Examining the relative age effect and influence of academic timing in Canadian interuniversity sport

  • Laura Chittle Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor
  • Sean Horton Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor
  • Jess C Dixon Department of Kinesiology, University of Windsor


Relative age effects (RAE) are developmental advantages experienced by those born in the initial months after a predetermined cut-off date over their younger counterparts. When examining the RAE in an interuniversity setting, it is important to consider the academic timing of the student-athletes (Chittle et al., 2015; Dixon et al., 2013). Failing to consider this moderator can result in a skewed perception of the bias associated with relative age. Student-athletes are considered to be 'on-time' when their current year of athletic eligibility coincides with their expected year of athletic eligibility, based on their year of birth. Student-athletes are considered 'delayed' when their current athletic eligibility year corresponds with a younger cohort. This project examined the RAE and academic timing within nine of the 12 Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship sports. A moderate RAE was seen among the entire sample of CIS student-athletes (males: X2 = 67.84, df = 3, p < 0.001, φ = 0.12; females: X2 = 40.87, df = 3, p < 0.001, φ = 0.10). Males are more likely to be delayed than females, and those student-athletes born in the later months of the year are more frequently delayed compared to their relatively older peers. Specifically, 73.33% of male CIS athletes are delayed with the most extreme examples seen in ice hockey (99.76%) and football (85.21%). Alternatively, only 39.50% of female CIS student-athletes are delayed. Based on these results, delaying one's athletic eligibly may be an effective method to reduce the disadvantages associated with being relatively younger.

Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for funding this project.