Bio Banding is simply the practice of grouping together younger soccer players based on their physical maturity, rather than their year of birth. This practise is not a new concept. In New Zealand, the practice has been common place amongst junior rugby teams because the Mauri children tend to grow earlier than other children. Perhaps Bio Banding has been used for longer in New Zealand than other countries because of the unique contrast between the two main ethnic groups in the country, but the essence of bio banding should resonate for all youth sports because all children grow and develop at different rates.
Development of young soccer players is addressed in Canada by the Canadian Soccer Associations’ Long Term Player Development Model (LTPD). The model breaks down the stages of growth a young soccer player will go through. It provides guidelines for coaches who are working with players of a particular age and it outlines what expectations are realistic for players in each stage of growth. Crucially it highlights that a players’ position within the LTPD model can be two years younger, or older than their chronological age.
Bio Banding has advantages for players and youth coaches. At the grass roots level, coaches operating with Bio Banding principals are able to personalize training and games to suit the individual. Players who develop early can be pushed up to an older age group, meaning that they will not dominate games and training due to their physical strength; they would have to rely more on skill and decision making. Instead, a late developer who may struggle in a game due to their size, is given the opportunity to practice and experiment their technical skills in a more appropriate environment.
In the photograph, the girls are born in 2004, 2003, 2002, 2000 and 1996. Can you guess which one is which?