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EZ2019L

On 2019-04-09, the Eastern Zone published proposed qualifying times for their 2019 Long Course age group championships.  These cuts are substantially similar to last year’s cuts.


In this post, we’ll analyze the difficulty of making those cuts.  We’ll show that it’s much easier for older athletes to qualify for this meet than younger ones.  We’ll also show that it’s 1.4 times easier for boys than girls to make the proposed qualifying times.  The greatest gender disparity is in the 11-12 age group, where boys are expected to qualify for 1.5 times as many events as girls.


To analyze the difficulty of making a cut, we’ll calculate acceptance likelihoods for the events in the meet.  The acceptance likelihood for an event is the number of athletes in the event’s age range that swam at least as fast the the event’s qualifying time, divided by the total number of athletes in the age range.  We’ll use our database of 23 million USA-S age group swims to calculate these numbers.


For technical background, please review “The Fairness of Qualifying Times”.  For analysis of the 2018 Zone age group championship qualifying times, please review “Zone Championships are Unfair”.

Overview.

This chart plots the average number of events that an age group athlete will qualify for in EZ2019L by gender and age group.  It shows that 12/Unders qualify for 0.2 events on average, while 15/Overs qualify for 1.1 events on average.


We can also see that boys qualify for more events than girls in every age group. To show the gender disparity more clearly, we plot the ratio of the boys' expected acceptances to the girls'.  This shows that boys are expected to qualify for 1.5 times as many events as girls in the 11-12 age group. The fairest age group is the 13-14, where boys are only expected to qualify for 1.03 times as many events as the girls.


To show the age group disparity more clearly, we plot the ratio of the 15-18 expected acceptances to the other age groups.  On average, 15-18 year olds qualify for 9.4 times as many events as the 6-10 year olds, 6.6 as many events as the 11-12 year olds, and 2.9 times as many events as the 13-14 year olds.



The next plot breaks the expected acceptances down by athlete age in years.  It shows that 8/Unders have essentially no chance of qualifying for any events in the meet, and that it’s twice as hard for athletes aged 9 or 11 to make these cuts (0.04) as it is for an age 14 athlete to make Futures cuts (0.08).


In a previous post, we analyzed 28 age group championships sanctioned by 14 LSCs.  It’s roughly as easy for a 15-18 year old to qualify for the 2019 LC Zones as it is for a 14/under to qualify for JOs in most LSCs.


Proposed Solutions.

As currently formulated, the 2019 EZ LC age group championship provides significantly greater opportunities to boys at the expense of girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger ones.


An easy way to address these inequities would be to adopt the “AAA” times from the USA Swimming 2020 Motivational Times.  The Central Zone uses “AAA” times for its LC age group championship, and our prior analysis has shown those times to be fair overall.  Using the motivational times as qualifying times has the additional virtues of transparency and avoiding annual ad hoc adjustments to the qualifying times.


It is also possible to craft gender-fair qualifying times to meet target participation levels, using a large database of USA-S age group swims.   We would be glad to help.

10/Under Events.

Looking at the 10/Under events, we can see that (a) shorter events are easier to qualify for than longer ones and (b) it’s much easier for boys to qualify than girls in every event.


To quantify the gender disparity in these event qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This shows that boys have more than 1.4 times the likelihood of qualifying in the 400 Free and 50 Back.


11-12 Events.

Looking at the 11-12 events, we can see some anomalies: (a)  it’s easier to qualify for the 100 Free and the 400 Free than 50 Free; (b) the 50 Breast is the easiest event to qualify for; and (a) the 200 Back is the most difficult event to qualify for.  Also we can see that it’s vastly easier for boys to qualify than girls in every event.



To quantify the gender disparity in these event qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This shows that boys have more than 1.5 times the likelihood of qualifying than girls in eight events. The 50 Back has the most unfair qualifying times, with boys having 1.8 times the likelihood of qualifying than girls.



13-14 Events.

Looking next at the 13-14 events, we can see some anomalies for both boys and girls.  For boys, the 400 Free cut is easier than the 200 Free cut, and the 400 IM is easier than the 200 IM. For girls, the 100 Free is easier than the 50 Free, and  the 100 and 200 Breast are equally easy.



To quantify the gender disparity in these event qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boys' acceptance likelihood to the girls'.  This shows that boys have more than 1.3 times the likelihood of qualifying than girls in two events: the 50 Free and 100 Breast.



Note that the acceptance likelihood ratio is below 1 for seven events: 100 Free, 200 Free, 200 Back, 200 Breast, 200 Fly, 200 IM, and 400 IM.  That means those events are easier for girls to qualify for than boys. To show those results, we’ll plot the natural logarithm of the acceptance ratio.  This “log ratio” is positive when boys have the greater acceptance likelihood, and negative when girls have the greater acceptance likelihood. Our log-ratio plot shows that it’s easier for boys in seven events and easier for girls in six events.  The 200 Breast is a wash. The events most unfair to girls are the 50 Free and 100 Breast, where boys are 1.35 times more likely to qualify. The event most unfair to boys is the 200 IM, where girls are 1.36 times more likely to qualify. The seven events favorable to boys balance against the six events favorable to girls, resulting the fairest overall age group where boys only have a 1.03 time advantage.



15-18 Events.

Turning to the 15-18 events, we can see that it’s unusually difficult for girls to qualify in the 50 Free, relative to boys and to the other girls Free cuts.



Plotting the ratio of the acceptance likelihoods shows that it’s easier for boys to qualify in all but one event (the 200 Back).   In the most extreme cases, boys have 1.9 times the likelihood of qualifying in the 50 Free, 1.7 times in the 1500 Free, and 1.46 times in the 200 Fly.



Plotting the log-ratios of the acceptance likelihoods shows that it’s only a little bit easier for girls to qualify in the 200 Back than boys (1.1 times).



Conclusion.

The proposed qualifying times for the 2019 Eastern Zone Long Course Age Group Championship provide significantly more opportunity to boys than girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger athletes.  We’ve also seen that even in the most fair age group (13-14), the individual events in the age group are not fair. To address these inequities, we recommend using the “AAA” USA-S age group motivational times, which are known to be gender-fair.  The alternative is to use statistical analysis to choose event qualifying times that will be fair both boys and girls, and athletes of all ages.