BIGGER IS not always better for young rugby league players, according to a Leeds study.
Research led by Leeds Beckett University found youths who are bigger and earlier maturing at age 14 are less likely to become professional rugby league players in adulthood than their smaller peers. The study also found that playing position affected how likely adolescents were to progress to elite or professional levels in the sport. Findings showed junior pivots were three times more likely to become professional players than junior props. Lead researcher Dr Kevin Till is a senior lecturer in sports coaching at Leeds Beckett and a strength and conditioning coach at Leeds Rhinos. He said: “Young players shouldn’t be pigeonholed into a certain playing position as our findings indicate that can limit their development and hamper their opportunities.
“Coaches need to look to develop all players’ attributes, rather than pick for certain positions on size alone.”
An international team of researchers tracked 580 youngsters who were chosen for the RFL’s talent development programme between 2005 and 2007.
They found that, as well as player position, relative age affected their progression. Players selected to the programme but born later in the annual age category (June-August) were three times more likely to become professionals than those born earlier in the year (September-November).