Traditionally, young athletes have been organised according to their age. In the UK, this tends to correspond with school year groups, so a child in year 6 would be categorised as an Under 11 player in their chosen sport.
Bio-banding on the other hand, groups players according to their biological age as opposed to their chronological age.
Why is bio-banding used?
Maturation levels in children vary significantly, so bio-banding is used to nullify the physical bias that exists within age-group sport.
For example, an under 13 age group team can typically include a player that is an early maturer, and who is biologically more like a 15 year old. This same team may also have a player who is a late maturer with a biological age more akin to 11 years old, resulting in a biological gap of four years between both players.
This significant difference in maturation level may cause problems for the late maturer, who can find it difficult to compete with the advanced physicality of the early maturer. Subsequently, the late maturer might be overlooked for future selection, which may result in not having access to valuable elite training and match opportunities.
The early maturer may also be negatively affected due to incorrectly self-evaluating successful performance outcomes as a consequence of talent, rather than achieving this success because of increased physical maturity. This can potentially manifest itself through the early maturer not putting in the required effort for skill development, ultimately leading towards a decline in talent, followed by a reduction in performance levels when peer maturation evens out.
How is bio-banding determined?
Many sports teams and organisations use the Khamis-Roche method to band their youth players, which calculates their level of maturation based on a child’s height, weight, and the height of both parents. Players are then grouped into their appropriate maturation bands. Due to maturation levels tending to fluctuate, further measurements are taken periodically, with individuals being re-banded if needed.
As the Khamis-Roche method is based on a child’s predicated maturation point, there are still players of differing sizes within each band, and this is important as it is an accurate reflection of senior sport, where smaller and larger players compete against one another. However, the benefit is that is significantly reduces the likelihood of young athletes having to experience the huge gulfs in maturation that regularly occur within the chronological system.
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