The impact of relative age and community size on female ice hockey participation in Ontario


An athlete's developmental environment has the potential to impact continued participation in sport and ultimate level of achievement. Researchers have suggested that when an athlete is born relative to peers and the size of the community where their sport development occurs may be important. The purpose of this study was to examine the pattern of relative age and rate of participation in communities of varying size in Ontario. Female hockey registration information was provided by the OWHA for the 2010-2011 season (n = 27,881). Given the age group cut-off in hockey of December 31st of a given year, the birthdates were coded in quartiles: Q1-January to March; Q2-April to June; Q3-July to September; Q4-October to December. Population distributions were obtained from Statistics Canada for 2011. A chi-square goodness-of-fit analysis was performed for each population category within an age division to identify relative age patterns. From the chi-square analyses, an over-representation of relatively older players was observed across all age divisions for small, medium, and large population centres (? < 0.05). No relative age differences were observed for rural communities (<1000) in any age division. Small (1,000 to 29,999) and medium-sized (30,000 to 99,999) communities also appear to be associated with increased participation in female ice hockey. Population size may influence relative age patterns and rates of participation. Further investigation of these trends and discussion of the limitations with using census data is warranted.

Acknowledgments: Support for this project was received through a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship (K. Smith). Thank you to the Ontario Women's Hockey Association (OWHA) for sharing their registration data.