Are players born earlier in the calendar year more likely to experience elite dropout?
Buckley, Timothy Cathal
University College Cork
The relative age effect (RAE) has been consistently documented among elite football players at youth level but has been shown to dissipate at senior level. This research explores whether players born earlier in the calendar year, initially selected to play at an elite level, are more likely to be identified as dropouts at a later date. Statistical analysis is used to test for the presence and extent of RAE from a sample of almost 9,000 elite underage national league football players in the Republic of Ireland. Results reveal a bias towards players born early in the calendar year, and in the first quarter in particular. The bias is most pronounced at the youngest age group included in the analysis, at U15 level. Further statistical analysis assesses the differences between the observed distribution of births of 163 players who were identified as dropouts and the expected distribution of births. Players born earlier in the calendar year are also found to be more likely to be identified as dropouts from underage national league football in the Republic of Ireland. In comparison, their relatively younger counterparts, although less likely to be selected to play at an elite level initially, are significantly less likely to be identified as dropouts. Recommendations made based on the results include adopting a more strategic and long-term approach to be adopted during the initial player selection processes, and further education of coaches regarding youth development as well as the presence and consequences of RAE.
Relative age effect
Buckley, T. C. 2021. Are players born earlier in the calendar year more likely to experience elite dropout? MSc Thesis, University College Cork.