Do David Beckham or Michael Jordan owe any of their success to the day they were born? It definitely seems odd that a birthday could have an effect on kids sports, specifically a child’s chance of being a star but, according to a study conducted here in Australia, a little date can make a pretty big difference.
Senior research fellow Adrian Barnett from Queensland University of Technology’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation recently partnered with researcher Annette Dobson from the University of Queensland to conduct a study on how birth dates relate to health and fitness, the results of which are published in a book titled ‘Analysing Seasonal Health Data’.
What they found was pretty incredible.
The study used public data to analyse the birthdays of players from the professional Australian Football League (AFL). The results showed that a disproportionate number of the players were born in the early months of the year, while a far fewer number were born in the later months, particularly in December.
A key thing to note: the Australian school year begins in January.
Essentially, this means that most of the Australian footballers were old for their class from the first year they started. Children born in January had a significant advantage on their classmates who didn’t turn the same age until December. This meant that the older kids were often taller, stronger and more physically developed than their younger counterparts, a major advantage when it came to starting kids sports.
The study found that there were 33% more professional AFL players than expected with birthdays in January while there were 25% fewer than expected in December.
Though significant, these results are not too surprising in light of other international studies that have found a similar phenomenon in kids sports such as ice hockey, football, volleyball and basketball.
Barnett believes that the experiment could explain more far more than athletics. “Research in the UK shows those born at the start of the school year also do better academically and have more confidence,” stated Barnett. “And with physical activity being so important, it could also mean smaller children get disheartened and play less sport. If smaller children are missing out on sporting activity then this has potentially serious consequences for their health in adulthood.”
Barnett said that this seasonal pattern could also result in wasted talent as potential sports stars could be masked by others out-performing them simply because they are older, larger and more physically mature.
Barnett’s proposed solution was for kids sports codes in Australia to change the team entry date from January 1 to July 1.
Until then, it’s worth taking your child’s age into consideration as they begin sports and school. Though there may be nothing you can do to change their enrollment date or the team they are placed in, you can always be a constant source of encouragement and work with them to give them a bit of extra support in the classroom, on the field or anywhere else.
This research appears in ‘Analysing Seasonal Health Data’, Springer, 2010.
Feature Image Via Auskick