Biological maturation, relative age and self-regulation in male professional academy soccer players: A test of the underdog hypothesis

Sean Cumming, Christopher Searle, Janie Hemsley, Finlay Haswell, Hannah Edwards, Des Ryan, Sam Scott, Alex Gross, Jeff Lewis, Paul White, Siobhan Mitchell, Robert M Malina

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The main and interactive effects of biological maturity status and relative age upon self-regulation in male academy soccer players are considered. Consistent with the ‘underdog’ hypothesis, whereby relatively younger players may benefit from competitive play with older peers, it was predicted later maturing and/or relatively younger players would report more adaptive self-regulation.

Cross-sectional study.

Players (n = 171, aged 11–16 years) from four English professional soccer academies completed the modified Soccer Self-Regulation Scale. Date of birth, height, weight and parental height were obtained. Relative age was based on birth quarter for the selection year. Maturity status was based upon percentage of predicted adult height attained.

Linear regression models showed later maturation was inversely associated with adaptive self-regulation, while relative age was unrelated to self-regulation.

In partial support of the underdog hypothesis, later maturing players appear to possess a psychological advantage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-153
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date18 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018



  • Adolescence
  • Development
  • Football
  • Puberty
  • Talent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology

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