to look to play at a level that’s going to pair you with players of a similar standard.
Veterans leagues are more common in the 11-a-side game, but there are places around offering football for those over a certain age. If there isn’t one near you, why not start up your own weekly game for other like-minded, similar age / standard players?
You’ll probably find that there are a lot more people also disillusioned with the game, who would love the chance to come back and play 5-a-side again with some decent, like-minded players.
If just one person…
Yeah, we know that this post is only going to have been for a small portion of our readership. If age isn’t a consideration for you at the moment then may you continue enjoying your football and not take it for granted.
For those who are a little more battle-worn, hopefully this has served as a confidence boost to stick with the game you love and to do the things to keep playing it for years and years.
If just one person continues to play 5-a-side, or returns back to the game as a result of reading this then that would make our day!
Get in touch
Ok, now it’s over to you. Here’s some things we’d love to hear from you in the comments below:
- Who is the oldest person you know still playing 5-a-side?
- Did you stop playing 5-a-side? Are you thinking of quitting? Why?
- Can you share with the 5-a-side community any tips on how to keep playing and enjoying your football as you get older?