Exploring growth and maturation

Posted 01 April 2021
Sport and Athletic Development

The health, wellbeing and physical literacy of all students at St Peter’s College is important to the staff that form our Sport, Athletic Development, Health and Physical Education (HPE) Department. Collaboratively, the staff are working with the student body to support their development and explore opportunities for deep understanding and growth. The individual needs of each student vary and can be met by our broad approach to physical activity and the foundations that underpin healthy approaches to development.

In recent weeks in HPE we have been exploring the concept of Peak Height Velocity (PHV) as a means to understand the stages of growth and maturation that occur rapidly for our students between Years 7 and 10. This exploration is relevant as the changes that occur are significant and hold great meaning for the boys. We want to support students and parents with information so they can be equipped to navigate this period.

Peak Height Velocity
During the adolescent period, there can be major maturity related differences in height, weight, strength, speed and endurance. These differences can have a significant effect on a student’s health and wellbeing, as well as their performance in their chosen sports. PHV defines the moment of the largest increase in body height. Put simply, PHV tells us the time that a student will have their largest growth in vertical height during the adolescent stage of development.

Age from PHV can be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy by measuring height, sitting height, body mass and chronological age. A mathematical equation is used to predict time away from PHV or alternatively time since hitting PHV. On average, boys will grow 8.3cm during this time and this growth spurt varies considerably amongst individuals in timing, tempo and duration.

Through exploring PHV in HPE, students, families, teachers and coaches at St Peter’s College have the opportunity to understand student progress in relation to PHV and, as a result, develop strategies to enhance their wellbeing and athletic performance based on their unique stage of development. Below is some basic information based on each of these stages:

Pre- Peak Height Velocity
Studies show that boys who are pre-PHV and circum-PHV benefit most from plyometric training. As this period is most prevalent during Years 6 and 7, St Peter’s College offers the Athletic Development ‘Keys’ program, which provides students with the opportunity to enhance their functional movement and increase their flexibility. It is an all-round program which focuses on increasing muscle strength, enhancing movement mechanics and improving functional abilities tailored to reduce sports-related injuries in young athletes.

During Peak Height Velocity
The substantial and intense growth of body limbs in our students during this stage elevates the need for a well-balanced diet high in calcium. Studies have found that adequate calcium intake during this period is essential for boys to reach their optimum peak bone mass – which is key to protecting against osteoporosis in later life. Students will also significantly increase their body mass during PHV, warranting a higher dietary caloric intake.

Sleep is another key factor during PHV. As the resources required to manage growth during this phase are quite taxing, adequate sleep is essential.

Post-Peak Height Velocity
Adolescent ‘clumsiness’ due to the rapid increase in the length of arms and legs relative to the torso may result in coordination challenges and lower performance during this period. Being aware that this is normal can assist in maintaining the positive wellbeing of our students. Research suggests that boys post-PHV benefit from strength training in conjunction with plyometric training. This is a major reason why we have introduced strength and conditioning as part of our Athletic Development program.

Knowing roughly what stage students are at through their growth and maturation is helpful for parents and teachers to have conversations with students supporting their development and encouraging patience through this period. When students are experiencing the frustrations associated with growth spurts and the timing of development, it can be helpful to know that this challenging period does come to an end and there are approaches to training, nutrition and recovery that maximise the opportunities that emerge.

In the coming weeks, families will receive an information sheet based on their son’s actual PHV stage. If you would like more information on this topic please make contact with your son’s HPE Teacher or Mr Stuart Mitchell, Head of Athletic Development.

Daniel Mullen
Health and PE Teacher

If you would like to read more about PHV here are some references:

Calcium Nutrition in Adolescence, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition

Science for Sport. 2016 – Peak Height Velocity