About this Research Topic
The complex nature of the athlete development process suggests that the application of early predictors is often flawed and subject to selection biases. One such bias is the influence of selection and progression through fixed chronological birth date distribution – commonly known as the relative age effect (RAE). In sport, the RAE signifies how older athletes who are born earlier in the selection year are often overrepresented within athlete development pathways compared to their chronologically younger peers. Other selection biases, such as birthplace, gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, have also shown to be influential factors within the recruitment process into athlete development systems.
Previous research consistently highlights how factors related to athletes’ early sport experiences can influence both the opportunity to participate in sport, as well as the long-term outcomes of performance, participation, and personal development. Subsequently, these influences affect individual opportunities to be selected into athlete development pathways and the likelihood of successfully transitioning from such a programme. Although there is an extensive body of observational research over the last three decades, questions remain regarding the organisational structures that underpin these relationships. The need to examine these structures is emphasised by a growing body of literature exploring potential strategies for mitigating birth advantages and RAEs in youth sport programmes.
This Research Topic seeks to collaborate with researchers within the realm of youth sport to examine organisational structures that can foster long-term performance, participation, and personal development. Moreover, exemplars of contemporary practical strategies addressing birth advantages and the RAE need to be examined to validate their potential influence on athlete development.
Thus, the overall aim of this Research Topic is to shift towards a fresh, theoretically driven perspective by examining the multidimensional processes and subsequent outcomes of birth advantages, alongside investigating modern practice within applied youth sport settings. In doing so, it is hoped that contributing research can inform evidence-based policies and athlete development pathways, to ensure there is a continued emphasis on creating an appropriate environment for every young athlete to develop to their full potential.
We welcome submissions from a diverse range of data collection procedures to fully encompass birth advantages and the RAE context. In addition, conceptual papers and reviews are welcome to synthesise expert knowledge within the youth sport discipline.
Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following:
• The impact of chronological age grouping on holistic developmental factors (i.e., psychological, sociological, physiological, environmental, skill acquisition).
• Examining organisational structures and group banding strategies (i.e., recruitment processes, bio-banding).
• Redesigning appropriate settings to moderate birth advantages and the RAE (i.e., corrective adjustments, accelerated learning).
• Longitudinal studies examining the subsequent outcomes of athlete development programmes (i.e., the ‘reversal effect’ of the RAE, the ‘underdog hypothesis’, the ‘birthplace effect’).
• Social dynamics, birth advantages, and the RAE (i.e., the role of coaching behaviours, group processes, athlete interactions, social identity).
• Qualitative research into birth advantages and the RAE (i.e., experiences of chronological age-grouping, perceived effectiveness of grouping strategies).
• Conceptual papers and reviews that shift away from replication research.
Keywords: Youth Development, Youth Sport, Group Banding, Age Cohort, Chronological Age
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.