Growth, Development and Maturation: Part 3 – Monitoring and Measurement

Monitoring is an important aspect which is normally neglected, especially in high performance youth environments. Young athletes are regularly released or dropped from performance programmes as the coaches make an assumption that the young athlete in question won’t make it. Maybe this is because they are too small, not strong enough, not fast enough, or suddenly had a decrease in performance.  


All of these reasons are related to growth, as mentioned in Part 2 athletes have a decrease in movement skill competency during and post growth spurt. Coaches who have limited to no paediatric knowledge will presume they have “lost it”. Similarly young athlete’s can be early or late maturers, meaning you could have a technically great 13 year old football player who is going to be a late maturer but is released prematurely as the coach believes he’s not big enough. This is a huge problem with the system.  


So how do we address these problems? 


We can monitor young peoples growth and plot this over a period of time to track their development. By simply taking standing height, seated height, and body mass every 3 months we can monitor their progress.  


For example, we have a  15 year old rugby player who is technically and tactically very developed. He is 5ft 8, the coach believes to make it as a professional in his position he needs to be 6ft minimum. We could use the monitoring to work out if he has already been through his growth spurt and if so, look at his rate of growth since, coupled with his predicted mid-parental height we could make an educated guess to estimate how tall he will end up. From here the coach and player could have a discussion around positions and if he needs to switch and therefore enhance his chances of playing professional. 


We can also use predictions using parental heights to estimate their adult height within 5-8 cm in males and 3-8 cm in females in 95% of cases (1). 


Tanner et al. (2) proposed the following calculations to predict adult height. Calculation for boys’ mid-parental height (mother’s height + father’s height + 13, divided by 2) and girls mid-parental height (mother’s height + father’s height – 13, divided by 2).  


Our next article relating to this topic will be looking at how to set up your own youth athletic development programme, with considerations for growth, development, and maturation. 


  1. STRATTON, Gareth, and OLIVER, Jon L (2012). The impact of growth and maturation on physical performance. In: LLOYD, Rhodri, and OLIVER, Jon L. Strength and Conditioning for Young Athletes. Oxon, Routledge, 3-18.

  2. Tanner, J M (1990). Foetus into Man: Physical growth from conception to maturity, Cambridge MA: Harverd University Press.

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