The relative age effect in the German Football TID Programme: biases in motor performance diagnostics and effects on single motor abilities and skills in groups of selected players

Eur J Sport Sci. 2014;14(5):433-42. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2013.837510. Epub 2013 Sep 19.


This study examined the disturbing effects of relative age on the talent identification process in the talent development programme of the German Football Association. The bias in the selection rate was examined via the extent of relative age effects. The bias in motor performance diagnostics was analysed by comparing the motor performance of selected players with normal motor development. The mechanisms underlying the relative age biases in motor performance were examined by modelling the direct and indirect effects of relative age on single motor performance tests for sprint, running agility, dribbling and ball passing and control. Data from 10,130 selected football players from the U12 to U15 age groups were collected in autumn 2010. The birth distribution differed significantly from the reference population with approximately 61% of the players born in the first half of the year. The selection probability was approximately two times higher for players born in the first quarter of the year than for players born in the last quarter. Revised motor performance diagnostics showed better results on average for relatively younger players. Path analysis revealed significant direct and indirect relative age effects for physiologically demanding tests and almost no effects for technically demanding tests. Large sample sizes allowed high resolution in relative age with additional informational content and multivariate modelling of the complex relationships among relative age, physical development and motor performance. The results are discussed on how relative age affects the effectiveness and fairness of talent identification and development processes.

Keywords: Relative age effect; football; motor performance; talent identification.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors*
  • Aptitude*
  • Athletic Performance*
  • Football
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Motor Skills*
  • Movement
  • Running
  • Soccer*