An Investigation of Youth Football Players’ Participation Motivations and Health Related Behaviors

October 18th, 2018|Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|

Authors: Zhenhao Zeng, Andria Cuello, Jonathan Skelly, Christopher Gigliello, Steven Riveras

Corresponding Author:
P.I. Zhen Hao Zeng, D.P.E. Professor of Sport Pedagogy
Department of Kinesiology, Brooklyn College of
The City University of New York, USA

Zhen Hao (Howard) Zeng is an associate professor of the Department of Kinesiology at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, USA. He has a doctoral degree in physical education and sport pedagogy; his fields of study are youth sports, teaching strategies in physical education and sports.

An Investigation of Youth Football Players’ Participation Motivations and Health Related Behaviors

Scientific studies investigating youth athletes have become increasingly broader and deeper since the first Youth Olympic Summer Games in 2010. This study examined the motivation factors that actually inspired the youth football athletes (YFAs) engaged in football practices and competitions and their health-related behaviors. Participants were 223 YFAs (age 16-18) from 10 high schools of New York City, USA. Adapted Questionnaire of Football Athlete’s Motivation and Health Related Behaviors (AQFAMHRB) was employed for data collection. The AQFAMHRB contains 19 questions examining participants’ motivation factors (MFs) and 27 questions investigating health-related behaviors. Data analysis included a 2 Supports (By-parents, By-school) x 2 Goal-Settings (For professional, For non-professional) MANOVA and other suitable methods. The top three scores from the 19 MFs from the AQSAMHRB were: “High technical-content” of Football, “For develop unique skill”, and “For shape body”, all three of these MFs are in the ‘Intrinsic motivation’ category and possess higher impact power on these YFAs’ participation motivation. The 2 x 2 MANOVA revealed that: no significant difference exists in the ‘Supports’ aspect (p >.70); however, significant difference was found in ‘Goal-settings’ (p < .00). Then a follow-up MANOVA determined: 13 out of 19 MFs comparisons in “Goal-settings” showed significant difference (p <. 05) with ‘For professional’ scored higher than ‘For non-professional’. The following MFs possess higher impact on YFAs: ‘to contest winners’, ‘to become a professional player’, ‘to establish prestige’, and ‘to become a coach’. Besides, both intrinsic and extrinsic MFs have significant impact on these YFAs’ motivations. Who “Support” their engagement is not the determinant but what goals the YFAs have set-up for themselves matter. Furthermore, to the 27 health-related behaviors in the AQSAMHRB, frequency and percentage data were summarized and analyzed. Findings from this aspect provided the first hand information about the YFAs’ ‘Eating Habits’, ‘Nutrition Knowledge and Status’, ‘Risk Behaviors’, and ‘Hygiene Behaviors’. These features of the YFAs’ health-related behaviors possess important meanings for improving YFAs’ coaching and management. (more…)

Playing with Pain: Social Class and Pain Reporting among College Student-Athletes

October 11th, 2018|Sports Medicine|

Author: James N. Druckman

Corresponding Author:
Department of Political Science
Northwestern University
601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: 847-491-7450
Fax: 847-491-8985

Jacob E. Rothschild
Department of Political Science
Northwestern University
601 University Place
Evanston, IL 60208
Phone: 847-491-7450
Fax: 847-491-8985

Playing with Pain: Social Class and Pain Reporting among College Student-Athletes

Socio-economic class affects a variety of health outcomes – this includes the experience of pain. Little work, however, explores how class affects pain experiences of college student-athletes. This gap is notable given injuries frequently occur in this population. We argue that lower class student-athletes will ironically be more likely to experience pain but less likely to report it. We find evidence for this claim with a large survey of student-athletes from a major National College Athletic Association conference. We further present evidence that class may influence pain reporting via identity, experiential, and social pathways. Our results highlight how potentially vulnerable student-athletes may “play with pain.” The findings also suggest that practitioners should pay particular attention to self-reports of pain by lower class student-athletes.

The impact of relative age on sampling and performance in Swedish age-group swimming system

September 30th, 2018|Research, Sports Studies and Sports Psychology|

Authors: Torsten Buhre and Oscar Tschernij

Corresponding Author:
Torsten Buhre, PhD
Department of Sport Sciences
Malmö University
20506 Malmö

Torsten Buhre is the senior physiologist at the Department of Sport Sciences at Malmö University

The impact of relative age on sampling and performance in Swedish age-group swimming system

The phenomena of relative age effect (RAE) has been investigated thoroughly in the sport and school settings. However, different measures and research designs have been applied in the various settings. At the same time different constructs, such as sampling, participation, and performance have been investigated in separate studies. Most interpretations have been done in a de-contextualized manner. That is, results have not been interpreted based on the functioning of the age-grouping system over time, but rather on a general level of grouping individuals based on chronological age. The purpose of this study was to investigate the occurrence of RAE in sampling, competitive participation, and selection for national competition in the Swedish age-group swimming system based on a thorough understanding of the specific impacts of age and gender of this system over time.

Results show that there is inconclusive evidence suggesting that RAE occurs due to the age-grouping system in Swedish swimming. The system does not create a bias based on either relative age difference or gender. Based on this study and future suggestions the continued research on RAE should be expanded to include longitudinal studies following specific age by gender groups over time. In addition, measures of performance and criteria of selection should be investigated in order to draw conclusions if systematic discrimination is embedded within a specific country and sport age-grouping system in favor of athletes that could be attributed to a relative age.

Keywords: relative age, sampling, research design, swimming and performance

Difference in relative age occurs when grouping children in sports or education based on year of birth, or a yearly cut-off date during a specific year, i.e. 1st of August 2000 to 31st of July 2001[8]. These cut-off dates vary between countries in the school setting (e.g. UK has 1st of September as cut-off date [2], whereas Sweden has 1st of January). In sport it also varies between countries and within a sport [24]. In youth and junior international swimming, each national federation is allowed by the international federation (FINA) to adopt their own age-grouping system. Out of 10 countries examined [24] the number of age-groups at the national level varies between four and 10. A lower number of age-groups implies either a larger age-span or/and a later competitive start at the national level. A higher number of age-groups implies the opposite. In addition, to number of age-groupings within a country, some countries chose to apply a staggered system, having girls start competing at the national level earlier than boys [24]. Regardless of school, sport, or country, the decision on how to apply different grouping principles is done for the purpose to maintain general developmental similarities within the group [2]. The grouping is thought to create a narrow performance gap between individuals and allow for better socio-emotional development within the group. In the sporting context in layman´s term it can be expressed as “leveling the playing field” [2].

Research investigating on how grouping by chronological age impacts the academic or athletic development of children is associated with the construct relative age effect (RAE) [3, 5, 9, 13, 14, 20, 23, 26, 27, 28, 31]. In school settings, a longitudinal design has been applied, measuring differences in performance results. Although conflicting results have been presented, the RAE effect seems to diminish over time [5, 20, 23] when focusing on academic performance between children categorized in quartiles based on a yearly cut-off date.

In sport, most research is done cross-sectionally, mainly on team sports [3, 9, 27, 28]. Measures of performance is seldom used. Rather a skewedness in distribution of numbers of subjects born in different quartiles is interpreted as RAE [26]. The sample distribution is often compared in three ways: 1) to an assumed distribution of 25% in each quartile [9]; 2) in relation to the national population distribution of age group within the specific country [13, 14]; or 3) between skill levels when using a meta-analysis [9]. The general interpretation by Cobley et al. [9] was that the factor of age increases the RAE from age 10 to the ages 15 through 18. Thus, there are conflicting interpretations of RAE based on what setting it is investigated in. When a significant skewedness in the distribution of subjects is the outcome in a sport setting, the notion of selection for talent identification [13] and discrimination [27] is used, based on differences in biological maturity due to relative differences in age within the age-group, thus explaining the RAE [26]. In sport research the reason suggested for differences in outcomes between the two settings is thought to be a difference between “compulsory school attendance” and “voluntary sport participation” [27]. In addition, sport implies a more direct competitive nature between individuals, for team selection and for individual honors, as compared to the school setting.

Delorme et al. [13, 14] has pointed out a methodological dilemma in RAE research in sport. That is if a biased distribution over the quartiles already exist among a specific age-group population within a sport, it is probable that this bias will exist at all levels within the specific sport. Therefore, when examining if RAE is present in sports it was suggested [14] that the actual distribution of the sample should be identified first when investigating the presence of RAE within the sport specific sample studied. A recent study on Swedish swimming [6] examined RAE at the participation level in six different age by gender groups over a nine-year period from a methodological perspective. The conclusion was that using an assumed equal distribution or the national population distribution of the age by gender group increased the chances of significant outcome. In addition, when following the same age by gender group the occurrence of significant outcomes, diminished after the age when the highest number of participants was competing in the specific age by gender group. Recently Wattie et al. [33] proposed a developmental system model for explaining RAE. The model is based on three dimensions; individual, task, and environmental with separate constraints in each dimension that can both influence and be influenced by difference in relative age. Thus, a relationship of causality is not clearly defined. However, when applying such a model for interpretation of results similar patterns should occur in all age by gender groups.

The relevance of examining RAE at an early age either on the participation level or selected performance levels should be questioned. Especially prior to the age when the highest number of participants within an age by gender group has been reached, labeled as age of saturated sample (ASS). The authors suggest two reasons: 1) prior to ASS the rate of recruitment into a sport exceeds rate of elimination. Thus, skewedness in the distribution could also be due to sampling of different sport rather than specialization within a sport. Much research around positive youth development [12, 21] proposes sampling as an important possibility for youth in order to gain interest and maintain interest in a particular sport. 2) Throughout the athletic career of any athlete that wants to be challenged and reach her/his maximal potential the training load increases within a given sport. This training load varies between sports and seems to be of a greater volume in individual endurance sports than in team sports. Many national sport organizations and national sports federation are engaged in creating blueprints for long term athletic development [7]. Although some of the underpinnings in these documents can be criticized from a scientific perspective, it should be remembered that the intent is to create opportunities for individuals to engage in sport based on the individual´s choice and understanding of what the demands are on the next level of age and skill [12] in addition to creating a positive developmental climate [21].

Descriptive data [6, 14] have shown that the proportion of participating youth decreases in relation to the national population in French basketball decreases after ASS. Similar in Swedish swimming, the number of individuals that continue to compete decreases continuously year by year after the age of 12. This elimination of individuals away from competition was not identified as being due to RAE [6].

Previous research on the subject of RAE and swimming is scarce. Baxter-Jones [4] using, a sample of 54 individuals, identified RAE in the sport. Whereas Costa et al. [11] found conflicting results examining the top 50 performances nationally (a total of 7813 results). The distribution of swimmers had a significant outcome, visualized as a skewedness in distribution over the four quartiles each age by gender group. When examining the difference in performance times, based on Fédération Internationale de Natation points, no general trend of significant outcomes could be deciphered [11]. This implies that the difference in number of swimmers appearing from all quartiles in the top 50 nationally does not affect the average performance times of the group of individuals between quartiles. Thus, the relation of appearing at this selected level and the average performance does not indicate an influence of differences in relative age within age by gender group in Portuguese swimming.

There are both methodological dilemmas and different approaches to examine RAE [5, 6, 9, 13, 14, 20, 23, 33]. Few studies related to RAE in swimming have been done [4, 11]. In addition, the sport of swimming is nationally governed and determine their own age-grouping system [24]. If RAE is built into the age-grouping system of a sport and country, similar patterns should be detected across age-groups and possibly between gender. A reversed pattern should be apparent when investigating the distribution of sampling the sport [12]. Therefore, the purpose of this study was twofold: First, to examine the skewedness of the distribution of swimmers categorized in quartiles based on the sample distribution participating in Swedish swimming and compare these distributions to the distributions of swimmers at a performance level (ages 13 through 16) and distribution of individuals sampling [12] the competitive aspect of sport for a period of less than one year. Second, to understand similarities and differences between age by gender in Swedish age-group swimming.

The empirical data collected for this study was done in two parts. The second part was done post hoc the initial research design to gain more insight on the process of competitive development over time for the four cohorts.

Part I
A database connected to an online registration has been used in Swedish swimming competitions since early 2000. The database is maintained by the Swedish Swimming Federation and was accessed with their permission. Results in the databased are retrieved from competitions at the local, regional, and national level. The database contains information relating to date of birth, event swum, performance time, date of performance, and location of performance. The information on date of birth was used to categorize swimmers in quartiles. The authors retrieved data from the age cohorts by birth year, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Some of the license numbers in the database were not identified with numbers but with XX-XX-XX. These could not be labelled to a specific quartile. Thus, a number of individuals had to be excluded from the population database. For each age by gender group sample between 106,262 (boys born 1998) and 173,384 (girls born 1999) competitive results were coded. Deleted results, as represented by an unidentifiable birth data ranged between 18.0% and 25.3% for the different age by gender groups. The number of participants in the total population was elusive, because no differentiation could be made between the individuals labeled XX-XX-XX. Since a proportion of exclusion of results occurred, the analysis is based on an assumed random sample of the population. This made it possible to use inferential statistics on each sample [17].

The database made it possible to retrieve competitive results from the first competitive result recorded by an individual in the 1997 cohort until December of 2016. Thus, making a retrospective longitudinal design possible for each age by gender group. The age of ASS was identified for each age by gender group [6]. Three variables were computed from the database and used as empirical data: 1) License number was used to determinate yearly distribution in quartiles for each age by gender group at the participation level. This distribution was labeled current year distribution (CYD). 2) Location of performance was used to identify performances at the National Age-Group Indoor Championships (NAGIC). Each age by gender group was followed for the four-year period that constituted NAGIC. The distribution in quartiles at NAIGIC was labeled performance level distribution (PLD). 3) Using each individual´s collective results and corresponding dates the time frame between the first appearance and last appearance in the database was used to compute individual competitive longevity (ICompL in years).

Part 2
Additional empirical data was collected from an open-access database [22] containing all results from NAGIC, identifying swimmers by name. This data was used to track all individuals for each age by gender group that competed for the 4-year period. This was done to gain a better understanding how the Swedish age-grouping principles affected participation at the high-performance level. NAGIC is limited to a certain number of possible competitors in each age-group depending upon number of events. It is organized the same way for both girls and boys in the following age brackets: 13 years and younger (13U), 14 years only (14O), and 15 and 16 years old (15&16). The latter age bracket was separated and analyzed as separate age groups. Qualifying competitions take place on a regional level and the top qualifiers are invited to NAGIC. For 13U and 14O the top sixteen qualifiers are invited in 6 and 7 events respectively. Thus, the total number of competitive places are for 13U (n=96) and 14 (n=112). For 15&16 the number of qualifiers is increased to 24 in 9 out of 12 events (n=264). The events that only allow 16 competitors are, so called distance events.

Statistical analysis
The following age by gender group sample abbreviations were used; girls born 1997 (G97), born 1998 (G98), born 1999 (G99), born 2000 (G00), boys born 1997 (B97), boys born 1998 (B98), born 1999 (B99), and born 2000 (B00). To test if RAE occurred at the participation level the following steps where completed: first ASS identified and checked if it occurred prior to or at the age of 13. The distribution at ASS was compared to the distribution at age 13. For the following years previous year distribution was used to test CYD at the competitive participation level. To test if RAE occurred at the performance level CYD was compared to PLD for that specific year. When examining the impact of RAE on sampling, the distribution of ASS was used to compare to distribution of sampling individuals. The authors assumed that a sampling is a “less than one-year process”. These tests were done using a chi-squared “goodness of fit” test (p<0.05) set a priori. If a significant outcome occurred, odds ratio was used to determine when a quartile had a large enough difference in numbers in relation to another quartile. That is the effect size using odds ratio [18], confidence interval at 95% >1, was used in order to draw conclusions about a systematic RAE.

The variable of ICompL was used both at the competitive participation level and at the performance level (NAIGIC). To make it comparable between age-groups a finite point at the year when swimmers turned 16 years. For G97 and B97 this was at the end of 2013, for G98 and B98 it was 2014, for G99 and B99 it was 2015 and for G00 and B00 it was 2016. At the participation level ICompL used to detect the occurrence of sampling and at the performance level it was used to detect if age grouping system had an impact on competitive longevity based on quartiles. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) for each age by gender group and Tukey´s honest significant difference (HSD), post hoc procedure was used when a significance occurred at the main level. Cohen´s d was then calculated to understand the effect size of categorizing the data into the four quartiles. Each age by gender group was treated as an independent sample.

Analysis of part II material was done based on descriptive statistics, since this material includes the whole population of competitors for each age by gender group at NAGIC, the use of inferential statistics is not applicable [17]. General trends of similarities and differences within and between age by gender groups were looked upon as patterns that could be related to environmental constraints [33].

Descriptive data revealed the following: The ASS generally occurred at age 12. The relative proportion of youth and adolescents that had competed in swimming were 72.77% (+ 9.74) more than the number competing at ASS. The elimination away from swimming after ASS was similar between gender and within age groups at the age of 13 (8.62% + 4.20) and at age 16 (52.40% + 7.87). Thus, indicating both sampling of the sport [12] and an (self) elimination away from the sport due to either a RAE [9, 26] or other mechanisms [19].

When comparing to PYD to CYD, and CYD to PLD in order to examine the existence of RAE at both the participation and the performance level no general pattern was found. At the participation level no significant skewedness in distribution occurred that would indicate RAE [9]. At the performance level (NAGIC) conflicting results appeared as measured when the distribution was divided into quartiles (Q). For G97 and G00 odds-ratio revealed a skewedness in the distribution for Q1 in favor of Q4. The same results appeared for B00. For B98 there was a significant outcome for all ages from 13 through 16, however odds-ratio revealed that Q1 & Q3>Q2 & Q4. These results could be attributed to research design that was applied, using the distribution of the actual age by gender group when testing for significant outcomes using the chi-squared test [6, 13, 14] (see Table 1).

Table 1

The results for competitive longevity analyzed at the competitive participation level are shown in Table 2. ICompL was truncated at the age of 16. Thus, the systematic impact of being born earlier during a given year would give the participants a longer competitive career, based on either the notion of “head start” in comparison to participants born being later during the year [2, 3, 9, 27], or parental/coach´s choice of when the children are seen as ready for competition [15]. Results showed no systematic impact in general, but two “age by gender” groups showed a consistent pattern. For B99, when ICompL was tested over the four year span, no significant outcomes could be detected. Thus, the intent of age-grouping “to level the playing field” seems to have worked in this particular age by gender group. On the other hand, G00 showed a consistent pattern of Q1>Q3 & Q4. The effect, according to interpretations of Cohen´s d-values, was that the categorization into quartiles had a small effect initially at the age of 13, 14, and 15, but increased to a medium effect at the age of 16.

Table 2

The average ICompL at the age of 16 for G00 for Q1 was 6.83 years (+1.79) compared to Q4 5.27 years (+ 1.91). The results for G00 could be explained as a constant year effect [28, 29]. However, the temporal aspect of a “head start”, i.e. an increased competitive longevity has been shown to be reversed at the elite level in hockey [16] which supports the intention of age-grouping system to “level the playing field” in order to stimulate performance development. Research from the school setting also implies the chronological age-group system creates a narrowing of the academic performance gap over time [5, 20, 23]. The sporadic occurrence of significant outcomes, the high occurrence of a small effect size, in conjunction shift to increased effect size at the older years (B00, G97 & G00) is not conclusive evidence that RAE occurs, since it does not occur systematically. Thus, there was not enough evidence to indicate discrimination [27] or inevitable consequence of elite sport [2] in favor of relatively older competitors influenced by environmental factors attributed to the age-grouping system [24] as proposed by Wattie et al [33] at the participation level in Swedish age-group swimming.

ICompL was also used to investigate the sampling of swimming as a sport for these age groups. Two measures where used to indicate sampling; 1) one competition only and 2) one competitive year. Descriptive statistics showed a homogeneous sampling. Regardless of sample size in the age by gender group, the average percentage for one competition only was 16.18% (+ 1.88), and for one year of competition it was 33.10% (+ 2.57). The distribution of sampling individuals was only significant in three out of the eight “age by gender” groups. All these significant outcomes occurred in the boys age-groups (B97, B99, and B00). However, no odds ratio´s showed an effect size, and the distribution for B99 was reversed, that is more individuals in Q1 sampled swimming, rather than the other quartiles.

When tracking all the individuals competing at NAGIC some general trends were found both in relation to gender and to age-group. For gender there were four general trends, two showing differences and two showing similarities. The first trend was a difference in proportion of “at least” a year-younger competitors in an age bracket between gender (13U, and 15&16). More girls (20.22% + 6.02) competed in 13U at the age of 12 as compared to boys (12.29% + 3.73). This trend continued up to the age of 15 in the 15&16 age bracket, although less pronounced, where girls at age 15 accounted for more of the places (42.14% + 7.10) as compared to boys (38.07 % + 4.04) in 15&16 age bracket. The notion that younger girls are more prevalent to be able to compete with older girls could be attributed to the earlier biological maturation that occur in girls as compared to boys [30] and variation of biological maturation between individuals [25]. The second trend of differences was the proportion of competitors competing during all four years of NAGIC. Here, the proportion of boys (34.13 % + 2.90) exceeded the proportion of girls (30.64 % + 5.40). Musch and Grodin [26] proposed that RAE is dependent on the depth of competition, which has been supported in later research [10, 32]. The range for the absolute number of participants striving to compete at NAGIC was lower for boys (n= 512-681) as compared to girls (n=760-981). Suggesting that it was easier for boys once they achieved NAGIC status at 13U to maintain this status due to a smaller within sport population as compared to girls.

Two trends that showed similarities between gender were: First, the proportion of competitors appearing only in 13U and 14O was similar (girls; 15.08 % + 5.50 versus boys; 15.52 % + 6.36). Secondly, the proportion of individuals competing at NAGIC for the first time in the 15&16 age bracket (girls; 32.53 % + 6.80 versus boys; 30.41 % + 4.20). This could be interpreted as the age-grouping system in Swedish swimming [24] provides a “level playing field” [2] for both early bloomers and late bloomers in relation to biological maturation [25, 30]. This is contrary to what most previous research in sport have suggested [3, 9, 14, 26, 27] but in concordance with some research in sport [16] and evidence from school setting [5, 20, 23].

When further examining the data the age-grouping system seems to accommodate two different groups. A larger group consisting of individuals competing in one or two events at NAGIC and a smaller group of individuals competing in three events or more. Even though the number of events and possible competitive places increased from age group to age group (13U; 6 events, 96 places, 14O; 7 events, 112 places, 15&16; 12 events, 264 places) the size difference in number of competitors between the two subgroups was apparent, except for boys age 16 (15&16) were the two groups had similar number of competitors (see Table 3).

Table 3

The purpose of this study was twofold: First, to examine the presence of RAE in age-group swimming based on participation in competition at the levels of sampling, continued participation, and at the performance level. Second, to identify similarities and differences between gender in Swedish age-group swimming in order to understand the impact of the structure of the Swedish swimming age-grouping system. When comparing the present results to previous research [3, 4, 5, 9, 11, 13, 14, 16, 20, 23, 26-29] within sport, it is important to keep in mind the differences in the methodological design (longitudinal) and approach (type of data collected). In an effort to understand the possible impact that the age-grouping system have on creating RAE, it was important to separate the results attributed to constraints on an individual (IL), task (TL) or environmental level (EL) [33]. The authors have focused on four factors; age grouping principles (EL), popularity of the sport [EL], birth date (IL) and gender (IL). The research design made it possible both to understand the temporal aspect and to compare the results between individual “age by gender” groups, thus detecting systematic constraints in different dimensions.

When RAE was analyzed using the variables of gender and birth date in relation to the distribution of individuals in quartiles within the sample and competitive longevity the evidence was inconclusive whether RAE occurred or not. The distribution at the sampling level was compared to ASS distributions, at the competitive participation level it was compared to the PYD, and at the performance level it was compared to CYD. The number of skewed distributions with significant outcome was 3 out 8 at the sampling level. At the participation level there were no significant outcomes in all 32 cases. However, conflicting results occurred when using competitive longevity as a measure of indicating RAE rather than using the number of participants at the level. Then RAE (Q1>Q) occurred in 13U (G97, G00, B98 & B00). In B98 a different pattern showed significant outcome in all age-groups (13U, 14O, 15 in 15&16, and 16 in 15&16). Here the pattern was Q1 & Q3>Q2 & Q4, which does not support previously theoretical suggestions of greater physical advantages due to a higher relative age [26]. The explanation of the occurrence of RAE in sport as compared to school is that sport contains a talent identification processes [31].

In addition to this the authors followed the suggestions by Delorme et al. [13, 14] that the appropriate population distribution should be used when using chi-squared “goodness of fit” test to determine if significant outcomes were present. As previously pointed out, using theoretical distributions could seriously impact the sensitivity in the statistical test, thus producing a sampling error. The collective interpretation is that, when RAE was analyzed using the variables of gender and birth date in relation to the distribution of individuals in quartiles within the sample and competitive longevity measured over quartiles within a birth year, the evidence was inconclusive whether RAE occurred or not. Thus, no constraints on the individual level is embedded within the Swedish swimming age-grouping system.

When examining the Swedish age-grouping systems and its´ principles, the birth date was not tracked, because of the open access data used. However, it indicates a couple of things that the authors interpret as environmental constraints that minimizes RAE. The relative reduction in number of participants from 13 years of age to the age of 16, seems as natural occurrence in sport [14] or an inevitable consequence of elite sports [2] due to either a process of self-elimination [13], other processes [19], an increased work load in order to enhance performance [7], or a combination of these factors. At the same time the occurrence of sampling, as interpreted by less than one year competitive participation, was similar an did not show conclusive evidence of RAE. The Swedish swimming age-grouping system (EL) allows for both sampling, continued competitive participation and competitive development. Long-term athlete development takes time in sports and should take time [7]. The peak performance age for female swimmers is 22.5 years versus male swimmers 24.2 years [1]. However, the age of peak performance varies depending upon the individual´s choice of competitive event. In addition, the improvement in performance needed to compete at the Olympic level is 9.6% versus 9.4 % for female versus male swimmers for an eight-year period, prior to Olympic competition [1]. Thus, the Swedish age-grouping system at the national level provides a “level playing field” [2] that allows for both sampling [12], continued performance improvement, and the possibility of talent identification [9, 33]

When RAE was analyzed on using the variables of gender and birth date
in relation to the distribution of individuals in quartiles within the sample and competitive longevity the evidence was inconclusive whether RAE occurred or not. The age-grouping system in place in Sweden seems to diminish rather than enhance RAE on all levels of participation. Thus, the interaction of factors at the environmental level and individual level interact to allow for both samplings, continued participation and performance to take place.

The research design used in the study, the different levels of participation and the variables measured suggests that identifying the occurrence of the construct of relative age effect is a complicated matter. For future research within the field of how to improve positive youth development in combination with long-term athlete development over time in a specific sport within a specific country the following needs to be considered. First, contextualizing the occurrence of relative age effect should be done within a specific country in the specific sport based on an understanding of the sport´s age-grouping principles. Second, a longitudinal design following more than one age by gender group should be applied. Otherwise similarities and/or differences between age groups or age by gender groups cannot be detected. Third, the measure often used to detect RAE in voluntary sport participation needs to be improved. The use of a significant skewedness in the birth date distribution of a sample is not enough to infer that selection procedures or talent identification systems based on performance are the cause of RAE. The criteria for talent identification/selection should be scrutinized in order to detect if they contribute to RAE.

Data has been accessed with the aid and permission of the Swedish Swimming Federation.

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Pep Guardiola and Manchester City, 2017-2018: A Case Study

September 27th, 2018|Commentary, Research, Sports Coaching|

Authors: Jeff Segrave, Tim Spenser, and Kevin Santos

Corresponding Author:
Jeffrey O. Segrave, PhD
Department of Health and Human Physiological Sciences
Skidmore College
Saratoga Springs, NY 12966

Jeff Segrave is professor of health and human physiological sciences at Skidmore College, Saratoga Spring, New York, USA.

The purpose of this paper is to offer a case study of Pep Guardiola and Manchester City’s 2017-2018 historic season. More specifically, the paper examines how, from a tactical perspective, the Premier League became suited to Pep’s style and leadership, prior to and upon his arrival, analyzes the tactical framework of City’s style of play, and looks at the players who realized Pep’s philosophy. When analyzing Pep’s system and style of coaching, we look at positionality of possession with purpose, aspects of distribution, and transitioning and pressing.

Church & Sport in Alabama

September 20th, 2018|Research, Sports Management|

Authors: Joseph C. Spears, Jr., Erica Hernandez, Ph.D.

Corresponding Author:
Joseph C. Spears, Jr., Ed. D
Assistant Professor Sport Management
Faculty Athletic Representative
Bowie State University
15402 General Lafayette Blvd
Brandywine, MD 20613
Phone: (301) 860-3778

Dr. Joseph C. Spears, Jr. is an assistant professor of Sport Management at both Bowie State and Liberty Universities. At Bowie State, he also serves as faculty athletic rep and chaplain of the football team. Dr. Spears has an Ed.D in sports management from the United States Sports Academy and has completed a masters in higher education from Morgan State, a masters in divinity from Virginia Union and a B.A degree in Christian education from Logos Christian. College. Dr. Spears understands the need and importance of developing families and communities spiritually, socially and economically. To that end, Dr. Spears utilizes sports as a framework to partner with other community organizations and leaders to provide educational and informational programs that promote the well-being of the entire community. His sports background is long-distance road, trail running, and mountain biking and boxing.

Dr. Erica Hernandez is an assistant professor of psychology at Bowie State University. She earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. Dr. Hernandez has been teaching psychology for over 10 years and has research interests in a variety of areas spanning psychology, education, and finance.

Church & Sport in Alabama

Can a Sports Ministry program positively impact the church’s mission among its members? Previous research with commitment theory in psychology as it relates to sports and religious activity (2, 19) indicates that what benefits that church members get out of attending church activities will impact their frequency of attendance and commitment to their church. Sports activities have long been used as a tool to bring people into the church and increase fellowship and evangelism (11). To date, there has been little empirical research into the specific benefits of a sports ministry in the opinion of the church leaders who have sports activities in their church.

Keywords: transformative, sports ministry, benefits, church growth

The purpose of this study was to investigate Church leaders’ perceptions of the benefits of utilizing a Sports Ministry Program within the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Alabama. A survey questionnaire was developed by the researcher to access the perceptions of the benefits of utilizing a sports ministry within the churches. Prior to this date, no surveys of church leaders’ opinions on the impacts of sports ministries in predominantly African American churches have been published. Church leaders of AME churches in Alabama were asked about sports ministry and its potential impact in eight areas: 1) overall benefit, 2) growth and economic impact, 3) fellowship, 4) evangelism, 5) helping spread the Gospel, 6) teach character development, hard work, and respect, 7) discipleship, and 8) training future leaders. Most of the church leaders who responded indicated that they saw positive value of sports ministry in all 8 areas. Establishing a sports ministry has the potential impact of not only improving youth commitment to the church, it also can have positive effects on the social relationships of participants with their coaches and peers, as well as improving self-esteem (6). This research article will disclose church leaders’ perceptions of the benefits of utilizing a sports ministry program within the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Alabama.

How is sport related to scripture?
Henry Ward Beecher, a muscular Christian, was an outspoken supporter of the benefits of sports that, “nothing could be more properly in the sphere of Christian activity than the application of the cause of physical health and community” (3). Beecher also stated, “If general health is not religion, if it is not Christ, it is John the Baptist; it goes before him” (18).

The Church has long used Paul’s (10) four primary sporting metaphors to connect religious and secular ideas. Paul wrote:

  1. to the Philippians of pressing towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, (Phil. 3:14);
  2. to the Corinthians of running the race to obtain the prize (1 Cor. 9:24);
  3. to the Ephesians of wrestling not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the dark ages (Ephesians 6:12,)
  4. to Timothy having fought the good fight of faith, and to finish the course for the crown of heaven is awaiting him (2 Tim 4:7-8).

There is a historical and Biblical basis for using sport as both a metaphor for spiritual growth and as a manifestation of the Christian ideal. These examples show the close relationship between sport and spreading the word of the Gospel, and evangelism. If sports can be a manifestation of Christian ideals, it can be an effective tool for evangelism through teaching how the leisure activity of sports can complement and enhance the spiritual experience.

Historical precedent for using sports to grow the church and spread the Gospel
American Christian institutions saw the potential for using sports to grow the church and spread the Gospel starting as early as the 19th century [e.g. 7, 16,] In 1891, Dr. James Naismith created the game of basketball to help him spread the Gospel as part of his position at the YMCA (16). The focus of muscular Christians such as James Naismith was to use athletics to spread the Gospel message (11). Sports was ways to reach diverse audiences that may have not otherwise have attended church events (14).

Since the early twentieth century, intercollegiate sports have served as an important recruiting tool for bringing students (especially male student) to enroll in evangelical colleges and universities (e.g.8,15, 17, 9, 1, 13,11, 5). Universities affiliated with a variety of denominations have used sports to recruit not only student athletes, but also to expand the school’s reach to spectators of sports. (e.g. 12, 4). Sporting events provide a unique opportunity to bring in new participants and spectators who may not otherwise have come into the church.

Both the muscular Christians of a bygone era (e.g. 11) and modern-day universities. (e.g. 12; 4) have used sports to bring people into the church. American church leaders have realized the power of sports to grow their ministries and use familiar and entertaining sports activities to spread the Gospel. Let us now examine the ways in which sports ministries can benefit the churches that sponsor them.

Forty-four Alabama A.M.E. church participants were recruited from 18 counties in the State of Alabama. All 44 surveys were completed resulting in a participation rate of 100%. Participants consisted of 37 males and 7 females.

The purpose of this study was to investigate church leaders’ perceptions of the benefits of utilizing a sports ministry in the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Alabama. A list of churches representing the population of interest was identified from the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Alabama official registry mailing list. The survey questionnaire titled “Church Leaders Perceptions of Youth Sports” utilized a Likert scale design to assess attitudes of church leaders (N=44) regarding the impact of church sponsored youth sports programs. A non-random sample of this population was made based on the following criteria: 1) the church had an active sports ministry, 2) the church held regular services other than just on Sunday (for example, a Wednesday night bible study in addition to Sunday service), and 3) the church regularly hosted social activities or other types of ministries in addition to regular church services.

Once these criteria for sample selection were identified, five pastors were selected for a pilot study of the questionnaire to test whether the questions were clear and whether any changes needed to be made. An additional five pastors were chosen to be “expert” reviewers to look at the results of the pilot questionnaire and evaluate the questionnaire as additional reviewers. Once the questionnaire was finalized, a sample of forty-four Alabama A.M.E. churches was selected based on the three criteria explained previously. Of the six A.M.E. conferences across the state of Alabama, there were eight churches selected from each of five conferences and four churches were selected from the remaining conference. The survey was then distributed through survey monkey to church leaders at each of the identified sample of forty-four A.M.E. churches across the state of Alabama. After the respondents were contacted by the researcher, there was a 100% response rate and all forty-four questionnaires were returned to the researcher.

Each church leader participant was asked for demographic information including their gender, age, years of experience as a church leader, church leader participation in sports during their K-12 years, and highest educational level obtained. Participants were also asked for demographic information about the church that they served: age of the church, number of K-8 children that attend their church, county where church is located, and questions about the status of the current or future sports ministry program with questions about the specific sports involved. After the demographics information was completed, participants completed the Sports Ministry Impact (SMI) survey. The SMI consisted of 8 questions, each scored on a 5-point Likert-type scale with descriptors from “Strongly Agree” to “Strongly Disagree”. Each item also included a comment field in case the participant wished to add more information. The SMI questions are listed below, and they solicited the church leaders’ feedback on the effects that the sports ministry had on the church in areas such as fellowship, economic impact, evangelism and character development.

  1. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly benefit the Church.
  2. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly impact the growth and economic impact of the Church.
  3. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly impact the fellowship within the Church.
  4. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly stimulate evangelism and outreach for the Church.
  5. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly help spread the Gospel and the Lords Word.
  6. Utilizing a Sports Ministry Program can significantly teach character development, hard work and respect for fellow man.
  7. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly be a useful tool for discipleship.
  8. Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly be an avenue for servant-hood and training strategy for future Church leaders.

The surveys were administered using Survey Monkey and the results were downloaded to IBM SPSS Statistics version16 for analysis. Descriptive statistics for each item were calculated, along with the Cronbach’s alpha for the entire scale.

There were eleven types of sports programs that were being utilized at the targeted A.M.E. churches at time of the survey (see Table 1), however the most common sports were basketball (N = 11), boxing (N = 6), and baseball / softball (N = 6).
Thirty-seven (n=37, 84.1%) of the church leaders were male and six (n = 6, 13.6%) were female. One respondent did not report their gender. Thirty-nine (88.6%) of the church leaders reported that they participated in sports at the K-12 level, while five participants (11.4%) reported that they did not participate in sports. When asked to approximate the number of children K-8th who attended their church, the mean estimated number of children was 34.6 with a standard deviation of 27.9. The median estimated number of children at the church was 30 and the mode was 20. The results of the additional demographics questions are shown below in Tables 1 – 5.

Table 1. Sports ministry programs being utilized in the African Methodist Episcopal Churches of Alabama at the time of the survey
(N = Number of Churches Using the Sport Listed)

Sport N
Basketball 11
Boxing 6
Baseball / softball 6
Golf 4
Football 3
Soccer 2
Frisbee golf 2
Cheerleading 1
Aerobics 1

We see here when asked which sport is preferred, again basketball is given preference.

Table 2. Self-reported age ranges of church leader survey respondents

Age group N Percentage
21-30 4 9.1
31-40 8 18.2
41-50 12 27.3
51-60 13 29.5
60+ 6 13.6
Not reported 1 2.3

Participants were recruited from counties in the state of Alabama. All 44 surveys were completed resulting in a participation rate of 100%.

Table 3. Number of years since each church in the survey had been established

Years established as a church N Percentage
0-5 3 6.8
6-10 1 2.3
11-15 1 2.3
16-20 1 2.3
21+ 37 84.1
Not reported 1 2.3

Their respective churches were over twenty years or more.

Table 4. Number of years as a church leader of respondents at the time of the survey

Number of years as church leader N Percentage
0-5 4 9.1
6-10 12 27.3
11-15 5 11.4
16-20 5 11.4
21+ 14 31.8
Not reported 4 9.1

Most had ten years or more in the ministry.

Table 5. Highest reported educational level of the church leader respondents

Highest educational level reported N Percentage
High School 7 15.9
Associates 4 9.1
Bachelors 13 29.5
Masters 14 31.8
Ph.D. 2 4.5
D. Min 4 9.1

Most have had some participation in sports, with at least a bachelor’s degree or higher.

The Sports Ministry Impact (SMI) survey was scored using a 5-point Likert-type scale where 1 = strongly disagree, 2 = disagree, 3 = don’t know, 4 = agree and 5 = strongly agree. The results from each item are summarized below. Three survey responses were excluded from analysis because their negative ratings (1 = strongly disagree) on the items did not match the positive content of their comment section, so it is believed that they erroneously filled out the 1-5 Likert type scale. The resulting sample size for the SMI survey was 41 respondents. The Sports Ministry Impact survey had excellent internal consistency, with a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.958. A total Sports Ministry Impact score was calculated by adding the numeric responses of the eight items for each participant.

Table 6. Item full text and descriptive statistics for each item


Strongly Disagree


Don’t Know


Strongly Agree


Standard Deviation

Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly benefit the Church.

4 (8%)

0 (0%)

6 (12%)

20 (40%)

20 (40%)



Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly impact the growth and economic impact of the Church.

3 (6%)

2 (4%)






Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly impact the fellowship within the Church.








Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program would significantly stimulate evangelism and outreach for the Church.








Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly help spread the Gospel and the Lords Word.








Utilizing a Sports Ministry Program can significantly teach character development, hard work and respect for fellow man.








Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly be a useful tool for discipleship.








Utilizing a Sport Ministry Program can significantly be an avenue for servant-hood and training strategy for future Church leaders.








Eight questions on the survey assessed these perceptions in 18 counties in the state of Alabama.

There was no significant correlation between the estimated number of children K-8th that attended the church and the total Sports Ministry Impact score (r = -0.285, p = 0.071). This was one of the few variables tested that approached significance. Otherwise, the Sports Ministry Impact score did not show a significant difference due to the gender of the church leaders [t(38) = -0.633, p = 0.531], the church leader’s age group [F(4,35) = 1.714, p = 0.169], how long the respondent had been a church leader [F(4,32) = 0.710, p = 0.591], the age of the church [F(4,35) = 0.291, p = 0.882], whether the church leaders participated in sports themselves in K-12 [t(39) = 0.560, p = 0.579], the highest educational level attained by the church leaders [F(5,35) = 0.450, p = 0.810], or whether the church utilized a sports ministry program [t(14.735) = -0.681, p = .507]. These analyses may have lacked the power to find significant effects due to the low sample size relative to the number of groups in some of the analysis. The lack of significant differences in these demographic groups indicates that the Sports Ministry Impact score was similarly high in many different AME church environments.

A qualitative analysis of the 48 free response comments given by the survey respondents revealed that 37 of the 48 comments (77.1%) were positive towards the benefits of a sports ministry program to the church, 1 was negative about sports ministries (2.1%), and 10 were neutral (20.8%). There were four dominant themes of the responses about the positive effects of a sports ministry: 1) bringing people into the church that otherwise would not be there, 2) improving fellowship among the youth and the adults in the church, 3) the character building opportunities of teamwork and leadership, and 4) the opportunity for spreading the gospel but only if prayer and scripture is included in the sports program. The one negative response referred to “a poor witness on the part of a few of the participants”. The neutral statements mostly focused on general statements about church involvement that were not directly related to sports ministry, but there were several responses that were cautious about the idea of a sports ministry, questioning whether there was enough demand for a sports ministry to result in a benefit to the church.

A sample of positive comments of church leaders on the benefits of sports ministry to the church: “improve cohesiveness of the youth in our church”, “help bridge the gap between the church and community”, “support the youth by giving a God-based activity to participate in outside of the sanctuary”, “help with leadership, teamwork, character and respect”, “give the kids who didn’t make the team at school a chance to compete” “As sports continue to gain the interest of the youth of our community. We must draw the connection of not only being a winner on the court but allowing the athletic or future athletics to understand what it is to be a winner with Christ. Through such ministry, the church can fulfill the Great Commission. From that the church sees growth-not only from the youth-but with families. They have not only won the soul of the child but of the family, which in most cases are three or more.”, “ the researcher personally has seen a lot of kids come to know Christ through sports ministry, that may never have stepped into a regular church service.”

Most of the church leaders surveyed had a positive impression of the possible impact of sports ministries, independent of the age, gender, or other demographics of the church leader or the church at large. There was low variability in the responses to the Sports Ministry Impact survey, indicating that sports ministry may have a positive impact on AME churches regardless of whether the church is a long-established church or a newer congregation. The responses to the survey were overwhelmingly positive, with church leaders expressing positive opinions about the effects of sports ministry programs on various aspects of church participation and engagement. Future research should focus on the direct effects of sports ministry on church attendance, finances, and engagement. A before and after research study with measures of church attendance and monetary giving, as well as surveys completed by the sports ministry participants, would add another layer of important data to this line of study.

Recommendations: Best Practices for Sports Ministry based on previous research
In 1999, Bronfenner, as cited in Fraser-Thomas et al. (6), proposed the following operational model for activities that effectively encourage development in adolescents: a) a person must engage in activities, b) activities must take place on a fairly regular basis, over an extended period of time, c) activities must take place over a long enough period of time to become increasingly more complex, and d) activities must involve long-term reciprocal relationships” (p.5-6).

Fraser-Thomas et al. (6) report that some of the negative effects of youth sports participation such as early dropout from the sport, physical injury and psychological stress can be lessened by providing a more diverse set of early sports experiences rather than focusing on a single sport at an early age. Fraser-Thomas et al. (6) also emphasized the importance of social relationships in promoting positive outcomes for youth athletes- participants experienced more enjoyment and benefits from participation when parents were supportive but did not pressure the youths. As for the relationships between athlete and coach, there were better developmental outcomes when the coaches focused on improving the athletes’ technique using reinforcement rather than punishment (8). Ultimately the transformative power of sports can attract people from all walks of life and affect human life and relationships at virtually every level.

Based upon the surveys collected and the data analyzed, the following conclusions were made regarding the research questions posed in this study: There are forty- four African Methodist Episcopal Churches in Alabama that are utilizing a Sports’ Ministry Program, and that meet more than two Sundays a month. There were several programs that were currently being utilized, however the ones that are most favorably being utilized are: basketball, boxing, and baseball / softball, golf, football, soccer, Frisbee golf, cheerleading, aerobics, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and track. Amazing, though these number of sports were being utilized according to table 6 the questions directly dealing with social areas such as fellowship, character development, evangelism, leadership, etc. more agreed or strongly agreed. On the other hand, the two questions that dealt with the growth and impact didn’t lean so much towards agreed and strongly agreed.

Many either agreed or strongly agreed that a Sports’ Ministry would significantly impact the A.M.E. Church. Some commented that many youths have come to know Christ through their sports’ ministry that may have never attended a regular church service. Others stated that a sports’ ministry has allowed physical activities with religious teachings and principles. Sports’ Ministry has helped in leadership, teamwork and character development. Sports’ Ministry has helped with bridging the gap with the church and the community. Sports’ Ministry gives the youth that didn’t make the team at school a chance to compete. Sports’ Ministry has improved the cohesiveness of the youth and the church. Finally, one church leader mentioned the importance that Sports’ Ministry has played in gaining the interest of the youth in their community. In addition to having the ability to demonstrate playing well in competition, but the ability to have that same perseverance and discipline in Christ can be shown. Through this venue the church is fulfilling the Great Commission. Winning a youth to Christ creates opportunities to impact the whole family.

Christ like character development is taught as part of becoming an excellent athlete.

Can the utilization of a Sports’ significantly be a useful tool for Church discipleship? Many had discovered that people who would normally not come to church would come to a sporting event. Sports’ can model the character of Christ, just like the disciples strived to do, in a setting that people are accustomed to in everyday life. The Church leaders in addition perceived that utilizing a Sport can significantly be an avenue for servant hood and a training strategy for future Church leaders. All the leaders either agreed or strongly agreed that Sports’ in the local church is a great tool for developing leaders. It provides people the opportunity to serve the body of Christ with a new avenue for service. In serving the body of Christ, members can tap into their gifts of leadership that would ultimately impact the church. Sports’ can be a specialized tool for the local church, and something that can be found among the urban or rural, Christian or Muslims, rich or poor. Since Sports is so embedded in our society today, it is something that can be an ally rather than an enemy. There remains a need to explore some of these oppositions and to teach the relationship between Sports and Religion. This relationship can possibly impact the growth of the Church and change lives. Sports can give the church an available opportunity to fulfill the great commission “go into the entire world and preach the gospel.”

Many churches consist of an older generation, and major lines of racial divisions and other biased attributes. It will behoove the church to become more creative in reaching all people for the Kingdom, “for God gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes” (John 3:16). What better way to begin to tear down these divided walls than through Sports? Because this is not happening, churches are dying both physically and spiritually. The apostle Paul describes it like this, “I am willing to be a Greek for the Greeks, a Jew for the Jews, that I might win some for Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:22, KJV)

The researcher sees Sports as the vehicle to ignite a major impact on the spiritual, physical and financial growth of the Churches of Alabama. The researcher says the State of Alabama because of a very important observation. Alabama, out of all other States the researcher has ever visited shares a very strong passion and loyalty to Sports. People will literally fight you over Auburn vs. Alabama football game. Many younger athletes all dream of one day making it big in the professional leagues, not just them their parents do as well. We see it whenever we turn our television on or, if we go to any college game throughout Alabama. The researcher truly believes that if the AME Churches in Alabama will ever have a chance to resurrect themselves, it must be now. The researcher purposes to you that Sports is that gateway to that resurrection.

This article could have not have been accomplished without the encouragement and support from all my children; specifically, the researcher wants to thank my wife Shelia for the support and dedication. She never complained but was very supportive in my pursuit of writing this article. The researcher is truly grateful for her and wanted to tell her thanks. The researcher truly considered this project as a team effort. Finally, if it was not for the cooperation and encouragement of all the church leaders who answered the survey in a timely manner, the research could have not been completed.

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