Relative age effects in Swiss talent development - a nationwide analysis of all sports

J Sports Sci. 2018 Sep;36(17):2025-2031. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2018.1432964. Epub 2018 Feb 2.


Relative age effects (RAE) generate consistent participation inequalities and selection biases in sports. The study aimed to investigate RAE across all sports of the national Swiss talent development programme (STDP). In this study, 18 859 youth athletes (female N = 5353; mean age: 14.8 ± 2.5 y and male N = 13 506; mean age: 14.4 ± 2.4 y) in 70 sports who participated in the 2014 competitive season were evaluated. The sample was subdivided by sex and the national level selection (NLS, N = 2464). Odds ratios (ORs) of relative age quarters (Q1-Q4) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated. In STDP, small RAE were evident for females (OR 1.35 (95%-CI 1.24, 1.47)) and males (OR 1.84 (95%-CI 1.74, 1.95)). RAE were similar in female NLS athletes (OR 1.30 (95%-CI 1.08, 1.57)) and larger in male NLS athletes (OR 2.40 (95%-CI 1.42, 1.97)) compared to athletes in the lower selection level. In STDP, RAE are evident for both sexes in several sports with popular sports showing higher RAE. RAE were larger in males than females. A higher selection level showed higher RAE only for males. In Switzerland, talent identification and development should be considered as a long-term process.

Keywords: Youth sports; athletic development; maturation; talent selection.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Aptitude*
  • Athletic Performance
  • Competitive Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Switzerland
  • Youth Sports*