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By Marc Madruga, technical director of bewolfish, PhD student at the University of Girona, a professor at the CAFD degree and master’s degree at the EUSES university.

Media has paid much attention to the advantages of athletes who were born in the first half of the year compared to those born between July and December. But, is there really a competitive advantage? If so, why does it happen? And, more importantly, how can athletes born in the second half of the year reverse this situation?

The differences between athletes born in one or another semester have been widely studied in recent years in the sports field. Several studies show the existence of the so-called Effects of the Relative Age (RAE). That is the consequences of being born in the first semester of the year (January-June) or in the second (July-December).

“These factors cause mistrust

in these young people and

less participation in the competition

The Effects of the Relative Age in training stages refer to the difficulties that athletes born in the second semester have in comparison with those born in the first due to physical and maturational disadvantages, and a lower sporting experience. These factors cause mistrust in these young people, less participation in the competition, fewer opportunities in the federation processes and talent detection programs, and it may even end up generating a higher rate of abandonment of sports in this segment of athletes.

“Among the top eight players in the Spanish league,

61.17% of players were born in the first semester

while 38.83% were born in the second

In a simple analysis carried out by bewolfish in professional football teams this season (2017/2018), we can see that among the top eight players in the league, 61.17% of players were born in the first semester while 38.83% were born in the second. In the same analysis carried out among European teams qualified for the Champions League semifinals, 60.71% of players were born in the first semester while 39.29% were born in the second. These data coincide with soccer studies conducted in previous seasons, in lower categories of different Spanish clubs, as well as in other sports such as basketball, handball or tennis.

athletes age

To mitigate the Effects of the Relative Age, different proposals have been studied such as the modification of competition systems or the reform of some criteria in talent detection programs. In the field of training, the implementation of long-term training programs has been proposed in order to avoid the early specialization training programs. Moreover, it has been suggested the need to make the technical teams aware of these effects so that they can take them into account in their planning and training programs.

“The integrated neuromuscular training

has been described as a very effective

method in young athletes to mitigate

the Effects of the Relative Age

In this sense, the integrated neuromuscular training has been described as a very effective method in young athletes to mitigate the Effects of the Relative Age. Mainly because of its improvement effects on the neuromuscular control, the prevention of injuries and the increase of sports performance.

Table 1. Analysis of the Spanish League, according to the classification on 4/16/2018

Table 2. Analysis of the Champions League, the teams qualified for semifinals

In this sense, at bewolfish we consider that in early ages it would be very appropriate to carry out a neuromuscular training program focused on improving balance, agility, coordination, speed and strength. All these through tasks that integrate basic motor skills to promote the optimal development of the athlete. There are several professional football teams, like Atlético de Madrid under the guidance of “Profe” Ortega, who implement this methodology in warm-ups with circuits that have an infinity of neuromuscular tasks.

“Several professional football teams,

like Atlético de Madrid, have implemented

this methodology in warm-ups

The Effects of the Relative Age are a reality, but it is also true that they can be mitigated through supervised neuromuscular training in young athletes. The supervision of these training sessions by expert physical trainers is not only positive for the design of personalized tasks for each athlete but also to adapt the tasks according to the feedback received by the player.

En bewolfish, entendemos que las tareas deben ser funcionales y enfocadas a la concienciación, además de lúdicas para favorecer la motivación del deportista y próximas a la especificad deportiva para que sean significativas. Para conseguirlo, en las distintas sesiones del entrenamiento neuromuscular se pueden utilizar superficies inestables, distintos tipos de pelotas, tecnología inercial (polea cónica) y gomas, entre otros materiales. Aunque la clave reside en la creación de tareas específicas porque serán determinantes para conseguir las adaptaciones y efectos deseados en cada deportista.

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