Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
ISSN: 1303 - 2968   
Ios-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
Androit-APP Journal of Sports Science and Medicine
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©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine ( 2018 ) 17 , 216 - 222

Research article
Maturity Status Strongly Influences the Relative Age Effect in International Elite Under-9 Soccer
Lisa Müller1, , Josef Gehmaier2, Christoph Gonaus2, Christian Raschner1, Erich Müller2
Author Information
1 Department of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Tyrol, Austria
2 Department of Sport Science and Kinesiology, University of Salzburg, Salzburg, Salzburg, Austria

Lisa Müller
✉ Department of Sport Science, University of Innsbruck, Fuerstenweg 185, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria
Email: Lisa.Mueller@uibk.ac.at
Publish Date
Received: 16-12-2017
Accepted: 27-02-2018
Published (online): 14-05-2018
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ABSTRACT

The aim of the study was to assess the role of the relative age effect (RAE) and to investigate the influence of the biological maturity status on the RAE in international under-9 soccer. The birth dates of 222 male participants of the U9 Eurochampionship Soccer Tournament in Vienna in 2016 were analyzed and divided into four relative age quarters (Q1-Q4) and the biological maturity status was assessed with the age at peak height velocity (APHV) method. Based on the mean±standard deviation of the APHV, the athletes were divided into three groups of maturity: early, normal and late maturing. Chi-Square-tests were used to assess the difference between the observed and the expected even relative age quarter distribution and to evaluate the difference between the observed distribution of early, normal and late maturing athletes and the expected normal distribution. A univariate analysis of variance was performed to assess differences in the APHV between the relative age quarters. A RAE was present (χ2 = 23.87; p < 0.001; ω = 0.33). A significant difference was found in APHV between the four relative age quarters (F = 9.906; p < 0.001); relatively older athletes were significantly less mature. A significant difference was found between the distribution of early, normal and late maturing athletes and the expected normal distribution for athletes of Q1 (high percentage of late maturing athletes: 27%; χ2 = 17.69; p < 0.001; ω = 0.46) and of Q4 (high percentage of early maturing soccer players: 31%; χ2 = 12.08; p = 0.002; ω = 0.58). These findings demonstrated that the selection process in international soccer, with athletes younger than 9 years, seems to be associated with the biological maturity status and the relative age. Relatively younger soccer players seem to have a better chance for selection for international tournaments, if they enter puberty at an earlier age, whereas relatively older athletes seem to have an increased likelihood for selection independent of their biological maturity status.

Key words: Relative age effect, maturity status, under-9 soccer, talent development


           Key Points
  • The relative age strongly influenced the selection in international elite under-9 soccer.
  • A significant association of the biological maturity status with the selection was present among soccer players younger than 9 years – relatively older athletes were significantly less mature compared to relatively younger players.
  • The biological maturity status is strongly associated with the relative age effect among international soccer players younger than 9 years– relatively younger athletes seem to have a better chance for selection for an international tournament if they are early maturing, whereas relatively older athletes have an increased chance independent of their biological maturity status.
 
 
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