A review of proposed solutions to relative age effects in sport: Preliminary results

  • Kelly Ottenbrite Faculty of Health Science, University of Ontario Institute of Technology
  • Jörg Schorer Institute of Sport Science, University of Oldenburg
  • Christina Steingröver Institute of Sport Science, University of Oldenburg
  • Joseph Baker School of Kinesiology and Health Sciences, York University
  • Nick Wattie Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Abstract

Relative age effects (RAEs) generally describe the over-representation of relatively older athletes in competitive youth sport, and later in elite adult sport. These effects have been described as a bias or error in talent identification and development practice. The purpose of this study was to provide the first systematic review of proposed solutions to RAEs in sport. First a PRISMA systematic review was conducted to compile a collection of English language peer reviewed journal articles on RAEs in sport using Web of Science and SPORTDiscus (as well as gray searching). Search terms included relative age, relative age effects, and sport. Once compiled and reviewed against the inclusion and exclusion criteria 149 articles (original research and reviews) were retained for inspection. Retained articles were then each searched using a quasi-PRISMA process, utilizing search terms that emphasize preventing RAEs (i.e., solutions, fix, strategy, eliminate, prevent, bias, selection) and an inclusion criteria (solutions had to be related to proposals for youth sport). Using this process, several proposed solutions were compiled. These proposed solutions ranged from non-technical pedagogical and coach-education initiatives to numerous technical solutions (e.g. different ways of rotating cut-off dates and cohorts, and age-standardized performance weighting). Each proposed solution is discussed with respect to strengths, limitations and feasibility, as well as its integration with theoretical model of RAEs in sport proposed by Wattie et al. (2015).