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How Your Birth Date Influences Sporting Ability

How Your Birth Date Influences Your Sporting Ability

When the All Blacks select their World Cup squad later this year, they could do worse than study their players’ birth dates.

That’s according to Dr Will Low, Lecturer in the Department of Management and Employment Relations at the University of Auckland Business School, who this Thursday presents a seminar titled “The Relative Age Effect and the Impact of Professionalism in Professional Rugby.”

The seminar will compare the relative age effect present in rugby league, a sport with a long history of professionalism, with that of rugby, a relatively recently professionalised sport.

“Among almost all professional sports there is a disproportionate number of players who are born around the time of the traditional start dates of the sports’ seasons,” explains Dr Low.

“For example, a disproportionate number of professional English footballers are born around September.

“I took the example of rugby, a recently professionalised sport, and compared the results with those from overseas studies. Rugby is an interesting example as we can compare the statistics from before and after the game turned professional.

“The relative age effect does not appear in the 1950s through to the 1970s, but becomes apparent in more recent decades as the game gradually became professional.”

Dr Low says playing and training full time emphasises the effect.

The implications for selectors and administrators?

“They need be careful about identifying people younger, and reduce the amount of time and money spent training the wrong people.

“Ideally, the more systematic the selection process, the more likely it is innate ability will be identified and refined. In the extreme, the more successful a talent development programme is, the weaker the observed relative age effect should be. The evidence seems to show we aren’t there yet”

“The Relative Age Effect and the Impact of Professionalism in Professional Rugby” Thursday 27 March 12.30 – 1.30pm Room 501 Level 5 Commerce C Building University of Auckland Business School

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