Exploring the relationship between the relative age effect and youth development among male house league ice hockey players


Sport participation provides children with the opportunity to develop physical health, psychosocial, and motor skills (Côté et al., 2007). The outcomes related to sport involvement are broad, and can consist of both positive and negative experiences. One such factor that can influence an athlete's experience in sport is the relative age effect (RAE; Barnsley et al., 1985). Relative age effects are developmental and selective advantages associated with being born earlier in the year relative to a predefined cut-off date. Hockey has become one of the most popular sports among researchers to study RAEs (Cobley et al., 2009), likely due to its cultural significance in many countries (Dixon et al., 2011; Musch & Grondin, 2001). Hockey displays strong evidence of birthdate (dis)advantages in a variety of competitive levels (Barnsley et al., 1985; Barnsley & Thompson, 1985; Chittle et al., 2015). The current study examined if relative age influences youth developmental experiences among male ice hockey players. Male house league ice hockey players completed an on-line survey that solicited their date of birth and responses to the Youth Experience Survey for Sport (MacDonald et al., 2012). Our analysis revealed no RAE among the house league hockey players. The MANOVA results revealed no significant multivariate differences between quartile of birth and the five YES-S dimensions (p = .493). It is reassuring that the experiences of the house league ice hockey players in our sample do not differ in their developmental experiences as a consequence of when they were born throughout the selection year.

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