What is Bio Banding in Soccer?
Bio banding in soccer is an interesting topic among soccer and other youth sports. Bio banding allows players to be positioned based on their personal maturity and biological age rather than only their chronological age.
The thinking behind this is that kids mature at different times and sometimes it creates an advantage or disadvantage. When kids are grouped based on their maturity, coaches are able to id their talent better.
For example, let’s take two 13 year-old boys. One boy hits the peak of their growth spurt and matures to be 5’10” with a physical build. The other boy that is the same age is just starting his growth spurt and is 4’9” with little to no muscle mass.
Conceptually it makes sense but there’s a lot of gray area. And, does it benefit the athlete in the long-run? Or, does it just erase some of their confidence and hold them back?
In this article, we’ll address some of the common questions parents have about bio banding in soccer.
Benefits of Bio Banding
In 2018 U.S. Soccer introduced the bio banding initiative in soccer.
“Bio-banding allows players to be grouped based on their maturity and biological age and not by their chronological age. By doing this, massive swings in maturity that can be seen within the current chronological groupings are removed. By grouping players based on maturity, the physical advantages that early maturing players have when playing against less mature players are reduced.” – U.S. Soccer
Some of the benefits that resulted in bio banding players are:
- Allowing players to compete against other players that are more similar to their maturity level
- Allows players to develop their skill set at a younger age
- Provides undersized players a chance to catch up while preventing injuries
- Opportunity to be a leader on the team
- Allowing for early-maturing players to develop their skills rather than relying only their physical attributes
Difference Between ‘Biological Age’ and ‘Chronological Age’
The biological age of a child refers to the status or maturity of the soccer player depending on whether they are a pre-adolescent, adolescent or adult.
On the other hand, a chronological age is how long an individual has lived in years, months and days. In the case of soccer, leagues are broken up by birth year so more aligned with chronological age.
The difference is one is based on current and potential physical attributes and the other based on birthdate.
Downside of Bio Banding
Although it can be beneficial for some players to be considered for their physical attributes, it rarely takes into consideration their technical abilities and quickness. For example, a girl who is bio banded because of her late maturity but has extraordinary ball skills may grow in frustration. They are able to skate past defenders or make amazing passes that aren’t being handled well. In this case, bio banding may do a disservice to her development.
Also, bio banding a player down an age usually takes away an opportunity from a player who is in that age group by chronological age. This isn’t really fair to the development of the kid who is “of age” but could benefit from training with players better than them.
On some occasions, it’s better to not bio band a player but place him or her on a lower-level team in the same soccer organization.
I think bio banding serves its purpose and benefits some players who are late-bloomers. It can eliminate some friction between “bully ball” and developing technical skills at a younger age.
However, by considering the predicted adult stature/height and maturity offset (how far a child is from peak height), assumptions are considered. Unfortunately when things aren’t so cut and dry, teams take advantage of this.
In my experience, I’ve seen soccer players who were bio banded but are visibly bigger than other players on the field. Maybe they hit a growth spurt midway through the season but I think these kids would benefit from playing and training with kids their own age.
In all honesty, some undersized players will benefit immensely from playing against kids their own age. They may get pushed around a bit but if they can develop their technical abilities and maximize their potential, they will experience massive jumps as their physical stature catches up.
I hope this helps you understand what bio banding is and how it might benefit youth soccer players. It’s ultimately a personal choice and the suggestion of the soccer organization to determine if and when a player should be bio banded.