Authors: Torsten Buhre and Oscar Tschernij
Torsten Buhre, PhD
Department of Sport Sciences
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.