Clarifications on Bio-banding
By Mike Barr, Technical Director, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer
U.S. Soccer recently came out with information regarding bio-banding, where players are not grouped chronologically but placed on teams based on PHV, maturation, and biological projections of each individual player. This process enables individual players to be with players within the same range of abilities and maturation level. We received a few calls from our membership, and we wanted to provide a clear explanation of U.S. Soccer’s intent.
It seems when U.S. Soccer reports new initiatives or studies parents have a tendency to try to get ahead of the curve and simply jump to conclusions on what is best for their child. To provide clear and meaningful information, I went directly to U.S. Soccer. I posed a series of questions to Scott Flood (Director of the Coaching Department) who sent them on to James Bunce, the High Performance Director of U.S. Soccer and former Director of performance for the Premier League in England.
Will bio-banding become the norm for younger Academy players throughout the country?
James Bunce: Bio-banding will never be mandated across any areas of the soccer landscape either within the U.S. Soccer Development Academy or wider. Our aim is to provide education, support and expertise to as many staff, clubs, coaches and parents around growth, maturation and bio-banding, allowing them to become experts within their own environments to decide how and when they use the information. I certainly hope many clubs do use the data and information as once you begin to use it the advantages become pretty clear as a supportive tool for player development and identification.
What do we tell our membership who may read the initiative and attempt to implement the program in their club?
JB: I genuinely would say to wait and not rush into it. However, I would encourage learning and exploring as individuals into the area if it interests them. We at U.S. are going to be gradually building and sharing more educational information, support and resources but this will take time due to the large scale of the project and its reach.
Did medical researchers determine the biological age of each player at Round Rock?
JB: The whole concept is built on scientific research and data and is the same process I used when I initiated this concept into the Premier League in England three years ago. I have acquired and work directly with a scientific group of 12 people that include some of the world’s best researchers in this area with 1000’s of scientific publications on the area of growth and maturation. For the Round Rock initiative, I worked directly with the clubs and visited each one taking the required measurements while educating players, coaches and parents.
Do you think the initiative may impact various league’s future policies regarding grouping through chronological age?
JB: No, bio-banding will not directly change the current chronological age group system and will never be used as a replacement for this. The bio-banding method of grouping players is supposed to be used occasionally by clubs and coaches as a hybrid method of training and playing. This can look different for each club as it is another helpful tool to implement in their environment when and if they want.
Will U.S. Soccer send out a clearer message for parents, administrators and coaches regarding future plans with the initiative?
JB: We will continue to update the whole landscape of soccer about the initiative and support around bio-banding. In the meantime, I would suggest pointing people towards our first press release, FAQ, animation video and Round Rock event recap. These explain our intentions and details around bio-banding and its use.