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Gender differences in the relative age effect among US Olympic Development Program youth soccer players

by J Vincent, F D Glamser
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A large body of research has shown that a disproportionate number of\nelite youth male soccer players competing in age-segmented competition\nare born early in the selection year. The advantage of being born early\nin a cohort has been termed the ``relative age effect''. Although there\nhas been an exponential growth in women's soccer, few studies have\nexamined the relative age effect in female youth soccer. This study\ncompared the relative age effect of 1344 female and male youth soccer\nplayers considered by the US Olympic Development Program (ODP), in 2001,\nto be the most talented soccer players born in 1984. The birth dates\nwere taken from the women's state and regional ODP, and national team\nrosters, and were analysed using basic descriptive statistics and\nchi-square tests. Results revealed only a marginal relative age effect\nfor female ODP regional and national team players and no relative age\neffect for female ODP state team players. In comparison, a strong\nrelative age effect was found in male state, regional and national team\nplayers. The results suggest that there are gender differences in the\nrelative age effect of 17-year-old elite female and male soccer players.\nThe gender differences may be explained by a complex interaction of\nbiological and maturational differences with socialization influences.

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