Bio banding is grouping young players of the same maturation and growth attributes rather than grouping them according to chronological age like using U15, U17.
On average, children start puberty aged 12. During puberty, they go through a growth spurt stage but all this happens at different times for each individual depending on factors that range from quality of nutrition, gender, genes, physical activities e.t.c it’s possible to find two 14-year-olds with very contrasting maturation and growth attributes like height.
POPULARISING BIO BANDING IN FOOTBALL
Bio banding is thought to have been popularized by the Southampton FC academy in England.
Oxlade-Chamberlain was part of Southampton’s U14’s and was struggling to keep up with his peers on the field because his slow growth rate made it easy for him to easily get knocked off the ball.
The club thought of releasing him but James Bunce the head of athletic performance decided to keep him at the club.
James Bunce’s observation was that Oxlade-Chamberlain was very good at using the ball but playing with peers that were bigger, stronger and faster became harder for him which resulted in lower confidence and poor performance.
The Ox as he is known was kept in the U-14’s instead of promoting him to the U16’s to continue his football development in an environment that was suitable for him growth-wise.
By the age of 16, he had gone through his own growth spurt and developed into perhaps the best player of his age category in the whole of England.
The Ox made his senior debut for Southampton at the aged 16 and 199 days. Arsenal paid Southampton 15 million pounds for the then 17-year-old Oxlade-Chamberlain in 2011 then later got paid more when he joined Liverpool for 35 million pounds.
Bar injury, he is one of England’s most influential players at the moment.
BACK TO UGANDA
When the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) introduced the FUFA Juniors’ League (FJL) in the 2015-16 season.
It meant that young players were going to get competitive football to help them develop.
In the 2017-18 FJL (U18) season, I was coaching Maroons Junior Team when we decided to register Tony Opio.
He was making 16 years of age in October 2017 but was very small for his age with very good football potential.
During the season, we restricted him to playing 45 minutes per match so that he could enjoy the experience of playing in the league.
I was able to explain to him why I needed to protect him from playing a full match against opponents that were bigger than him because the frustration of not playing well would affect him negatively.
2018-19 FJL season was upgraded to U-19 although I wasn’t his coach anymore I kept following Tony.
He was still the same size and played some matches.
Tony will be making 18 years of age in October 2019 but FJL will return to U-17 for the 2019-20 season which means that Tony will be ineligible to play.
“For a player of his size, FUFA’s competitions committee should consider him playing with the U-17’s because he would fit in. It would help him to have more time on the pitch to develop his talent.”
I know FJL has age cheating challenges but in this case, Tony is already registered and known, Maroons JT also has a very good record of not having age cheats (at least when I coached them).
For a player that was almost considered for selection when the U-17 national team was assembling to start preparations for AFCON U-17 qualifiers, he deserves a bio banding experience to help him develop his talent.
Tony is one in a million of Ugandan players that are struggling with the slow growth rate.
If he’s already been registered in a previous season and there’s a reason to believe he can improve by playing with players of his current physical attributes, then perhaps bio banding would save some of the lost talents in Ugandan football.
Disclaimer: The writer has no disclaimers at the moment.