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Articles: on Growth and Training

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  • Clara 76


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How exactly does football "bio-band"?

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This seems silly. The only indicator of puberty that a teacher would know about is breast size. The whole concept seems impractical when related to the ballet world.

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I agree, it seems silly to me too. Everyone matures at different rates but they are auditioning at roughly the same time. I doubt auditioning directors care about maturation age although there are directors who understand differences and look at the young, still maturing but well-trained dancer for their potential in the company. IMO this is a good reason to be hired as an apprentice or 2nd company member because it allows a company to invest in a dancer while respecting the maturation process with less stress on the growing body.


In our dd's class, the girls were maturing (and that term needs to be better defined too) at different rates. The director told the girls that some of them still had "puppy fat" and that it would go away but it did put some who were auditioning at a disadvantage if a director couldn't see past that stage in their physical development. I don't want to derail this into a weight conversation and the girls that she was speaking of were not overweight, they just had a look that wasn't as mature as others. Four years later, these girls have indeed caught up to the others and have the same lean look.


The best a dancer can do is work on core strength and cross training to support periods of growth and maturation to minimize injuries. .

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I agree it does seem impractical to attempt this - surely good teachers already take a student's physical maturity into consideration. The area I have heard it being used in UK is for sports such as Rugby where boys height and weight are used for eligibility for school teams, rather than just age - thus hoping to avoid injuries.

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In response to Clara76's question,

"Biobanding" , or grouping based on pubertal/developmental stage, would have to be based on a physician/medical assessment, as it would require genital exam. The results would allow the coaches to separate a 5ft-9 barely-starting puberty 15yo male(i.e. one headed for 6ft 3) and a 5ft9 fully grown 15yo male into different teams, rather than the traditional model of grouping based on height or age . In a high-impact contact/collision sport such as football, this is very important, else the fully grown one would likely risk significant injury to the non-fully grown one, due to immense weight and strength differences. In addition, there are very different recommendations for amount of weight training based on different stages of development.

Though our area does not call it "bio-banding" nor have strict team-formation rules, there are certainly signs in the sports of football and other "traditional" school sports that public schools/coaches are starting to take puberty stage into consideration: the sports pre-participation physical is required to state puberty stage, or "Tanner stage", which a physician assesses on the physical exam (but a coach would obviously not see!!).

Tanner stage is very highly associated with bone/growth stage, in boys and girls, and there is much research to back up the correlation over many decades. Notably, this staging is only required in "boy" sports in our area, which makes no sense, and oddly it is not used regularly by public schools in the formation of different levels/ teams, despite the requirement for us to specifically note it. It IS used by most schools to regulate how much weight/reps can be done for weight training /conditioning. There are local private sports clubs that do use it somewhat for grouping in football, soccer, and there are private sports that will require a girl's puberty to be staged as well as a boy's, but the primary use is to individualize weight training/conditioning (which medical professionals strongly support).

In our area and other areas across the US, the trend will most likely progress in the direction of more puberty-stage related training groups, and I agree with the premise that biologically it makes a lot of sense as far as decreasing overuse injury in the later bloomers. The only way to apply this in ballet training would be for teachers to get a physical exam report from a physician outlining the stage of puberty each year(or maybe more often--it changes rapidly at times!). Personally, I think the premise is great and the pathophysiology of the benefits of such grouping is sound--but putting it into practice is would be difficult.

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While I can definitely see the merits, I do wonder how this sort of grouping would impact DKs outside the average developmental timeframe.


I guess I'm also wondering how it would look in practice.

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I remember reading about how boys in ballet seem to lag behind their female classmates for a few years as the girls are developing and gaining coordination and physical maturity, but quickly catch up when their bodies are ready to. An awareness of these kinds of differences might be all that is necessary to apply these concepts

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This seems silly. The only indicator of puberty that a teacher would know about is breast size. The whole concept seems impractical when related to the ballet world.



Agree. I have noticed that ballet teachers tend to think that shorter girls are less physically mature even when they aren't. They kind of substitute height for physical maturity.

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My ds was involved in sports until he turned 15 and switched his focus to ballet. When he was in sports, there was a lot of talk about late maturing athletes and how to measure their future potential and continue to train them safely and effectively. High school coaches, in particular, have an interest in not letting the late bloomer slip past them. They are also aware that some of the early bloomers will lose their athletic advantage as juniors and seniors. I have read articles advising basketball coaches to chart sitting and standing height for players, because, since boys' torsos lengthen at the end of puberty, the ratio over time can help coaches to estimate future height and remaining growth potential. All of these concerns and practices sound pretty cold and calculated in my short summary, but please attribute that to my rhetoric.


Here's what I think the article is saying (the article, not me!): In ballet, there is a particular danger that late bloomers will be pushed beyond what is safe, because late bloomers already seem to have the ideal ballet body that is appreciated in a mature dancer. In sports, late bloomers will get slower training; in ballet, it is sometimes the opposite. And the article is recommending that ballet adopt a more systematic approach to measuring maturity and start grouping students by maturity, rather than grouping them by age or by potential determined by current body type.


I don't know to what extent the problem identified by the article is a real problem in ballet generally. I think a lot of excellent training programs already consider maturation in grouping students. I tend to associate the problems discussed in the article with less experienced teachers. I have indeed seen younger dancers pushed too hard because their long legs and flexibility made them look capable of more advanced dancing. And I have seen boys and girls deemed talentless when they were simply going through their awkward stage. I've also seen bigger boys who weren't done growing pushed too hard. But most of the time, I've seen this happen when teachers are less experienced. Sadly, a lot of teachers are not experienced at training boys, so I have seen more examples of misjudgment of boys than of girls.


In any case, maybe the article is a reminder to look for ballet training where the teachers truly understand student physical maturation patterns and their variability.

But I don't know that ballet will begin using yearly medical exams. That seems a relic of the past in fact.

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I am intrigued by this concept.


I did a quick search and cannot find the actual article in the scientific literature, just articles in the lay press describing the article. If someone finds a link to the actual article, please share it. :)


Bio-banding is being done in sports. When you search for bio-banding, tournaments for teams do come up. In reading through a few other articles on the topic, it's interesting to see that this was being done as early as the early 1900s, so the concept is not brand new.


I think it would be difficult in some ways in ballet. It would require a medical evaluation, something I would be in favor of, especially in those critical years when dancers are growing and increasing their training hours. Would would be difficult is grouping some older dancers who are not physically mature with younger dancers who may not be as mature from a psychological standpoint. When I think back to when my dd was 10 turning 11 and was in a class that was filled mostly with dancers who were 9 and 10, she was frequently expressing frustration because the attention spans and discipline were just not the same. I think many schools just would not have the resources to have bio-banded levels that also accounted for non-physical maturity.

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I was able to get the actual article (I am an academic so the world of peer reviewed publications are at my fingertips). But I don't know how to attach the article here (the article, like most scientific publications, is behind a pay wall). If there is a way to post the pdf here, let me know, I am also happy to send it to anyone who wants to PM me (PM me your email address and I will send the article).


I will say that a very quick read of the abstract and method show that the "data" are based on extensive interviews with 10 ballet teachers in the UK. Qualitative data analyses is a fine approach to addressing questions, but in no way does the paper try to provide evidence supportive of bio-banding approaches. Though still maybe an interesting perspective.

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One of the advantages of grouping by physical maturity in sports (I can't get used to this term, biobanding) is that it gives less physically developed athletes playing time and experience. If they were were on the varsity team but just sitting on the bench during games, they would not be acquiring critical in-game experience. When the late bloomers do mature, they need to have had the playing time in order to compete at the varsity level. I'm not sure how this translates to ballet, but it might.

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Then there are the girls who are fully mature but have the body of an adolescent so I don't know how this would really work across the board.

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