THE EFFECT OF RELATIVE AGE ON THE IDENTIFICATION AND DEVELOPMENT OF SPORTS TALENT
The effect of relative age refers to the difference in skills between people who have been grouped for a particular purpose or function based on age.
Elite athletes are getting older. We know that players can give their best performance levels for longer now than they could a few decades ago. Training has become more sophisticated, players take better care of themselves and science has helped to understand what we must do to make fewer mistakes. In tennis, for example, the average age of the top 100 male players in the last decade has gone from 26.2 to an all-time high of 27.9 years old.1 In football, the average age of the players who took part in the Champions League between the 1992-1993 and 2017-2018 seasons, has increased by 1.6 years. Going from 24.9 in the first season analysed to 26.5 in the last one.2
However, we know much less about the age at which footballers reach their peak performance level, or about how much and in what way their performance level decreases from then on. Several recent studies could provide some proof on the relationship between age and performance in football. The conclusions of these studies suggest significant aspects to have in mind:
The practical implications of these findings for training are:
Carlos Lago Peñas
1 Kovalchik, S. A. (2014). The older they rise the younger they fall: age and performance trends in men’s professional tennis from 1991 to 2012. J. Quant. Anal. Sports 10, 99–107.
2 Kalén A, Rey E, de Rellán-Guerra A.S & Lago-Peñas C (2019) Are Soccer Players Older Now Than Before? Aging Trends and Market Value in the Last Three Decades of the UEFA Champions League. Front. Psychol. 10:76.
3 Rey E, Costa PB., Corredoira FJ. & de Rellán-Guerra AS (2019) Effects of physical match performance in professional soccer players. J Strength Cond Res. Awaiting publication.
4 Folgado H, Gonçalves B, Sampaio J. (2018) Positional synchronization affects physical and physiological responses to preseason in professional football (soccer). Res Sports Med. 26(1): 51–63.
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