Relative age effects in elite female team handball – between year effects change with policy adjustments


Relative age effects have been categorized as within-year and between-year effects (Schorer, Wattie, & Baker, 2013). While several studies have investigated within-year effects in female athletes (Smith, Weir, Till, Romann, & Cobley, 2018), no studies have considered between-year effects. In this study, we investigated both relative age effects in elite female team handball. Given a shift in age group compositions by the international handball federation, there was a chance to additionally explore the effects of this policy changes. Birthdate data were obtained from the official 2017 female senior world championship magazine. There was a significant within-year effect with an over-representation of the second quartile, ?²(3, n = 640) =11.34, p = .01, w = .13. For the between-year effects, we differentiated between players born before 1985 (before shift) and after 1987 (after shift). For the first group, significant between-year effects were revealed, ?²(3, n = 33) =6.82, p = .01, w =.45, in which the relatively younger were over-represented. In the latter group, a significant effect was demonstrated, ?²(3, n = 546) = 13.55, p < .01, w =.16, with the relatively older being over-represented. Although this second quartile effect is consistent in female sports, it has not been adequately explained. The between-year effect for players born before 1985 should be interpreted with caution because of the small sample size; however, the clear between-year effect in the latter group indicated an expected over-representation of older players. Given the effect sizes, this effect should receive greater research attention.