April 02, 2007

Why I never made it to the football team

Stephan J Dubner and Steven D Levitt, of Freakonomics have written an article in the New York Times about the birth month-Soccor Anomaly which explains why I never made it to the football team.

The Anomaly can be stated thus:

If you were to examine the birth certificates of every soccer player in next month's World Cup tournament, you would most likely find a noteworthy quirk: elite soccer players are more likely to have been born in the earlier months of the year than in the later months. On recent English teams, for instance, half of the elite teenage soccer players were born in January, February or March, with the other half spread out over the remaining 9 months.

The rest of the article goes on to say that genes and environment or rather talent is not a very big factor in the elite class in any field, with which I don't quite agree. But I concur with his explanation of the anomaly for more than just divine logic. His explanation goes like this:
Since youth sports are organized by age bracket, teams inevitably have a cutoff birth date. In the European youth soccer leagues, the cutoff date is Dec. 31. So when a coach is assessing two players in the same age bracket, one who happened to have been born in January and the other in December, the player born in January is likely to be bigger, stronger, more mature. Guess which player the coach is more likely to pick? He may be mistaking maturity for ability, but he is making his selection nonetheless. And once chosen, those January-born players are the ones who, year after year, receive the training, the deliberate practice and the feedback — to say nothing of the accompanying self-esteem — that will turn them into elites.

Now I don't need to tell you that I was born in December.

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