Happy Birthday? Relative Age Benefits and Decrements on the Rocky Road
1.1. RAE Advantage Reversal
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Philosophy
2.3. Data Collection
2.4. Data Analysis
3.1. Player Perceptions of Challenge
I was tiny between 14 and 16. When I turned up at the academy at 16, I was 70 kg and still very small…I was always very small all the way until I was 16 or 17, that was when I actually really grew… I would never be able to physically dominate anyone at all. The only hope I had was to use my feet and pace which I think really, really helped and it’s probably why I ended up at 9 I think (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
It was only the fact that at 18 or 19 I found a bit of pace that kind of gave me that X factor to try to compensate a little bit for not being the strongest or the most physical. Physicality is one thing that has always been brought out with me in any review (Player 2: Q1—Retained).
I wasn’t physically muscular I don’t think I was strong I think compared to the others but I was quite tall and slim but I wasn’t massive, I don’t think I stood out from the crowd in any manner I was just a bit taller or you know probably in the top third of height—things like that at that age (Player 7: Q4—Retained).
I was bigger so I could run through people and get around people. It was easier to play because I was a little bit bigger. Skillset-wise I seemed to be a little bit behind (Player 8: Q4—Released).
It seemed seamless to me [transition into senior environment] to be honest I think it was because I was brought in to play in the second team games and then you come to some of the first team training sessions as well and then eventually, they brought you in full time… it was a good transition, it was easy (Player 4: Q1—Released).
I was bigger and taller than a lot of them, that’s the main bit. I had always been taller than everyone my own age (Player 5: Q4—Released).
I knew I was better than players I was playing with at school level, but then you come somewhere like (club)… you know you are far from where you think you are. I kept my head down and worked hard, but I never felt like I didn’t deserve to be in the academy. I sort of felt that I deserved a chance to be in it and give it a shot, but when you get here you sort of realise there are 18-year olds who are way more physical… but that is good. At 16 you strive because you think I have got to catch him up, you know, it gives you goals (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
There was like older guys there as well… so we had 18/19-year-olds who were a lot more physically developed and experienced and better players than us so we were exposed to that and trained with that day in day out, at times like it was difficult… I had to deal with some right XXXX and eventually you start to find your way (Player 6: Q4—Retained).
I was still very small, I was still told probably too small to be a rugby player… it was never a thought of mine to be a professional rugby player but I was always going to be a small skinny player as far as I was concerned (Player 7: Q4—Retained).
It was frustrating that I could not do things that I used to do at 14/15 (years old), running and scoring plenty of tries, but my game changed a lot and I turned into a very different player due to that and it was frustrating (Player 8: Q4—Released).
It was quite scary because I had not played much in senior rugby, I just did not really know… so it was just quite scary not knowing where I was going to be and not knowing what I was going to do… I just lost direction (Player 3: Q1—Released).
Obviously, it was a lot more physically demanding and nothing you were sort of used to before. It was really tough… Just a lot more intense, a lot more volume with the actual rugby skill development and the strength and conditioning development. I’d never had it before, wasn’t really expecting it either (Player 4: Q1—Released).
The first couple of months it really p*ssed me off. You feel like you are standing still and you are desperate to play at that age, and then I remember just speaking to [brother] and my old man, and he just said ‘work hard and make sure that when you do get a go, you are ready to go’… it was then a case of looking at it from a different angle and saying I need to keep working at my passing and my kicking, the gym, the speed (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
3.2. Mechanisms Impacting Player Experience
3.2.1. Nature of Commitment to the Sport
I moved there because it was the best team, the team I was with wasn’t that great and the mini set up was like fading out rather than like getting stronger and at the time (community club) had a strong mini section, so I joined that (Player 5: Q4—Released).
I was very rugby-focused not thinking too much about school. The next level for me was to get into the [club] academy and play for England at under 16s level, that was my driving goal (Player 8: Q4—Released).
The only thing I fixed on was decision making, two on ones, three on ones and obviously the backs were doing something different, all those skills I think that really benefited me and I remember thinking just focus on getting this stuff done... you’ll be better (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
3.2.2. Nature and Influence of Support
Mum and Dad used to make me clean my boots and that, I had one pair of boots and they had to last me for a season, so I was always told to polish them and look after them and make sure they did not split (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
I think by the time it came around to me playing they were supportive but not until I was about 16… I pretty much had to make sure that I got myself sorted for everything (Player 6: Q4—Retained).
My Mum and Dad were so supportive that I didn’t need anything. They sort of volunteered and bought me wherever I needed to go—it was literally all for me (Player 8: Q4—Released).
3.2.3. How Players Learned from Challenge
You have got guys who were probably 20 kg heavier than me…I think a lot of it may have come down to confidence and I didn’t integrate well going into a first team environment… holding back a little bit more than I should have (Player 8: Q4—Released).
The differential response appeared to be a result of a lack of previous experience, reflection on, or development of the skills to cope with or learn from challenge. In contrast, amongst the retained group, players seemed to actively seek out challenging experiences. For example, player 1 deliberately chose to play in an age group beyond his chronological age as a means of increasing his challenge: “I was too young for that age group so at Sunday rugby I always played a year above” (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
There was the likes of XXX and, a lot of the senior players who either were playing or had just retired and were coaching, really kind of nurtured me along the way… it was pretty tough period and I just kept focusing on getter better… yeah tough (Player 1: Q1—Retained).
4.2. Push and Pull Factors
5. Applied Implications
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Eventual Career Status|
|Player 1||Q1||Retained||Senior Test||Senior Test||Super Champion|
|Player 2||Q1||Retained||Senior Test||Senior Test||Super Champion|
|Player 6||Q4||Retained||Premiership||Senior Test||Super Champion|
|Player 7||Q4||Retained||Premiership||Senior Test||Super Champion|
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McCarthy, N.; Taylor, J.; Cruickshank, A.; Collins, D. Happy Birthday? Relative Age Benefits and Decrements on the Rocky Road. Sports 2022, 10, 82. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060082
McCarthy N, Taylor J, Cruickshank A, Collins D. Happy Birthday? Relative Age Benefits and Decrements on the Rocky Road. Sports. 2022; 10(6):82. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060082Chicago/Turabian Style
McCarthy, Neil, Jamie Taylor, Andrew Cruickshank, and Dave Collins. 2022. "Happy Birthday? Relative Age Benefits and Decrements on the Rocky Road" Sports 10, no. 6: 82. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports10060082