Physical and psychological differences related to birthdate amongst athletes of the same selection year have been characterised as the “relative age effects” (RAEs). RAEs have been identified in a variety of sports, both at youth and adult level, and are linked with dropout of athletes and a reduction of the talent pool. This study examined the existence, mechanisms and possible solutions to RAEs using qualitative methodology. Seven experts in the field of talent identification and development were interviewed. Inductive analysis of the data showed that, while there was mixed evidence for the existence of RAEs across sports, the eradication of RAEs was attributed to controllable features of the development environment. The factors reported included the structure of “categories” used to group athletes within the sport (e.g. age, weight, size, skills), recognition and prioritisation of long-term development over “short term win focus.” Education of relevant parties (e.g. coaches, scouts, clubs) about RAEs and the nature of “talent” within a long-term context was suggested, along with careful consideration of the structure of the development environment (e.g. delayed selection, provision for late developers, focus on skills not results, use of challenge). Implications for research and practice are discussed.
Andronikos, G., Elumaro, A. I., Westbury, T., & Martindale, R. J. J. (2016). Relative age effect: implications for effective practice. Journal of Sports Sciences, 34(12), 1124-1131. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2015.1093647