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

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (SciVal)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0260867
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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