Whether it be from memories of your own childhood or watching your son or daughter play at the weekend, many of you will be aware of the issues surrounding small, yet talented, players being brushed aside by bigger and more developed opponents. However, you will also be pleased to here that this could well soon be a thing of the past.
What did the study show?
According to recent research, grouping young football players based on their physical size, rather than their age, actually improves performance, as well as reducing the risk of potential injuries. The idea, known as “Biobanding”, was developed by the Department for Health at the University of Bath, who tested the experiences of youngsters during a biobanded tournament.
The format has commonly been used in New Zealand for Rugby Union, grouping players based on their size and strength, with many believing that this offers late developers an improved chance to show their true ability. The new initiative has been introduced by the Premier League in England, involving youth team players from clubs including Southampton, Reading and Norwich City.
Three 11-a-side games were played on full-size pitches, featuring 25-minute halves, before players were asked to share their experiences, especially in comparison to a normal age-group competition. Interestingly, all players involved were quoted as saying that the biobanding experience had been positive, while many wanted to see it integrated into all games.
One of the arguments against biobanding is that it could potentially hinder the progress of more developed kids, however the bigger players involved in the study, who were previously used to dominating training sessions, reported that they enjoyed the physical challenge more than normal. Findings also showed that such players were encouraged to change the way in which they play, with an emphasis on technique and teamwork, rather than physicality.
Meanwhile, smaller players were able to showcase their skills more, demonstrate leadership and generally have a greater impact when grouped by size, with their confidence also standing out, something that has been proven to increase development.
Is biobanding a new concept?
Biobanding is something that has been tested in other parts of the world too, with the US Soccer High Performance Department having worked closely with a number of clubs in putting on similar events. With current England Captain Harry Kane, who was released by Arsenal at the age of 11 partly due to his diminutive frame, showing that there is still plenty of hope for late developers, biobanding could well become common across many sports, including football.
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