Late Bloomers: Hockey is Not Your Sport.

December 4, 2011


Did you ever play hockey when you were younger?  The leagues are set up in a weird way: they separate kids by calendar year, not school year.  I was born in December; the majority of my best friends were born in the three or four months that follow.  Not getting to play with my friends was pretty unlucky, having to play with kids that were, in some cases, almost a full year older than me.

I read an article this weekend that related the Matthew Effect to youth hockey leagues.  For those who don’t know, the Matthew Effect is essentially the phenomenon where, “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.”  In short: the article argued that kids born in early months (the rich) are getting better coaching and more playing time (richer) because they have a biological advantage to those born in the later months (the poor) who are not getting the same attention (poorer).

The point is this: some of these age groups create unfair advantages for the older kids and are actually potentially dangerous to younger, less mature players.  So, my question to the blogosphere is: How would some of the authors we have read this semester evaluate this system?

I know this might be an extreme case for Locke’s moral theory, however I think he would find this system flawed.  He would argue that it is the league’s responsibility to ensure the safety of all players – and the current system does not. Locke would advocate a system a universal equality.  He would seek new regulations for age groups – one that does not sacrifice equality for convenience.  I understand that these players have given their consent to play in this league, but they have only done so because there is no other choice.  Would, in Locke’s view, the fact that these players haven given consent be more important than their safety? I do not think so. Do you?

Here is a link to the article.

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4 Comments on “Late Bloomers: Hockey is Not Your Sport.”

  1. schoemad Says:

    I played hockey from when I was six until sixteen and although I was born in April, I didn’t feel like I had more advantages than the other players. I guess it is possible that I had earlier month privilege that I just didn’t notice. I believe that Rawls would probably believe that the difference is okay. Rawls’ idea of a just society is one where although there are inequalities, those inequalities still benefit the less fortunate in the end. If the players who are younger might be receiving more attention and playing time, it will still benefit the team, thus also benefiting the older players. If the team wins more everyone should be generally happier, it usually doesn’t matter if the older players get less playing time on the ice.
    In my personal opinion, I really don’t think that there is a problem regarding the age of the players. Although age is a factor in size, the players are not always going to be bigger and more mature due to a few months. The divisions are set up that there are younger and older team members and by having both on the team the players will learn from the more experienced.

  2. bonannianthony Says:

    I have played hockey my whole life and I actually remember when the birthday rule was changed. I went from being the absolute youngest kid on my team to being one of the oldest. I found it strange to be on a whole new team with all new kids. However, I quickly loved it, I got to meet new friends and some of those kids are still my best friends today. I don’t really think the birth year rule gave me an advantage. Being small my whole life I would find that being a bigger kid would have given me a much larger advantage. For example, when I was 13 my team went to a Peewee Tournament in Quebec City and we got to play teams from all over the world. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. What I’m getting at is during the skill competition of the tournament there was a hardest shot competition. A kid on my team ended up winning the competition which was awesome. Perhaps the most remarkable thing was he was a 94 birth year in a tournament with mostly 93s. However, the kid who won the competition was over six feet tall.

    As for Rawls I think he would be okay with the way the ages are broken up in youth hockey. No matter how you break up the ages there will always be people who get the short end of the straw. Life is not going to give you all the breaks so youth sports most definitely should not.

  3. mpogoda3 Says:

    This article brings up many interesting points. I recently read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers” and he brought up similar statistics about the disadvantages of younger hockey placers. He wrote that over 70 percent of NHL players are born between the months of January-April, and it is a huge uphill battle for someone with a late birthday. Because hockey is such a physical sport, the scouts look at older athletes because they will develop quicker, along with many other advantages.

    I think that Locke would completely disagree with the system in place and want to find something to neutralize younger players’ disadvantages. As someone with a young birthday (November 16th), I can definitely relate with the struggle in athletics. I was always smaller than the rest of my teammates and had to work that much harder just to stay afloat with the athletics. While Locke would not favor the current system, there is never a COMPLETELY fair way to neutralize the playing field.

  4. dcmiller93 Says:

    Your post reminded me of our discussion earlier this year about the nature of contingent facts of birth – things like sex, nationality, race, etc. As I understand it, time of birth would certainly fall into this category as well as another factor which, from my experiences in sports, seems to be neglected – pace of development. I still remember my days as an athlete in middle school, being an avid basketball and baseball player, looking at the differences between my still-developing seventh grade body and that of the hulking eighth graders in my same league. It seems in this way the greatest disadvantages arise, because the boys who develop a little slower are hugely disadvantaged to their counterparts. Perhaps this is one example of a case in which Rousseau’s idealistic view of inequalities being unimportant or beneficial differences misses the mark.

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