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Simon J. Roberts and Stuart J. Fairclough

The common practice of annually age grouping children in education, likely done under the assumption of similarly aged children sharing similar abilities and learner characteristics, may actually undermine equity and fairness in student assessments. This strategy has received criticism for (dis) advantaging those older children born closer to the “cut off” date for entry into an academic year and for promoting the existence of relative age effects (RAEs). This paper explores the possibility that RAEs may be prevalent in the end-of-year attainment levels of junior high school physical education (PE) students. The PE end-of-year attainment scores were collected from 582 students in grades 7, 8 and 9 (aged 11–14 years) in the United Kingdom (UK). The results from a one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) indicated a significant main effect for month of birth (p = .001) and gender (p = .001). Follow up interviews with heads of PE (HoPE) revealed a lack of awareness of RAEs and inconsiderate assessment strategies, which deviated from the requirements of the formal curriculum. The implications of RAEs in school PE assessment and possible recommendations are discussed.

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Angus H. Thompson, Roger H. Barnsley and George Stebelsky

The records of 837 major league baseball players were examined in order to determine whether the Little League age eligibility criterion, based on the month of birth, affected participation rate at the professional level. The results indicated that major league players were more likely to have been born in the first months of the year, if that year corresponded to the one used for eligibility for Little League baseball (i.e., beginning in August and ending in July). A reanalysis of data presented in the literature (which suggested no effect) produced a similar result. These data are interpreted in terms of the relative age effect. That is, because of age cutoffs used in Little League baseball, some players gain a developmental advantage when competing against other youngsters who are considerably younger, although they are placed in the same age category for league play.

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Sabrina Skorski, Stefan Skorski, Oliver Faude, Daniel Hammes and Tim Meyer

Purpose:

To investigate whether anthropometric profiles and fitness measures vary according to birth-date distribution in the German national youth soccer teams and to analyze whether there is a difference in the chance of becoming a professional soccer player depending on birth quarter (BQ).

Methods:

First, 554 players were divided into 6 age groups (U16–U21), each subdivided into 4 BQs. Every player performed at least one 30-m sprint, a countermovement jump, and an incremental test to determine individual anaerobic threshold. For players performing more than 1 test within a team, the best 1 was included. Since some players were part of several different teams, a total of 832 data sets from 495 individual soccer players, all born from 1987 to 1995, divided into 6 age categories (U16–U21) were included.

Results:

Overall, more players were born in BQ1 than in all other BQs (P < .05). No significant difference between BQs could be observed in any anthropometric or performance characteristics (P > .18). Players born in BQ4 were more likely to become professional than those born in BQ1 (odds ratio 3.04, confidence limits 1.53–6.06).

Conclusion:

A relative age effect exists in elite German youth soccer, but it is not explained by an advantage in anthropometric or performance-related parameters. Younger players selected into national teams have a greater chance to become professionals later in their career.

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Jochen Musch and Roy Hay

Previous findings of skewed birth date distributions among sports professionals have been interpreted as evidence for a systematic discrimination against children born shortly before the cut-off date for each age grouping. Alternative explanations for these findings exist, however. This research therefore attempted to replicate the effect in a cross-cultural comparison. A strong relative age effect in professional soccer was found in Germany, Japan, Brazil, and Australia, showing that the effect is independent of different cut-off dates and a variety of climatic and sociocultural factors. A shifted peak in the birth date distribution of Australian soccer professionals paralleling a corresponding change in the cut-off date in Australian soccer in 1989 was also established. This pattern of results provides strong evidence for the cut-off date in youth soccer as the main cause for the relative age effect in professional soccer.

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Tatiane Gorski, Thomas Rosser, Hans Hoppeler and Michael Vogt

Purpose:

To verify whether relative age effects (RAEs) occur among young male and female Swiss Alpine skiers of different age groups and performance levels. In addition, the efficacy of normalizing performance in physical tests to height and body mass to attenuate RAEs eventually present was tested.

Methods:

The Swiss Ski Power Test consists of anthropometric measures and physical tests for coordination and speed, endurance, and strength and has been used since 2004 to evaluate 11- to 19-y-old Swiss competitive Alpine skiers. The authors analyzed the distribution of 6996 tests performed by 1438 male and 1031 female Alpine skiers between 2004 and 2011 according to the athletes’ respective relative age quartiles. Differences in anthropometric measures and performance in physical tests according to quartile were assessed, and the possibility of attenuating eventual RAEs on performance by normalization of results to height and body mass was tested.

Results:

RAEs were found among all female and male age groups, with no differences between age groups. While performance level did not affect RAE for male skiers, it influenced RAE among female skiers. RAEs also influenced results in all physical tests except upper-limb strength. Normalization of results to body mass attenuated most RAEs identified.

Conclusion:

Small RAEs are present among young Swiss competitive Alpine skiers and should be taken into account in training and selection settings to prevent the waste of possible future talents. When ranking junior athletes according to their performance in physical tests, normalization of results to body mass decreases the bias caused by RAEs.

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David H. Fukuda

The purpose of this investigation was to evaluate relative age effects (RAEs) in elite youth judo athletes from different chronological age groups, between sexes, and across weight categories. Data from 1542 place winners of the cadet (under 17 y, 2009-2013) and junior judo world championships (under 20/21 y, 1990-2013) were separated by birth month into quarters (Q1, Q2, Q3, and Q4). The observed values were compared with expected annual age distributions using χ2 analyses, and odd ratios (OR) were used to evaluate effect sizes between quarters. The observed frequency of place winners was significantly different from the expected frequency for the age-group and sex comparisons and all body-mass groups (P < .05) with the exception of the extra-light categories (P = .572). When comparing Q1 with Q4 (OR, 95% confidence interval), small effect sizes were observed for cadets (1.72, 1.12-2.66), juniors (1.54, 1.23-1.94), males (1.75, 1.32-2.33), females (1.39, 1.03-1.87), and the light- (1.79, 1.21-2.64) and middle-weight (1.80, 1.20-2.70) categories. RAEs are apparent in cadet and junior judo athletes. Thus, coaches and administrators should consider the potential for physical and/or competitive advantages while adopting strategies that encourage long-term participation in youth judo athletes.

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Federico Pizzuto, Matteo Bonato, Gialunca Vernillo, Antonio La Torre and Maria Francesca Piacentini

Purpose:

To analyze how many finalists of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Junior Championships (WJCs) in the middle- and long-distance track events had dropped out from high-level competitions.

Methods:

Starting from 2002, the 8 male and the 8 female finalists in the middle- and long-distance events of 6 editions of the WJC were followed until 2015 to evaluate how many missed the IAAF rankings for 2 consecutive years starting from the year after WJC participation. For those still competing at elite level, their careers were monitored.

Results:

In 2015, 61% of the 2002, 54.8% of the 2004, 48.3% of the 2006, 37.5% of the 2008, 26.2% of the 2010, and 29% of the 2012 WJC finalists were not present in the IAAF rankings. Of the 368 athletes considered, 75 (20.4%) were able to achieve the IAAF top 10 in 2.4 ± 2.2 y. There is evidence of relationships between dropout and gender (P = .040), WJC edition (P = .000), and nationality (P = .010) and between the possibility to achieve the IAAF top 10 and dropout (P = .000), continent (P = .001), relative age effect (P = .000), and quartile of birth (P = .050).

Conclusions:

Even if 23 of the finalists won a medal at the Olympic Games or at the World Championships, it is still not clear if participation at the WJC is a prerequisite to success at a senior level.

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Werner F. Helsen, Nikola Medic, Janet L. Starkes and Andrew M. Williams

between the youngest and the oldest within an annual age group is known as the relative age effect ( Barnsley & Thompson, 1988 ; Barnsley, Thompson, & Barnsley, 1985 ; Cobley, Baker, Wattie, & McKenna, 2009 ). A number of previous researchers have identified an asymmetrical distribution of birth dates

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Simon J. Roberts, Lynne M. Boddy, Stuart J. Fairclough and Gareth Stratton

The aims of this study were firstly to examine whether there was an observed relative age effect in the cardiorespiratory fitness scores of 9-10 and 11-12 year old children, and secondly whether any observed effect was maintained after controlling for somatic maturity. Cardiorespiratory fitness data from 11,404 children aged 9-10 years and 3,911 children aged 11-12 years were obtained from a large cross-sectional field-based fitness testing program. A one-way ANOVA revealed a statistically significant relative age effect (p < .01) existed in the 20mSRT scores across all the age groups. Furthermore, ANCOVA analyses identified a statistically significant relative age effect was maintained after controlling for somatic maturation (p < .05). From a public health perspective these results confirm the existence of relative age effects for the first time and consequently may hold implications for relatively younger children in the accurate assessment of their cardiorespiratory fitness scores.

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Jess C. Dixon, Laura Chittle and Sean Horton

The relative age effect (RAE) has become a well-studied consequence of organizations utilizing a cutoff date to establish age cohorts. Within this case study, students will explore and learn how to perform various statistical analyses (i.e., chi-square, effect sizes, standardized residuals) to determine whether the RAE exists among those who competed in the 2011 and 2012 Little League World Series (LLWS). Students will learn about the mission and history of Little League Baseball (LLB) and discuss potential changes and/or strategies that could be used by the organization to make the LLWS more inclusive. Furthermore, students can use the knowledge gained from this case study to critically analyze the current status of various other sport organizations to help develop potential strategies to ensure fairness and equality for all participating athletes.