Distributional characteristics of relative age in china football players

Por: Xiang Ke e Zhijiang Huang.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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According to Barnseley, Thompson, and Legault [1], relative age refers to the difference of age between individuals in the same age group is referred to as relative age, and its consequence is known as the Relative Age Effect (RAE). A remarkable amount of studies have shown the existing of RAE in various sports [2]. However, the question that whether the RAE is elaborated in different cultural background or sport system or not has not been well discussed. To validate the RAE within China sport system, the distributional characteristics of relative age of Chinese football players is examined in the present paper.


The birth dates of 811 male football players from 27 clubs are collected. All the clubs took part in the China football League A and B 2002. The distributional characteristics of 790 valid data are examined with Chi-square method.


The distribution of birth date of 790 participants is cited in table 1.

Table 1. Distribution of birth month among China football players.

Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Frequency 121 73 76 75 64 68 58 58 58 50 50 39
Proportion(%) 15.3 9.2 9.6 9.5 8.1 8.6 7.3 7.3 7.3 6.3 6.3 4.9

A Chi-square method indicates a significant difference (c2 = 71.33, df = 11, P = 0.000 )among the birth date (month) of China football players: the number of athletes who have greater relative age is significantly higher than those who have less relative age. With regards to the birth quarter, this trend get more cleared (table 2): the frequency of observed cases decreases according to the quarter.

Table 2. Distributional characteristics of birth quarter of Chinese football players.

League Birth Quarter Sum x2 Sig
1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
A 135 122 93 75 425 20.96 P < 0.001
B 135 85 81 64 365 30.69 P < 0.001
Sum. 270 207 174 139 790 47.19 P < 0.001

Discussion/ Conclusions

The results from Chinese football players reveal that the athletes who have greater relative age (in the present study, have an earlier birth month) will have greater possibility to engage in top level of the sport. It is discussed here that, the RAE could be also observed within China sport system. However, studies from various sports are expected to provide solid conclusion. The Theory of Deliberate Practice (DPT) from Ericsson and his colleagues [3] is suggested to be a potential explain of this cross-cultural commonalities on RAE.


  1. Barnseley, R. H., Thompson, A. H., & Legault, P. (1992). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 27, 77-87.
  2. J. Musch & S. Grondin (2001). Developmental Review, 21, 147-167.
  3. Ericsson, K. A., Krampe, R., & Tesch-Roemer, C. (1993 Psychological Review, 100, 363-406.



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