Individual differences in the growth and maturation have been shown to impact player performance and development in youth soccer. This study investigated Premier League academy players' experiences of participating in a tournament bio-banded for biological maturation. Players (N = 66) from four professional soccer clubs aged 11 and 14 years and between 85-90% of adult stature participated in a tournament. Players competed in three 11 vs 11 games on a full size pitch with 25-min halves. Sixteen players participated in four 15-min focus groups and were asked to describe their experiences of participating in the bio-banded tournament in comparison to age group competition. All players described their experience as positive and recommended the Premier League integrate bio-banding into the existing games programme. In comparison to age-group competitions, early maturing players described the bio-banded games more physically challenging, and found that they had to adapt their style of play placing a greater emphasis on technique and tactics. Late maturing players considered the games to be less physically challenging, yet appreciated the having more opportunity to use, develop and demonstrate their technical, physical, and psychological competencies. Bio-banding strategies appear to contribute positively towards the holistic development of young soccer players.
Keywords: Maturation; adolescence; bio-banding; football; youth.