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Nick Wattie, PhD - University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Oshawa, ON, CA

Nick Wattie, PhD Nick Wattie, PhD

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences | University of Ontario Institute of Technology

Oshawa, ON, CANADA

Breaking down psychosocial and environmental barriers to athlete development and high-performance sport



The making of a high-performance athlete stems from more than merely genetics or solely practice. Nick Wattie, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences, studies the psychosocial and environmental constraints on sport participation and sport expertise, as key determinants in molding an elite athlete. He examines biases that influence athlete development such as socioeconomic status; and further explores the theory that community population and available sports facilities are contributing factors. Understanding the types of environments that are more conducive to positive athlete development can have policy implications in neighbourhood design and resource allocation.

Focused on talent identification and sport development, Dr. Wattie’s research also investigates the impact of the relative age phenomenon in sport and education. His research aims to understand how the social policy that results in age differences within a cohort creates different developmental experiences for children.

Notably, Dr. Wattie aims to determine the biases and constraints that influence parasport athletes in Canada. In collaboration with key stakeholders including the Canadian Sport Institute Ontario, Own the Podium, and Wheelchair Basketball Canada’s national development teams, he is assessing how these athletes develop, and identifying unique characteristics of their experiences and trajectories compared to able-bodied athletes. The goal is to better understand skill acquisition among high-performance parasport athletes.

Beyond elite athletes, Dr. Wattie’s research also looks at the psychosocial and physical health outcomes associated with sport participation in youth and older adults. He joined UOIT in July 2014, following a three-year post-doctoral research fellowship in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University. He is co-editor of the upcoming Routledge Handbook of Talent Identification and Development in Sport.

Avid sport participation during his youth naturally funnelled Dr. Wattie into the field of kinesiology. In 2005, he earned his Bachelor of Life Sciences and his Bachelor of Physical & Health Education, both at Queen’s University in Kingston. In 2007, he received his Master of Arts in Kinesiology from York University’s School of Kinesiology and Health Science in Toronto; and in 2011, he received his Doctorate from the Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education at Leeds Metropolitan University in West Yorkshire, England.

Industry Expertise (7)



Program Development

Sport - Amateur

Sport - Professional

Talent Management

Training and Development

Areas of Expertise (11)

Sport Psychology

Athlete Development

Relative Age Effects

Birthplace Effects


Positive Youth Development

Athlete Morbidity and Mortality

Athlete Health

Constraints on Sport Expertise

Constraints on Sport Participation

Skill Acquisition and Motor Development

Accomplishments (2)

Winner, Radical Statistics Critical Essay Writing Competition (professional)


Awarded for authoring the essay: Relative Age Effects in Education and Sport: An Argument for Human, not Statistical Solutions.

Post-doctoral Research Fellow, School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University (professional)


During his appointment, Dr. Wattie was awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) grant to study the influence of birthplace on athlete development.

Education (4)

Leeds Metropolitan University: PhD, Sport Psychology 2011

York University: MA, Health Epidemiology 2007

Queen's University: BPHE, Physical & Health Education 2005

Queen's University: BSc, Life Sciences 2005

Affiliations (2)

  • Socièté Canadienne D’Apprentissage Psychomotor et de Psychologie du Sport / Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology
  • North American Society for the Psychology of Physical Sport and Activity

Event Appearances (11)

Exploring Intercity Variability in the Development of National Hockey League players from Ontario and Québec

The North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity (NASPSPA) 2016 Conference  Montréal, Québec


A Systematic Review of 25 Years of Research in Talent Selection: Preliminary Results

NASPSPA 2016 Conference  Montréal, Québec


The Interaction of Between Year- and Within Year-Effects in Youth Soccer

NASPSPA 2016 Conference  Montréal, Québec


Ultimate Costs of Expertise: A Review of Mortality in Elite Athletes

Eastern Canada Sport & Exercise Psychology Symposium  McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario


Development in Para-athletes; What do we Know?

Eastern Canada Sport & Exercise Psychology Symposium  McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario


Understanding the Origins of Canadian Olympic Performance: Geographic Constraints on the Acquisition of Sport Expertise

Understanding the Acquisition and Maintenance of Sporting Expertise: Current Perspectives Symposium at the Canadian Society for Psychomotor Learning and Sport Psychology (SCAPPS) Annual Conference  Edmonton, Alberta


Development of Expertise in Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Players

Understanding the Acquisition and Maintenance of Sporting Expertise: Current Perspectives Symposium at the SCAPPS Annual Conference  Edmonton, Alberta


A Between-Province Investigation of the Birthplace Effect Among Elite Canadian Ice Hockey Players, Symposium

14th European Congress of Sport Psychology  Bern, Switzerland


Relative Age Effects in Elite German Youth Basketball, Symposium

14th European Congress of Sport Psychology  Bern, Switzerland


Transferability Between Virtual and Real Darts: A Training Study on Throwing Performance and Quiet-Eye Behaviour with Novices, Poster Presentation

14th European Congress of Sport Psychology  Bern, Switzerland


Searching for Common Ground in an Uneven Playing Field: Exploring Participation Biases in High Performance Sport

Pan American Sport and Exercise Research Summit  Toronto, Ontario


Research Grants (3)

Examining and Addressing Constraints to Sport Participation Among Ethnically Diverse Female Adolescents from Durham Region

Women’s College Hospital – The $15K Challenge $14998


There is unequivocal evidence to show that participation in sport is lower among adolescent girls when compared to age-matched boys, and that among girls, ethnic minorities are particularly underrepresented in sport. Although constraints to sport participation among adolescent girls have been identified, little is known about the interaction of these constraints in diverse milieus where a wide range of factors interplay. This research project aims to better understand the diverse constraints to participation for ethnic-minority adolescent girls from Durham region, and better inform programs that have the capacity to increase sport participation and physical activity.

Ties that Bind – Relationships Between Age Relative to Peers, Sport Participation, Educational Attainment and Positive Development

SSHRC Insight Development Grant $62626


This two-year pilot project explores the relative age phenomenon within sport and whether individuals born earlier in the year are more likely to be picked for youth sports teams. It also examines how that kind of social policy creates different developmental experiences for children.

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A Level Playing Field? Bias in Canadian High-Performance Sport

SSHRC Insight Grant $98000


This three-year research project examines the biases and constraints that influence athlete development in high-performance sport. It looks at the impact of relative age and socioeconomic status, and further explores research suggesting that community size is an important factor in elite athlete development.

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Courses (5)

Health Promotion and Healthy Active Living

HLSC 1810U, 1st Year Undergraduate Course

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Social Determinants of Health

HLSC 1811U, 1st Year Undergraduate Course

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Socio-cultural Perspectives on Physical Activity and Health

HLSC 1812U, 1st Year Undergraduate Course

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Health and Exercise Psychology

HLSC 3020U, 3rd Year Undergraduate Course

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Selected Topics in Physical Activity and Health

HLSC 4460U, 4th Year Undergraduate Course

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Articles (12)

Does Relative Age Affect Career Length in North American Professional Sports? Sports Medicine - Open


Relative age effects (RAEs) typically favour older members within a cohort; however, research suggests that younger players may experience some long-term advantages, such as longer career length. The purposes of this study were to replicate previous findings on RAEs among National Hockey League (NHL) ice hockey players, National Basketball Association (NBA) basketball players and National Football League (NFL) football players and to investigate the influence of relative age on career length in all three sports.

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Early Death in Active Professional Athletes: Trends and Causes Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports


The objective of the study was to examine mortality trends and causes of death among professional athletes from the four major sports in North America who died during their playing careers. 205 deceased athletes who were registered as active when they died from the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Football League (NFL), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Baseball (MLB) were examined. Results were compared with the Canadian and U.S. general population.

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Developmental Contexts, Depth of Competition and Relative Age Effects in Sport: A Database Analysis and a Quasi-Experiment Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling


Improving learning environments require an understanding of biases and restrictions of current environments. The widely used policy of grouping youth into ‘age groups’ for education and sport promotes a persistent and pervasive developmental disadvantage known as the ‘relative age effect’. This investigation documents two studies examining the potential role of depth of competition in promoting relative age effects in sport.

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Virtual Realities as Optimal Learning Environments in Sport – A Transfer Study of Virtual and Real Dart Throwing Psychological Test and Assessment Modeling


Virtual realities offer a safe and repeatable learning environment, which is optimal for skills that are difficult to replicate in real-world settings. Previous research has demonstrated transfer of motor skill between basketball and darts but not of perceptual performance (Rienhoff et al., 2013). Our study considered the transferability of a specific skill between virtual and real learning environments – in our case throwing accuracy (TA) and quiet-eye duration (QED) in dart throwing.

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Book Chapter: Birthdate and Birthplace Effects on Expertise Attainment The Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise, London: Routledge


The Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise is the first book to offer a comprehensive overview of current research and practice in the emerging field of sports expertise. Adopting a multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted approach, the book offers in-depth discussion of methodological and philosophical issues in sport expertise, as well as the characteristics that describe sporting ‘experts’ and how they can be facilitated and developed.

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Book Chapter: Defining Expertise: A Taxonomy of Skill Levels for Research in Skill Acquisition and Expertise The Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise, London: Routledge


With contributions from many of the world’s leading researchers in expertise and skill acquisition in sport, the Routledge Handbook of Sport Expertise is important reading for any advanced student, researcher, coach or sport science support officer looking to better understand this cutting-edge topic.

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Sport and Longevity: Does Being an Elite Athlete Result in Longer Life? Health and Elite Sport: Is High Performance Sport a Healthy Pursuit? London: Routledge


Health and Elite Sport is the first book to critically examine the relationship between participation in high performance sport and health outcomes. Drawing on theory and empirical data from a wide range of disciplines, including sociology, developmental psychology, epidemiology, and physical education, the book explores the benefits and detriments of participation in elite sport for both individuals (athletes, coaches, spectators) and communities.

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The Relative Age Effect in Sport: A Developmental Systems Model Sports Medicine


The policies that dictate the participation structure of many youth sport systems involve the use of a set selection date (e.g. 31 December), which invariably produces relative age differences between those within the selection year (e.g. 1 January to 31 December). This paper reviews and summarizes the existing literature on relative age in sport, and proposes a constraints-based developmental systems model for relative age effects (RAEs) in sport.

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The Precocity-Longevity Hypothesis Re-Examined: Does Career Start Age in Canadian National Hockey League Players Influence Length of Lifespan? Journal of Sports Science and Medicine


Available data on elite athletes suggests they have longer lifespans than the general population (Teramoto and Bungum, 2010); however, this relationship is likely more nuanced than previously considered. This study explored the precocity-longevity hypothesis among Canadian-born National Hockey League (NHL) players. Based on the link between high career achievement and early mortality identified in previous research, we hypothesized that precocious NHL players would have shorter lifespans than those debuting at later ages.

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Does Relative Age Influence Motor Test Performance of Fourth Grade Pupils? European Physical Education Review


The aim of the current study was to explore relative age's influence on physical and motor tests among fourth grade children (9 to 10 years) from Germany. Data from 1218 children (49 per cent female) who had performed the German Motor Ability Test (Bos et al., 2009) were analyzed. These results may have implications for statistical vs. practical significance, sampling, and how youth are evaluated in physical education classes.

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Relative Age-Related Participation and Dropout Trends in German Youth Sports Clubs European Journal of Sport Science


Relative age describes a youth's age within their age group cohort. Compared to relatively younger peers, relatively older youth in an annual age group cohort have been found more likely to be selected to sports teams, and to receive higher grades in education. This study examined the influence of youth sport participants' relative age on participation and dropout.

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No Link Between Date of Birth and ADHD Symptoms in Adults Journal of Attention Disorders


In this study, we considered whether birthdate predicted ADHD symptomatology using two well known mechanisms, the relative age effect (RAE) and the season of birth effect (SOBE). Overall, results did not support a RAE or SOBE among males or females. Possible reasons for these findings and their implications are discussed.

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