Female Adolescent Development: What to be mindful of and how coaches can help
This information is designed to support coaches in understanding ‘what is going on’ for athletes at various stages of the netball player pathway. By increasing our knowledge surrounding growth, maturation, and psychological development we can provide appropriate and informed support to the athletes we work with.
We will introduce the key stages of physical and psychological development and provide practical advice and guidance for coaches along the way. We encourage you to combine the information shared in this document with your knowledge of the individual and lived experiences to guide your practice and decision making.
What do we mean by growth, maturation, and development?
Growth, maturation, and psychological development are complex, interacting processes that impact all athletes within the player pathway. While the timing and tempo of growth, maturation and psychological development varies between individuals, understanding the key stages and landmarks of these processes can help inform our coaching practice.
• Growth refers to the increasing size of the body, or its component parts (e.g. muscle, fat, or bone). Generally, growth is a gradual process, however, it is accelerated following the onset of puberty commonly referred to as the adolescent growth spurt. This begins with a rapid increase in height (peak height velocity) and is followed by a significant increase in weight (peak weight velocity) typically 6 to 12 months later.
• Maturation is a biological process that can be considered as the journey from childhood towards complete adult form and function. Whilst everyone will eventually reach the same destination, the timing (when it happens) and tempo (the speed at which it occurs) of maturation can vary greatly between individuals.
• Development describes the physical and psychological (cognitive, emotional, and social) progress adolescents experience throughout their lives. Of course, these processes cannot be considered in isolation and instead all components of development should be viewed holistically.
The adolescent period is not just the teenage years. Our bodies and brains continue to grow and develop into our mid to late 20s, meaning most athletes, even if they look like adults, are still developing.