There has been a massive increase in the number of track and field athletes who have been competing at a young age. However, it may be that those who started young were already naturally talented and this is why they started early. A question for coaches therefore might be whether or not youngsters should start training so young as perhaps their performances will only peak at a very old age.
The following tables show the top 100 performance rankings for the World’s Best Performances in the 100m Sprint for men and women defined as all time best performances each year starting from 1967 to 2016. The table also shows the world record progression. These are then correlated by age to see what sort of mathematical relationship there is between age and performance.
average 100m time by age
This data was compiled from a range of sources and then averaged to give a mean performance by age. It is interesting that up until the age of 16, there is no drop in average sprint time. Therefore it might be worth having youngsters compete in track and field events at this young age rather than waiting until they are 17 when their biological maturity begins to overtake their chronological age.
The following graph shows the linear regression between 100m Sprint time and age for both men and women. It would appear that sprint performance peaks somewhere in the 20 to 25 year old category for both genders which is about 10 years later than the world records suggest. There are individual variations, but this tends to be within a 10% range suggesting that the performance benefits of being a young sprinter last for around a decade.
What the research says about 100m sprint performance by age
There has been a lot of criticism in recent years about athletes who start to train for track and field when they are still young. This is because it is thought that their bodies may not be ready to take on the demands of serious training until they have finished going through puberty. However, there does not seem to be a significant difference between all time best performances by age for young athletes where puberty has not yet started compared to the adult population. Therefore, it looks like training for track and field events does not have a negative effect on children’s growth or development even if they are still in primary school.
How to improve your 100m sprint performance by age
If you compare the performances of athletes who began training for track and field events at an older age, their performance level tends to be significantly lower than those who started to train earlier. Therefore it looks like if you want to improve your 100m sprint time then the best thing that you can do is start training as young as possible before puberty. However, it might be that the relationship between age and performance is not due to youth improving sprint performance but rather because of talented individuals increasingly participating in track events at a young age.
The benefits of improving your 100m sprint performance by age
It is well known that general athletic performance peaks somewhere in the late 20 to early 30 year old range. Therefore, training now for about 5 years might just give you enough time to close this gap. However, if you are past this age then it might be too late because the research suggests that the benefits of improved athleticism will plateau after you have trained for about 5 years.
At this point, any further gains in performance will most likely be due to increases in biological maturity which occur only very slowly over time. Therefore, it looks like if you are older than 23 then you might as well focus on other sports where the activity is more suited to your age rather than trying to become a champion sprinter.