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The effect of bio-banding on academy soccer player passing networks: implications of relative pitch size.

Towlson, Christopher; Abt, Grant; Barrett, Steve; Cumming, Sean; Hunter, Frances; Hamilton, Ally; Lowthorpe, Alex; Goncalves, Bruno; Corsie, Martin; Swinton, Paul


Christopher Towlson

Grant Abt

Steve Barrett

Sean Cumming

Frances Hunter

Ally Hamilton

Alex Lowthorpe

Bruno Goncalves

Martin Corsie


The primary aims of this study were to examine the effects of bio-banding players on passing networks created during 4v4 small-sided games (SSGs), while also examining the interaction of pitch size using passing network analysis compared to a coach-based scoring system of player performance. Using a repeated measures design, 32 players from two English Championship soccer clubs contested mixed maturity and bio-banded SSGs. Each week, a different pitch size was used: Week 1) small (36.1 m2 per player); week 2) medium (72.0 m2 per player); week 3) large (108.8 m2 per player); and week 4) expansive (144.50 m2 per player). All players contested 12 maturity (mis)matched and 12 mixed maturity SSGs. Technical-tactical outcome measures were collected automatically using a foot-mounted device containing an inertial measurement unit (IMU) and the Game Technical Scoring Chart (GTSC) was used to subjectively quantify the technical performance of players. Passing data collected from the IMUs were used to construct passing networks. Mixed effect models were used with statistical inferences made using generalized likelihood ratio tests, accompanied by Cohen’s local f2 to quantify the effect magnitude of each independent variable (game type, pitch size and maturation). Consistent trends were identified with mean values for all passing network and coach-based scoring metrics indicating better performance and more effective collective behaviours for early compared with late maturation players. Network metrics established differences (f2 = 0.00 to 0.05) primarily for early maturation players indicating that they became more integral to passing and team dynamics when playing in a mixed-maturation team. However, coach-based scoring was unable to identify differences across bio-banding game types (f2 = 0.00 to 0.02). Pitch size had the largest effect on metrics captured at the team level (f2 = 0.24 to 0.27) with smaller pitch areas leading to increased technical actions. The results of this study suggest that the use of passing networks may provide additional insight into the effects of interventions such as bio-banding and that the number of early-maturing players should be considered when using mixed-maturity playing formats to help to minimize late-maturing players over-relying on their early-maturing counterparts during match-play.


TOWLSON, C., ABT, G., BARRETT, S., CUMMING, S., HUNTER, F., HAMILTON, A., LOWTHORPE, A., GONCALVES, B., CORSIE, M. and SWINTON, P. 2021. The effect of bio-banding on academy soccer player passing networks: implications of relative pitch size. Plos one [online], 16(12), article e0260867. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 19, 2021
Online Publication Date Dec 16, 2021
Publication Date Dec 31, 2021
Deposit Date Jan 13, 2022
Publicly Available Date Jan 13, 2022
Journal PLOS ONE
Electronic ISSN 1932-6203
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 12
Article Number e0260867
Keywords Bio-banding; Passing networks; Player performance; Soccer clubs; Small-sided games; Talent identification; Biological maturation; Age; Maturity; Demands
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TOWLSON 2021 The effect of bio-banding (VOR) (554 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2021 Towlson et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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