The Relative Age Effect on Competition Performance of Spanish International Handball Players: A Longitudinal Study

de la Rubia, Alfonso and Lorenzo, Alberto and Bjørndal, Christian Thue and Kelly, Adam L. and García-Aliaga, Abraham and Lorenzo-Calvo, Jorge (2021) The Relative Age Effect on Competition Performance of Spanish International Handball Players: A Longitudinal Study. Frontiers in Psychology, 12. p. 673434. ISSN 1664-1078

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Background: Competitive success is the ultimate objective of elite professional sport organisations. Relative age effects (RAE) impact athlete selection processes in the short and long-term performance. The aims of this study were: (i) examine the presence of RAE by gender, competitive level, and playing position, as well as evaluate the impact of RAE on individual (goals, percentage of effectiveness in shots, saves; percentage of effectiveness in saves, assists, turnovers, steals, blocked shots, penalties, minutes played, and minutes played per match) and collective competition performance (final team position); and (ii) analyse the impact of RAE on the evolutionary trends of individual performance in international competitions throughout 16 seasons in Spanish handball (2005–2020). Methods: The sample included 631 Spanish handball players (male: n = 359; female: n = 272). A Chi-square goodness-of-fit test was used to assess whether a skewed birthdate distribution occurred. A one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) of independent measures was used to examine the individual and collective statistical parameters by birth quartiles. A linear regression in a Hopkins sheet were performed to compare individual performance trends. Results: The results revealed RAE in the male formative categories (p < 0.001), as well as the male and female senior categories (p < 0.05). By position, RAE especially affected the “centre-back” in the male formative (p < 0.01) and senior categories (p < 0.05). No significant relationship between RAE and individual performance was found in male formative categories, while an impact of RAE on the “minutes played” was detected in the female senior category (p < 0.05). With regard to collective performance, a higher number of relatively older handball players was observed in the best ranked teams in the male formative categories and in the quarter-final teams in the female formative categories (p < 0.05). Among the male players, relatively older players spent more minutes on the court than relatively younger players, although this advantage dissipated over time and did not lead to better performance. Among the female players, relatively younger players were found to perform better as the level of competitive handball increased. Discussion: These findings are important for talent identification and development policies in sport federations and other elite sport institutions by demonstrating the many unintended consequences of selections to international competitions at the youth level.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: ** From Frontiers via Jisc Publications Router ** History: collection 2021; received 27-02-2021; accepted 31-05-2021; epub 29-06-2021. ** Licence for this article:
Identification Number:
31 May 2021Accepted
29 June 2021Published Online
Uncontrolled Keywords: Psychology, relative age effect, birthday effect, team sport, competition performance, talent identification, talent development, elite sport policy
Subjects: CAH03 - biological and sport sciences > CAH03-02 - sport and exercise sciences > CAH03-02-01 - sport and exercise sciences
Divisions: Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > Centre for Life and Sport Sciences (C-LASS)
SWORD Depositor: JISC PubRouter
Depositing User: JISC PubRouter
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2021 14:21
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 11:36

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