A frequent practice within sport and educational domains is to group youth based on their chronological ages to help promote equal competition, age appropriate instruction, and ensure participant safety (e.g., Baker, Schorer, & Cobley, 2010). While well-intended, such grouping practices can often advantage relatively older children, while disadvantaging those who are relatively younger within the same age cohort. This phenomenon is known as the relative age effect (RAE; Barnsley, Thompson, & Barnsley, 1985). Although the RAE was identified in sport as far back as the 1980s, it has garnered considerable attention in popular culture in the past decade, having been featured in popular books (e.g., Outliers: The Story of Success), magazines (e.g., Sports Illustrated), and on television programs (e.g., 60 Minutes). As the general population has become increasingly aware of the consequences of relative age, pressure is being placed on sport organizations and educational institutions to rectify these biases. Despite the growing awareness of this issue, there has been little done to combat relative age (dis)advantages within the domains of sport, education, and mental health.

To help combat this issue, faculty and students at the University of Windsor and York University hosted a one-day conference to connect and engage internationally recognized scholars who have examined the RAE from different perspectives (e.g., sport, mental health and well-being, education, youth development), policy makers, and industry professionals. Relative Age Effects: An International Conference brought together 14 leading academic researchers to critically evaluate the state of the research, discuss strategies to minimize RAEs, and identify new areas of research. This conference included researchers from a range of academic disciplines (e.g., sport, education, and mental health) given the multi-faceted nature of the RAE, which helped ensure a holistic presentation of the RAE and encouraged multidisciplinary collaboration and networking. Throughout the event, an emphasis was placed on developing and strengthening relationships between academics, policy makers, and industry practitioners in order to build a community of practice that encourages ongoing information exchange to help minimize RAEs within settings that rely on age cohorts (e.g., sport and education).

This conference provided a unique opportunity to communicate and exchange RAE knowledge between academics and industry professionals. The overarching goal was to mobilize knowledge and enact change within sport governing bodies and educational institutions to help equalize opportunities for all individuals. Such efforts could improve grassroots participation in sport and a broad range of educational outcomes.

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One of the major products of this conference was the development of a reference book, entitled Relative Age Effects in Sport: International Perspectives. This new volume assists in communicating and mobilizing knowledge and research about RAEs, focusing on developing feasible and attractive solutions that capture the attention of practitioners and policy makers from sport governing bodies and creating a resource that is accessible to professionals within the sport and academic communities.

Relative Age Effects in Sport: International Perspectives is key reading for academics and researchers in the fields of athlete development, talent identification, coaching education, health and wellbeing, mental health and related disciplines, whilst also of interest to sport industry professionals such as coaches and policy makers.

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Relative Age Effects in Sport: International Perspectives

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada

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Conference Schedule