Relative age effect: characteristics of youth soccer players by birth quarter and subsequent playing status

António J. Figueiredo, Manuel João Coelho e Silva, Sean Cumming, Robert M Malina

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Purpose: To compare characteristics of club level male soccer players 11 and 13 years of age, and to evaluate playing status in soccer two and 10 years after baseline by birth quarter (BQ).

Methods: Youth players 11 (n = 62, born 1992, observed December 2003) and 13 (n = 50, born 1990, observed April 2004) years were grouped by BQ. Baseline data included stature, weight, maturity status, functional capacities, soccer skills, goal orientation, and coach evaluation of potential. Playing status in soccer in 2006 and 2014 was also available. Baseline characteristics and subsequent playing status were compared by BQ.

Results: Baseline characteristics did not differ by BQ except for age and percentage of predicted adult height. Though not significant, coaches tended to rate players in BQ1as higher in potential. For those competing in soccer as adults, BQ2 (4), BQ3 (5) and BQ4 (2) were represented among players11 years, and BQ1 (3), BQ2 (2), BQ3 (1) and BQ4 (4) among players 13 years.

Conclusion: Although limited to small numbers, differences among players by BQ were inconsistent. The results indicate a need to extend potential explanations of the RAE to include behavioral variables, coaches, training environment, and perhaps the culture of the sport.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)677-684
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number6
Early online date22 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Youth athletes
  • fitness
  • goal orientation
  • growth
  • maturation
  • skills

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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