Monday, April 12, 2021

Can bio-banding be the future of youth development?

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Editor’s Note: Biobanding allows players to be grouped based on their maturity and biological age and not by their chronological age. By grouping players based on maturity, the physical advantages that early maturing players have when playing against less mature players are reduced.

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An era where every football federation is trying to promote their best, young talent and player development takes the forefront of coaching, it’s important to continuously evaulate our methods of developing the person rather than the player. The Premier League have in recent years adopted a concept that is demonstrating positive strides made in the world of youth development.

That concept is referred to as ‘bio-banding’; where players are group into teams based on their biological age, rather than chronological. Chronological age is when players are categorised into an age group based on their birth falling between September and August, whereas bio-banding adopts an idea that players are put into groups based on their height, size and level of maturity. For instance, an U14 player who is technically able but is deemed not tall or physical enough can be put into a team with early developers of a U13 group – with their aim to improve physically in such actions as shielding the ball, one-v-one and so on.

The reason behind why many authorities and national governing bodies embrace this new type of competition is because research has proven how players born later on in the typical football season – June or July – are twenty times less likely to be represented within a chronological-based team than someone who was born in September. Furthermore, it was identified that children don’t grow at the same time or rate and some players who are younger than their peers hit puberty earlier, and these would be put into early developers. The flip side is players who are yet to show a sign of appropiate maturity or are perhaps a bit less physical-able for their current chronological age group and these examples would be referred to as late developers.

Bio-banding has brought upon a theory commonly called the underdog hypothesis, when late developers are playing with people who are chronologically younger than themselves and are perceived to enter the professional level of the game at a later stage than their peers. In shorter terms, a player is who lacking maturity still has the ability to develop into a world-class player despite playing alongside those who do not have a similar date of birth to them.

The concept has been shown to be overwhelmingly influential on late developers. Those who are excelling technically may be lacking in the psychogical or physical aspect of their game, and bio-banding is a great example of allowing those older chronological players to develop their psychological and physical attributes. For instance, observations from bio-banded competitions have demonstrated that late developers are able to progress their leadership skills and can act as guides for the early maturers within their team. In comparison to early developers, who can develop their technical aspects in bio-banding competition as the physicality is for the most part similar across the team.

In addition, sport science has taken a prevalent role in modern football and increasingly plays a larger role in a coach’s preparations. As a result of players being grouped biologically, it means players are competing against individuals of the same physicality of them – the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) or in simpler terms, workload, reduces and therefore decreases the risk of injury during adolescence.

Early maturers, grouped with players who are chronologically older, have also seen a perceived advantage to using bio-banding during their development; it enables them to better prepare for future competitions when they are likely going to come up against older and physically-better opponents. Many have viewed this as realistic to the professional team as its unlikely in a senior first-team, you will find a match with twenty-two players of all the same physicality.

Are there any downsides to bio-banding?

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