Are children born later in the sporting calendar year missing out on selection and development opportunities?
Children are frequently grouped by age for school or sport activities in order to control for the effects of intellectual and physical development. As well, youth sport programs use cutoff dates to ensure that children will receive age appropriate instruction and to allow for fair competition. However, developmental differences can be significant when groupings are limited to one year categories.
Therefore, the child born in January is almost a full year older than the child born in December of the same year, and the outcome of this advantage has been coined the Relative Age Effect (RAE). Of course, relative age is less important in combative sports since weight classes actually equalize the field.
And since relative age plays an important role in coaching decisions, it makes you wonder, who is getting left behind when it comes to selecting kids for your team? The bigger, stronger, more mature child makes the team. The smaller guy is forced out of the sport at times, so RAE is indeed affecting opportunities for the younger child.
Therefore birth month is very important in sporting success. For younger children born later in the year, they are not as likely to have as much fun because they can’t compete on a level playing field. They become discouraged at the ever-growing gap between themselves and the other kids who are more mature and physically larger, and hence, they give up.
But if the younger child is able to hang in there and endure the gap, research shows that the late bloomers are the real champions and their perseverance pays off!
If you are interested in further information on the topic please contact SIRC or check out our online resources.
Discussion on Relative Age Affect will continue at the Canadian Sport for Life (CS4L) Workshop taking place in Ottawa February 19-20, 2011 at the Delta Ottawa City Centre (Formerly Crowne Plaza), come visit the SIRC mobile Resource Centre in the Victoria Room.