Physical Development

Be a better youPhysical developmentSkill development

Children progress from birth to adulthood going through growth, maturation and development. These four areas are picked up here for coaches to consider.



This is the dominant activity from birth to the individuals first two decades of life. Growth is an increase in the size of the body as a whole or by specific parts of the body.



Maturation occurs in all tissues, organs and systems which affect function. Maturation refers to the timing and tempo of progress toward the biological state.

We are not all born equal…

James is born in August and Callum is born in September; they are in the same school year and football team but there are 362 days difference in their age.  As 10 year olds, Callum has been on the planet 10% longer.  This gives him more experience, more opportunities and he is biologically more developed.  We acknowledge how much a child alters one month to the next but when we compare two children we often group them under an age group or even in some sports a two year age band.


Callum is almost a year older and is taller, quicker and stronger (because he is 10% older); when a coach arrives to watch them is he selecting on technical development or physical development?  Due to his athletic prowess Callum is deemed to have the potential to progress and is given the opportunity to enter the development programme.

Callum is now coached in a smaller group, with more experienced coaches and has an additional two practice sessions per week!  Guess what?  His development accelerates and he progresses further because of the environment he is in, an environment that he was able to access because of his birthday!

But the journey continues, James is more likely to be discouraged and stop playing as he believes he has not ‘got what it takes’ and is smaller than many of the other performers.  Callum gains in confidence and begins to believe in the ‘hype’ around his potential.  Callum continues to be selected because of the coaching and ‘hype’ around his ability.  This provides him with more coaching time (practice time), often better facilities and coaches and exposure to more challenging environments and opponents.  This can affect his mindset (but that’s another story!) but as he progresses and gets older other performers begin to catch him up.  He hasn’t developed the technical skills because he believed that he was selected because he was faster and bigger than everyone else, and consequently he doesn’t have an answer for the new challenges

There are performers like James who do achieve and gain from the challenges and ‘rocky road’ that they journeyed, but these ‘outliers’ (as Malcolm Gladwell calls them) are the extreme.

In other sports being young for your age and physically immature can also be an advantage, just think about ice skating, gymnastics and diving.

James and Callum are extremes, but their story happens every year across many sports.  What are you doing Coach to make sure it doesn’t happen in your practice sesion, your coaching environment and your club?




Development occurs biologically, functions of organs, cells, tissues and functional units. Secondly development occurs in behavioural factors that are refined to help the individual develop the individual to function in society.

Talking Talent: Relative Age Effect


Dr Jean Côté of Queen's University, Ontario, provides of the relative age effect in sport and the interplay of social effects on this.



Physical performance

This is the component where body movement is produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Coaches need to consider the key components to support the development of the individual to achieve functional activity.


Useful Resources

Please click on the below:

A useful guide looking at the implcations of Relative Age Effects on Performer Participation and Development





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Relative Age Effects Implications for Performer Participation and Development

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