Pathway efficiency and relative age in the Australian Football League talent pathway

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Talent Development and Excellence


International Research Association for Talent Development and Excellence


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts




Originally published as: Cripps, A. J., Hopper, L. S., Joyce, C., & Veale, J. (2015). Pathway efficiency and relative age in the Australian Football League talent pathway. Talent Development and Excellence, 7(1), 3-11.


Sporting bodies invest substantial resources into the identification and development of talented junior athletes. However, low retention of junior athletes into senior competition has been reported. One mechanism affecting retention may be selections biased by relative age. This study examined the pathway involvement and birth distribution of athletes (n=2519) selected into the Australian Football League Talent Pathway, over six seasons. Only half of athletes selected into professional teams had any involvement in the talent pathway. Birth distributions at every pathway stage werebiased towards relatively older athletes, with relatively older athletes more likely to be de-selected as the pathway progressed. Results from this study found a elationship between poor efficiency of the development pathway and relative age effects. Prospective analyses are required to establish mechanisms of pathway inefficiencies in order to improve return on investment made into developing the professional athletes of the future.

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