Sure, we'd all love to sit beaming in the bleachers as our child becomes a sports superstar. It’s no wonder parents go to insane lengths to give their child a competitive edge -- from the best equipment to pricey training camps – so they might make it to the big leagues. But the success of certain children over others has long caused people to question whether practice and dedication are only one part of the puzzle. Could some kids be natural-born athletes? The answer may shock you.
Birth Month Study
So you’ve bought little Jimmy the best pair of cleats you could afford, and you’ve signed him up for that six-week baseball training camp on the other side of town. Could all of that effort be in vain because of when he was born? According to a recent study, his birth month could be just as important as all that training and equipment. The BBC cited a study in which all athletes at the Beijing Olympics were analyzed to determine their birth month. The results? More of the athletes were born in the first three months of the year than any other quarter.
Before you grab your calendar to plan your next pregnancy around this birth-month theory, take note: It’s actually not the month that gives certain children a leg up. Rather, it’s the proximity to a “cut-off date” that allows a child to participate in a given sport. In the Olympic study, for example, the cut-off date for those sports has always been January 1. This means children born just after the cut-off date have to wait an entire year to join for the following season, whereas those who were born before the date could enter as soon as they were old enough. That means those who were born right after the date can be up to a year older -- as well as bigger and stronger -- than the rest of the kids starting the sport.
Nature Versus Nurture
If your 4-year-old wants to begin soccer and was born just after the cut-off date, he'll likely be bigger than many teammates. Coaches may see him as more formidable and possibly even more physically capable. In turn, he may get more attention and playing time, and as a result, build more confidence. He would be conditioned to be a better athlete, but not necessarily because of his natural ability in soccer. Even though size isn’t always the deciding factor, it has become cliché in sports that size matters.
Missing the Cut
So what about the children born just before the cut-off date? The BBC study reports that they have to show more resilience to stay with the sport because they are likely to have a harder time. The study says children are more likely to stick with something they have early success with, but because of their age, struggling youngsters are more likely to quit because they can be easily discouraged.