I will start by saying this: chronological age and biological age are NOT the same. This is true for people of any age, and it’s especially true for young females.
Chronological age is how old a person is, from their birthday to this day.
Biological age is how old are a person’s body and mind, that is, where they are developmentally.
This is why we have to treat our young female athletes as a whole person, and a unique individual as well. It’s imperative to understand where a particular athlete is developmentally, without making comparisons to their siblings, their peers, or where you were at that age, all the while steering away most cautiously from assuming where they should be.
There has been much debate in athletic circles, especially in last few years, on pushing children to develop early “before their time”. Some of the reasons for this premture development are:
specializing early in a single sport and/or position;
pressure to make a school team early
getting recruited early
comparison to others by parents and/or coaches
The fact that all that children develop differently and at a different pace is considered common knowledge in this day and age. While one child will hit the mental and physical growth spurt as early as 5th/6th grade, another one will hit it late as late as 9th/10th grade. Nature will take things at its own pace, regardless of our own time requirements. We constantly ask our kids to learn to have patience, but we (coaches and parents) are the ones who lack the same.
There is a phase for everything. Embracing the season our children are in and supporting their proper mental and physical development is by far the most important job we have. Understanding this can help us reduce myopic vision and see the big picture of our children’s lives. For coaches, it means to see the potential in late bloomers, and for parents it means understanding that Middle School age is a time of mental and physical fluctuations, and not athletic life sentence.
Remember, pushing too much, too soon is the best way to lose your athlete.