Updated: Mar 7, 2020
Ok, questionable title… Possibly- but the point is at some stage in your child’s participation in sport it may seem others are just bigger, stronger or even quicker.
Here’s the thing, they might just be!
In school age sport the participation levels are generally either divided into 1 of 2 categories; Age or Year group.
In sports such as Rugby, Swimming, Cross Country or Track and Field the age your child is turning in the year of competition, is the Age group they are eligible to play for.
If a boy turned 14 on January 15, 2019 – he is eligible to compete in the U/14 years age group in 2019.
Alternatively, in other sports such as Football, Tennis, Cricket or Basketball your child is eligible to compete in the Year group they are in during the year of competition (i.e. Yr 8 using the above example).
Enter the problem often known as the Relative Age Effect (RAE).
Whilst many CEO parents are beginning to question their child’s ‘commitment’ to their sport and their lack of ‘effort’, or even their ability to seemingly continuously come off 2nd best- there might just be another reason for it.
No, this isn’t a time to start jumping up and down declaring he/or she needs the best Strength and Conditioning Coach to rectify your problem… Oops I mean their problem.
If you take a step back and look at what the Relative Age Effect actually means, it equates to your child potentially competing (or should I say playing? Because sport is meant to be fun…) against fellow peers that are technically older and thus more mature than them. If you factor in the attributes that come within certain age ranges this becomes even more problematic.
So, before you rush out to sign up to the next ‘Elite Academy’ or former professional athlete’s (Insert your local Aussie superstars name here) ‘Fast Track’ program lets revisit the example above. What this actually means is if your child is born towards the back end of the year (July-Dec) they are often left physically disadvantaged largely due to their maturation status, yet to achieve their full potential… Not necessarily their athletic ability.
This becomes more problematic the 1st ¼ of the year vs. the last ¼.
Ever wondered how your son went to bed one night and seemed to wake up sheepishly sharing your razor?!
Or how sweet Joanne from up the street, turned up at the next party looking like she’s got the wrong address?!
… Imagine having to play against it! This is the case experienced by thousands of youth having fun in their chosen across Australia every weekend.
Below are some factors to consider:
The positive is this. It has been shown those on the misfortunate end of the RAE phenomenon often participate in their chosen sport for longer (A win for the good guys!). They also have an ingrained resilience that is likely to enhance their success in their chosen sport because of it (Who would’ve thought- a natural selection resilience program the youth of today 'so often lack’).
So, if you find yourself in this position as a parent- save your money! And eliminate the heartache of broken promises from your local Personal Trainer. Like any good storm, bunker in, think of ways to keep yourself occupied (other than cutting clips for your child’s Youtube highlight reel), it will pass and the sun will be shining in no time. Take them to the park and just embrace it!