Dividing young people into groups on the basis of age has traditionally been used as a tool for ‘matching’ those of supposedly similar abilities. There are, however, other practical ways of achieving this outcome.
Information to help you understand the issue
Young people develop at very different rates physically, psychologically, emotionally and socially. The uneven spread in growth and maturation makes chronological age of limited value in determining a young person’s developmental stage.
Organising children on the basis of chronological age can increase the risk of injury and psychological distress if young people are unevenly matched, particularly in collision sports such as rugby and Australian rules football.
Those who don’t mature as quickly as their peers or who are small for their age may become discouraged and not get the chance to develop their talent. Talented athletes should be provided with the opportunity to develop their skills by playing in the age group that best aligns to their ability and developmental stage.
State and federal anti-discrimination legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate against a young person in sport. There are some exemptions, however, which include allowing restriction of young people into specified age groups. Discrimination exemptions do not apply to young people who wish to be coaches, officials or sports administrators.