Received: 31-07-2014 -- Accepted: 29-09-2014 --
Published (online): 01-03-2015
The relative age effect (RAE), which refers to an over representation of athletes born early in a selection year, recently was proven to be present in alpine skiing. However, it was not made apparent whether the RAE exists as early as at the youngest level of youth ski racing at national level, nor whether the relative age influences racing performance. As a consequence, the purpose of the present study was twofold: first, to examine the extent of the RAE and second, to assess the influence the relative age has on the overall performance at the youngest levels of youth ski racing. The study included the investigation of 1,438 participants of the Austrian Kids Cup and 1,004 participants of the Teenager Cup at the provincial level, as well as 250 finalists of the Kids Cup and 150 finalists of the Teenager Cup at the national level. Chi²-tests revealed a highly significant RAE already at the youngest level of youth ski racing (Kids Cup) at both the provincial and national levels. There are not again favorably selected the relatively older athletes from the first into the second level of youth ski racing (Teenager Cup). Among the athletes of the Kids Cup, the relative age quarter distribution differed highly significantly from the distribution of the total sample with an over representation of relatively older athletes by comparison taking the top three positions. The data revealed that relative age had a highly significant influence on performance. This study demonstrated that the RAE poses a problem as early as the youngest level of youth ski racing, thereby indicating that many young talented kids are discriminated against, diminishing any chance they might have of becoming elite athletes despite their talents and efforts. The RAE influences not only the participation rate in alpine skiing, but also the performances. As a result, changes in the talent development system are imperative.
The relative age influences not only the participation in youth ski racing, but also the performance.
The relative age effect is present in all age categories in alpine skiing at national, as well as international level; this indicates that there is a severe loss of talents.
From an ethical point of view, the entire talent identification and development process in alpine ski racing is discriminatory against young talented kids; consequently, this process should be reevaluated and changed to reduce the impact of RAE on young alpine ski racers in the future.
The system for the competition category classification based on a rotating cut-off-date appears to be an interesting proposal for the reduction of the relative age effect in alpine skiing as well.
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