Talent Identification or Elimination: the prevalence of the Relative Age Effect in Gaelic Games and Association Football on the Island of Ireland: A longitudinal Study

During the developmental years of an athletes, participants may be deselected as they progress through the ranks due to a number of factors.

Project Lead

Dr Kyle Paradis

Lecturer in Sport Sociology/Sport Psychology (Mental Health)

School of Sport


Problem

During the developmental years of an athletes, participants may be deselected as they progress through the ranks due to a number of factors. One phenomenon that has been highlighted is the issue of the Relative Age Effect which results in an over representation of athletes being born at the beginning of the year (closer to the older cut off date) rather than towards the end of the year (closer to the younger cut off date).

During childhood, relatively older athletes could be almost one year older and thus be further along in their development in terms of strength, stamina, maturity, etc. not allowing the relatively younger athletes catch up and thus resulting in deselection. This results in negative sport experiences, anxiety and ill being, and the potential elimination of otherwise talented individuals who were not given an opportunity to develop

Solution

The first step is identifying where this phenomenon takes place and tracking the patterns and trends of where the RAE becomes most prevalent across gender and sport types. A longitudinal approach uncovers that as athletes age and progress, the RAE becomes more prevalent in the squad make up as relatively younger athletes continue to be disproportionately deselected from high performance teams and often drop out of sport.

Impact

We have over 1500 data points across five years from athletes participating in Gaelic Games and Association Football in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The RAE has not been as well studied in Ireland as it has in other regions.

Raising awareness of this effect can inform sport organisations, coaches, and developers in Irish sport to be cognizant of deselecting relatively younger athletes. Finds can inform best practices of talent selection, and continue to support the development and wellbeing of youth athletes.

Collaborators

  • Dr. David Hancock (Memorial University, Newfoundland Canada)
  • Paul McGonigle (Ulster University, Northern Ireland)