I don’t read nearly as many books as I should, but one that’s always stuck with me is Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
In the first chapter, he discusses the fascinating observation that, statistically, most of the best professional ice hockey players are born in January, February and March.
Were they predisposed from birth to favour the cold, wintry weather of Canada? No, but their birth date results in them being the oldest in their classes.
As it is for most schools in Singapore, the school year there begins in January and, therefore, the children whose birth dates are in January and February will be the oldest in their school year.
For these young potential ice hockey players, this meant that their advanced physical maturity during primary school gave them an advantage in sports.
They were faster and stronger, they were consistently picked for the best teams, they received the best coaching and they went on to succeed more in professional sports.
Another study, by the University of Florida, of public school students between 1994 and 2000, concluded that those who were the eldest in their school year were more likely to grow up to be confident, were more likely to graduate from university, were less likely to end up in prison and, overall, had better lives.
These studies and statistics have been bothering me intensely in the past few weeks because my elder son is five years old and is surrounded by six-year-olds – he is one of the youngest in his class.
A few weeks ago, we were invited to one of those six-year-olds’ birthday party at the Turf City playing fields, where the kids got to play touch rugby.
Suddenly, seeing the varying heights of the players, the concept of age hit home for me like a thunderous All Blacks second-row spear tackling me.
There was one kid who was clearly the oldest of the bunch and seeing him alongside the other rugby kids was like watching a Great Dane gallop past a bunch of yelping Jack Russell puppies.