Regroupement des joueurs selon l’âge biologique : le concept testé aux États-Unis

Ce printemps, la ville d’Austin, au Texas, sera l’hôte d’un tournoi de soccer hors de l’ordinaire : les organisateurs auront recours au regroupement selon l’âge biologique pour former les équipes, une première aux États-Unis.

De quoi s’agit-il? Du fait de regrouper les joueurs en fonction de leur maturité physique et de leur âge biologique plutôt que de leur âge chronologique. Cette brève vidéo de U.S. Soccer illustre très bien le concept. (vidéo en anglaise)

Vous avez sans doute été témoin de compétitions sportives lors desquelles certains joueurs avaient l’air d’adultes et leurs coéquipiers, d’enfants de prématernelle. Quand l’âge chronologique fait foi de tout, il n’est pas rare que deux jeunes de 12 ans qui semblent en avoir 5 de différence soient réunis au sein d’une même formation. Cela s’explique par les écarts remarquables que créent des vitesses de développement variables et le début de la puberté – c’est ce qu’on appelle l’effet de l’âge relatif.

C’est justement le but du regroupement selon l’âge biologique : éliminer ces différences pour que tous rivalisent à armes égales. La compétition devient plus juste, et le développement des joueurs s’en trouve favorisé. Après tout, n’est-ce pas absurde de voir un joueur qui semble avoir 16 ans se mesurer à un autre qui en paraît 10?

Le tournoi de soccer tenu les 21 et 22 avril à Austin est présenté par la Lonestar SC Academy. Y participeront les formations masculines et féminines des Dallas Texans et du Solar Soccer Club, les filles de Houston Dash et les garçons de Houston Dynamo. Les équipes seront formées à partir de leurs alignements de catégorie U14 à U17.

En théorie, un joueur U14 pourrait faire partie d’une équipe constituée pour l’essentiel de U16. À l’inverse, un U16 pourrait se mesurer à des équipes composées en majeure partie de U14 et de U15.

L’expérience est fascinante. Dans la plupart des disciplines, matchs et compétitions tendent à être dominés par les athlètes au développement le plus précoce. Leur secret? Ils sont plus gros, plus forts ou plus rapides, simplement.

Le problème, c’est que ces jeunes qui mûrissent plus vite ne seront pas forcément les meilleurs athlètes à long terme. En fait, ceux qui se développent tardivement pourraient bien avoir le plus grand potentiel, mais trop souvent, ils se découragent et abandonnent leur sport avant même que leurs talents puissent être développés.

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