Season of birth bias in Netball - a mixed method investigation
University of Wales Institute Cardiff
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In many competitive sports, the use of a cut off date for junior competition has been associated with a skewed birth date distribution in junior and senior players. In Wales, netball uses a junior competition year that coincides with the school year; 1st September. The purpose of the current investigation was to describe the birth date distribution of 2967 registered netball players in Wales, and to gain knowledge and understanding of lived experiences of present netball players. There was significant season of birth bias (p < 0.001) with 54.9% being born in the first 6 months of the year. There were 53.0% of players aged 15 or under who were born in the first half of the junior competition year compared to 58.5% of those aged between 16 and 22 inclusive. This supports the existing theory suggesting that young people born late in the junior competition year drop out of their sport before reaching the senior age group. However, 53.3% of players aged 22 years or over were born in the first half of the competition year, which has a less skewed distribution than that of the 16 to 21 year old players. This suggests that there are players born early in the competition year, who enjoyed a relative age advantage as juniors, drop out of the sport as seniors. This could result from players born early in the junior competition being misidentified as talented due to their relative age advantage as juniors. When such players compete as seniors, they will no longer enjoy a relative age advantage and consequently may not be as successful as senior players as they once were at juniors. This may discourage them from continuing at the sport. This is evident in the two interviews that were concerned with early born players, as both stopped participating in International netball for a period of time.
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