Australia takes a scientific look at youth programs

Football Federation Australia is reviewing successful programs in other sports in Australia to create an advanced youth development pathway. "We recently conducted a full review into talent identification and junior development, which included a look at methods used by other sporting bodies within Australia," the FFA's head of operations, Matt Carroll, told Daniel Ramus of the Sydney Morning Herald. The FFA's review also takes the scientific side of the sport into account, a trend becoming popular within junior sporting bodies.

The FFA paid special attention to what's called the relative-age effect. "What's interesting about the relative-age effect is that the date used to differentiate age groups is January 1, and anyone born in that 12-month period plays in the same age-group," Carroll said."This favours the kids born early in the year, and acts as a disadvantage to those born later in the year. In that group of kids born later in the year, there could be a number of talented players that are hampered because they may not have the same weight or physical power that the players born earlier in the year have."

The FFA has also introduced regulations requiring every junior player in Australia to register with the federation."This initiative allows us to provide the clubs with tools to administer themselves and that's what we're thinking of before anything else. For our development to succeed, it has to start with the administration of our junior clubs," Carroll said.