Exploring the influence of relative age and sport participation on academic achievement


Relatively older youth within age group cohorts typically experience advantages in both education and sport. Separate bodies of research have found that i) older relative age is associated with higher grades in school, ii) older relative age predicts sport participation, and iii) sport participation influences academic achievement. However, research has not considered whether relative age and sport participation interact to influence academic achievement. Through a secondary analysis of the baseline wave of the COMPASS data, this project explored relationships between relative age, sport participation and academic outcomes among a Canadian sample of grade 9-12 students (N = 22930; 50% female). The dependent variables were categorical measures of academic achievement in Math and English (90-100%, 80-89%, 70-79%, 60-69% and < 59%). Independent variables included relative age (quartiles 1 to 4), sex, sport participation (within and outside of school) and school grade. Results of adjusted multinomial logistic regression found no consistent influence of relative age on academic achievement in Math or English among males and females. Participating in school sport increased the likelihood of higher academic achievement in both Math and English for both sexes (OR range: 1.12 to 2.19), although this relationship was less consistent for participation outside of school. There were no significant interactions between relative age and sport participation (within school or outside of school) on academic achievement. Overall these results suggest that a more variable relationship exists between relative age and educational outcomes than previously reported, and that sport participation does not moderate the relationship between relative and academic achievement.