The Role of Growth and Maturation during Adolescence on Team-Selection and Short-Term Sports Participation

Adam Baxter-Jones, Erin Barbour-Tuck, Dale Donavan, Lauren Sherar, Camilla Knight, Sean Cumming, Leah Ferguson, Kent Kowalski, Louise Humbert

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Background: During adolescence, deselection from sport occurs during team try-outs when month of birth, stage of growth and maturation may influence selection. Aim: The purpose of this study was to identify differences in growth and maturity related factors between those selected and deselected in youth sports teams and identify short-term associations with continued participation. Subjects and methods: Eight hundred and seventy participants, aged 11–17 years, were recruited from six sports try-outs in Saskatchewan, Canada: baseball, basketball, football, hockey, soccer and volleyball. Two hundred and forty-four of the initial 870 (28%) returned for follow-up at 36 months. Chronological (years from birth), biological (years from age at peak height velocity (APHV)) and relative (month of birth as it relates to the selection band) ages were calculated from measures of date of birth, date of test, height, sitting height and weight. Parental heights were measured or recalled and participant’s adult height predicted. Reference standards were used to calculate z-scores. Sports participation was self-reported at try-outs and at 36-month follow-up. Results: There was an over-representation of players across all sports born in the first and second quartiles of the selection bands (p < 0.05), whether they were selected or deselected. z-scores for predicted adult height ranged from 0.1 (1.1) to 1.8 (1.2) and were significantly different between sports (p < 0.05). Height and APHV differences (p < 0.05) were found between selected and deselected male participants. In females only weight differed between selected and deselected female hockey players (p < 0.05); no further differences were found between selected and deselected female participants. Four per cent of deselected athletes exited sports participation and 68% of deselected athletes remained in the same sport at 36 months, compared with 84% of selected athletes who remained in the same sport. Conclusions: It was found that youth who attended sports team’s try-outs were more likely to be born early in the selection year, be tall for their age, and in some sports early maturers. The majority of both the selected and deselected participants continued to participate in sport 36 months after try-outs, with the majority continuing to participate in their try-out sport.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-323
JournalAnnals of Human Biology
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Children
  • exercise
  • relative age effect
  • talent identification
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Physiology
  • Ageing
  • Genetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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