GENDER, DEPTH OF COMPETITION AND RELATIVE AGE EFFECTS IN TEAM SPORTS

Joseph Baker, Jorg Schorer, Steve Cobley, Helge Brautigam, Dirk Busch

Abstract


Chronological differences between individuals within annually age-grouped cohorts, known as relative age effects (RAEs), constrain attainment in both education and sport (see Cobley, Baker, Wattie, & McKenna, 2009). To date, studies have consistently shown weaker RAEs in female athletes with researchers speculating that this may be due to lower participation rates compared to males (i.e., a reduced depth of competition). This paper presents data from two studies that consider depth of competition as an explanation for gender differences in RAEs. Results from junior and adult German handball and U.S. soccer suggest that RAEs: 1) were smaller in females even when participation rates were higher, 2) decreased from youth to adulthood, and 3) varied according to playing position. Findings add to the limited literature and suggest that depth of competition may partially explain the variation in the size of RAEs according to gender.


Keywords


Relative age; expertise; gender; handball; soccer

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