Puberty and Athletic Performance

teen girls playing volleyball athletic performance puberty

Puberty has a huge impact on athletic performance.

When athletes go through puberty, especially boys, they have a tendency to grow significantly in a short period of time. This gain of height makes them appear to be mature. But inside they may still have the organs of a child.

Pushing athletes too hard at this stage can be detrimental both physically and psychologically, especially when they are already dealing with other major changes in their lives.

This period takes several years and may differ greatly depending on the individual and sex.

Here are some interesting and important points about puberty and how it influences performance:

  • Females, on the average, start this phase approximately two years earlier than males.
  • The processes of this transformation from child to adult may be fast and short lasting in one individual, and less intensive and slower in another.
  • Within the same age group, those who go through puberty faster will most likely show higher levels of skills and abilities than those who go through slower. However, this advantage is short lasting and is not an indication of a higher predisposition toward success in sport, but only a temporarily higher biological maturity.
  • Ignorance about this stage of human life and its implication on results in the case of late developers, may lead to misinterpreting poor results as lack of talent in given sport.
  • These asymmetric changes in early development influence intellectual, biological, and motoric age. Focusing on an athlete’s calendar age causes us to look at development as a single unit rather than the complexity of variably changing functions it really is.

Remember: All athletes are individuals with their own unique development patterns.

All activities should reflect rules which govern growth periods and should be tied in a timely fashion to sequential development of different physical and psychological characteristics. This is the only way to assure that an individual achieves positive changes in the course of their development.

The process of full athletic development takes many years. Some characteristics such as maximal strength and anaerobic capacity cannot be developed until puberty or later. Introducing training based on these abilities too early is a mistake, but avoiding them completely may have equally bad consequences of future limitations and injuries.

Puberty is a very dynamic time of life and presents an opportunity for making great progress in athletic development. Doing the correct training during this period can have a dramatic impact on future results.