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Late Bloomers | Boys

Research presented will paint a clear picture of what exactly classifies a late bloomer, the physiological implications of maturity in sport, the psychosocial effects of late bloomers and the implications for youth development leaders and coaches.

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Why Research Late Bloomer

Often times the goals of a coach align with the nature for competitiveness and a will to succeed. A successful team may often times be built around a couple of highly successful core athletes. In the pursuit to create elite athletes, those with the most perceived potential are often given more playing time and more coaches attention.


In a study by Horn and Lox cited in Children’s Organized Sport: A Developmental Perspective, they found “Early maturers benefit from positive reinforcement and encouragement, while late bloomers- due to their lack of skill, size or experience- receive markedly less social support and reinforcement” (Brady, 2004, p. 38). In the same article, Brady (2004), cites Matsudo stating that people often predict future athletic success on general physical fitness which favors early maturing athletes.

The extra attention given to those early maturers or athletes, who display early talents, may discourage those late bloomers and could quite possibly lead to dropout from sport. This “all eggs in one basket” approach of providing more attention to those who show early signs of athleticism leaves out a chunk of those youth that could be benefiting from sport. Furthermore it may be advantageous to not rule out those late bloomers as many studies presented will show that early signs of athleticism does not imply future success and that those late bloomers could very well take over those showing early signs of talent.


As a coach, it is hard to see those who are developmentally behind cope with performance values that are behind their peers. This research has been a core focus of mine for the last 8 years. Six years ago one of my athletes, a developmentally delayed twelve year old was competing against two developmentally ahead nine year olds. Although the athlete had a phenomenal race and showed improvement based on past results, he was distraught and almost in tears because he was beat out by both nine year olds by a large margin. His stature and build was no different than those of his competitors, and he was significantly smaller than his peers. He was one of the hardest working kids and has significantly improved (19.47% over the course of one season).


Many coaches may have written this kid off as having no talent, however there was no doubt in my mind that he would outperform his peers in a couple of years. This young man grew up to become the captain of his high school swim team, surpassed his peers in height and build and became one of the fastest kids in the state just 4 years later.

The reason why this research matters so much, is we have a wealth of young boys quitting sports because they perceive their abilities as less that their peers. We have a large chunk of the youth population who are dis-serviced by the need to perform well in competition rather than given the opportunity to receive quality coaching and experience the joy of competing, learning teamwork and gaining friendships. 

I hope that if you are a parent, you utilize this information to educate your son, that he will catch up to his peers. I hope that if you are a coach, you utilize this information to encourage your athletes, ditch the all eggs in one basket approach and be patient for the time will come that your late bloomers will be a dominant force!


Brady, F. (2004). Children's organized sports: A developmental perspective. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 75(2), 35-41.

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