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MYTH NO. 1: THE RELATIVE-AGE EFFECT

Aug. 08, 2011
Aug. 08, 2011

Table of Contents
Aug. 8, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
SPORTS MEDICINE
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MYTH NO. 1: THE RELATIVE-AGE EFFECT

It has been suggested that being born in a certain month influences an athlete's prospects for professional success. The theory is that older youth players in a given calendar year are bigger, stronger and more coordinated and thus play in better leagues with superior coaching. Except, as you age and move up the food chain, the effects balance out. Take hockey: On the 1998, 2006 and '10 Canadian Olympic hockey teams, 19 of the 23 players on the first and second rosters and 20 of the 23 on the third were born after the first quarter of the year. Among the 499 Canadians on NHL rosters in February 2010, 25.7% were born in the first quarter, 28.5% in the second, 25.5% in the third and 20.4% in the last. A 2007 study by Joseph Baker and Jane Logan at York University in Toronto found that among Canada-born NHL draftees from 2000 to '05, the younger players were chosen earlier in the draft. According to nhlnumbers.com, for the 2009--10 season, 72 of the top 150 salaries in the NHL belonged to Canadian players, roughly half of whom (35) were born in the second half of the year. Only 11 (15%) of the top Canadian earners were born in the first quarter. The numbers were similar among non-Canadians: More had birthdays in November and December (15) than January and February (12). Some research suggests that relatively young players are actually at an advantage. In a 2009 study of team handball players, scientists noticed a spike in older players in the early stages of competition, but the trend dissipated at higher levels. "It might be beneficial for relatively younger players to have the opportunity ... to develop the specific technical or tactical skills needed to ... compete successfully against their older, more mature opponents," the researchers wrote. Call it the Big Brother effect.

This is an article from the Aug. 8, 2011 issue