German Journal of Exercise and Sport Research

, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 194–204 | Cite as

Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses of the relative age effect in German youth football

Impacts of talent selection procedures between competition levels and age categories
  • Andreas Votteler
  • Oliver Höner
Main Articles


Relative age effects (RAEs) describe an overrepresentation of youths born early within annual age cohorts. An understanding of how talent selection procedures cause RAE emergence in talent development programmes facilitates specific advice for their reduction. This cross-sectional and longitudinal study investigated the location of RAE differences between consecutive age categories and competition levels and RAE emergence through talent selection procedures. The sample comprised 35,390 male youth football players from the German talent development programme from three seasons (2010/2011–2012/2013). Cross-sectional analyses showed a consistent increase of RAEs over four ascending competition levels and slightly increasing RAEs from age categories U12 to U15, with a subsequent decrease until U19. The longitudinal analyses of talent selection procedures revealed an RAE increase for players newly selected for higher competition levels and no change in RAE extent for players retained across consecutive age categories at the same competition level. Findings were used to specify common suggestions to reduce RAEs in talent development programmes.


Reduction interventions Selection processes Talent development Youth soccer 

Quer- und Längsschnittanalysen des relativen Alterseffekts im deutschen Jugendfußball

Auswirkungen der Talentauswahlprozesse zwischen Wettkampfniveaus und Altersklassen


Ein relativer Alterseffekt (RAE) liegt bei einer auf einen Stichtag bezogenen Überrepräsentation relativ Älterer in Jahreskohorten vor. Für fundierte Vorschläge zu einer Reduktion des RAE ist es notwendig zu verstehen, wie Talentauswahlprozesse zur Entstehung des RAE in Talentförderprogrammen beitragen. Diese Studie untersucht querschnittlich und längsschnittlich, wo Unterschiede im RAE-Ausmaß zwischen aufeinanderfolgenden Wettkampfniveaus und Altersklassen auftreten und durch welche Talentauswahlprozesse eine Veränderung des RAE-Ausmaßes verursacht wird. Die Studienstichprobe enthält 35.390 Jugendfußballspieler des deutschen Talentförderprogrammes aus drei Spielzeiten (2010/11 bis 2012/13). Die querschnittlichen Analysen ergaben eine gleichmäßige Zunahme des RAE-Ausmaßes über vier aufsteigende Wettkampfniveaus und geringfügig ansteigende RAEs zwischen den Altersklassen U12 bis U15 mit einem anschließenden Rückgang bis zur U19. Die Längsschnittanalyse der Talentauswahlprozesse zeigte eine Zunahme des RAE-Ausmaßes bei der Auswahl neuer Spieler für höhere Wettkampfniveaus und keine RAE-Änderungen für Spieler, die auf demselben Wettkampfniveau in die nächsthöhere Altersklasse übernommen wurden. Aufbauend auf den Ergebnissen werden gängige Vorschläge für eine RAE-Reduktion spezifiziert.


Reduktionsmaßnahmen Auswahlprozesse Talentförderung Jugendfußball 



We would like to thank the staff of the DFB’s Department for Talent Development for general cooperation, support with additional data and productive discussions in several meetings.

Compliance with ethical guidelines

Conflict of interest

A. Votteler and O. Höner declare that they have no competing interests.

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Supplementary material

12662_2017_457_MOESM1_ESM.docx (15 kb)
Expected Birth Distribution for the χ2 Test (Goodness-of-fit)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Sports ScienceEberhard Karls University of TübingenTübingenGermany

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