The influence of relative age on youths' developmental experiences in sport


Relative age describes youths' age within their age group cohort, which typically varies by approximately 12 months (see Wattie et al., 2015). Research on youth sport indicates that relative age may influence the likelihood of staying involved in sport (Lemez et al., 2013), suggesting that relative age may influence youths' experiences in sport. The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between relative age and youths' self-report of developmental experiences in sport. A sample of 776 youth (mean age 14.4 years, ±2.24; 49% female) from Alberta, Ontario and Nova Scotia completed the Youth Experiences Survey for Sport (YES-S: MacDonald et al., 2012). There was a statistically significant over-representation of relatively older youth in the sample (?2 (3) = 19.4, p < .001). One-way ANOVAs comparing YES-S sub-scale ratings did not reveal statistically significant differences based on relative age: personal and social skills ([F (3, 772) = 0.91, p = .44], cognitive skills [F (3, 772) = .94, p = .42], goal setting [F (3, 772) = .19, p = .90], initiative [F (3, 772) = 1.04, p = .37] and negative experiences [F (3, 559) = .13, p = .82]. There were also no significant differences in developmental experiences for males vs. females. These results suggest that youth of different relative age may not have different experiences in sport. Future research would benefit from sport-specific analyses, and prospective and longitudinal designs to better understand the relationship between relative age, experiences in sport, and likelihood of persistence in participation.