Laura ChittlePhD candidate Laura Chittle hopes to interview female hockey players to learn how their age impacts their experiences.

Study to explore impact of birthdates on female hockey players

If you are a girl who knows how to dangle, snipe, and cele, UWindsor’s Laura Chittle wants to hear from you.

Chittle, a PhD student in kinesiology, is conducting research related to females aged 15 and older who play travel ice hockey. For the latest part of her study, she is interviewing players to learn “how their age impacts their experiences.”

Chittle’s research builds on a theory called the “relative age effect” popularized by Canadian writer Malcolm Gladwell. The theory is that there is an inherent bias favouring members of a cohort or team born earlier than their peers.

The theory plays out in Canadian junior hockey where Hockey Canada uses a January 1 cut-off date in grouping players by age. Researchers found that the preponderance of players were born early in the year.

Chittle is looking to interview 20 females who play travel hockey.

“I want to interview them about their experiences in ice hockey to find out how relative age impacts those experiences,” she says.

She has crafted questions that delve into the players’ leadership opportunities and the development of technical and psycho-social skills and hopes to complete her interviews by April.

Earlier parts of Chittle’s research studied the impact of relative age on leadership and the influence of relative age on positive youth development, namely skills that can be transferred to settings other than sports.

Chittle, who is also a sessional instructor in research design, is conducting her research under the supervision of professors Jess Dixon and Sean Horton. Chittle collaborated with Drs. Horton, Dixon, and Patti Weir during her undergraduate and Master’s studies on similar research related to male travel and house league hockey players aged 15 and older.

“Now we’re replicating it for girls’ hockey,” Chittle said. “We hope that through this work we can improve the experiences of future female ice hockey players.”

—Sarah Sacheli

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