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EZ2019Y

In this post, we analyze the qualifying times for the 2019 Eastern Zone Short Course Age Group Championships (EZ2019Y).  This is the only zone-level age group championship offered for the short course.  We’ll show that the qualifying times for this meet provide significantly more opportunity to boys at the expense of girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger athletes.  The gender disparity is greatest in the 11-12 age group, where a boy is expected to qualify for 1.6 times more events than a girl.


To analyze the difficulty of making a cut, we’ll use our historical database of 23 million USA-S age group swims to calculate athlete acceptance likelihoods.  The acceptance likelihood for an event is the number of USA-S 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 USA-S athletes in the age range.  For technical background, please review “The Fairness of Qualifying Times”.  For analysis of the 2018 Zone Age Group Championship qualifying times, see “Zone Championships are Unfair”.

The Age Group Disparity.

Our analysis begins with an overview of the EZ2019Y qualifying times by age group.  This chart plots the average number of events that an athlete will qualify for in EZ2019Y by age group.  It shows that on average 10/Unders qualify for 0.2 events each, 11-12 year olds qualify for 0.3 events each, 13-14 year olds qualify for 0.5 events each, and 15-18 year olds qualify for 1.2 events each.

The age group disparity is enormous. 15/Overs qualify for 6.1 times as many events as 10/Unders. Breaking this down by single age reveals that 8/Unders have almost no chance to qualify for this meet, while 9 year olds and 11 year olds face a steep challenge.


Indeed, it’s easier for a 14 year old to make a Futures cut than it is for a 9 year old to qualify for this zone-level meet.


And it’s easier for a 15/Over to qualify for this zone-level meet than it is for a 14/Under to qualify for Junior Olympics in most LSCs. In short, the qualifying times for 15/Overs are so generous that this meet would not be considered a championship meet in most of USA Swimming.

The Gender Disparity.

Overall, boys are expected to qualify for 1.3 times as many events as girls in EZ2019Y.


Breaking down the expected acceptances by age group and gender reveals that a boy is expected to qualify for more events than a girl in every age group except 13-14.

To show this gender disparity more clearly, we plot the ratio of the boy’s expected acceptances to the girl’s.  This plot shows that a boy is expected to qualify for 1.2 to 1.6 times as many events as a girl, depending on the age group.  The one exception is the 13-14 age group, where girls and boys are expected to qualify for similar numbers of events.


The remainder of this post analyzes the individual events in each age group.  We’ll learn that it’s easier for a boy to qualify for most events in this meet than a girl.  The most unfair event in the meet is the 11-12 50 freestyle, where a boy has 2.2 times the likelihood qualifying as a girl.

10/Under Events.

The easiest 10/Under event to qualify for is the 50yd breaststroke, for both boys and girls.


To quantify the gender disparity in the 10/Under qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This plot shows that all 10/Under events favor boys at the expense of girls. The most unfair 10/Under events are the 50 and 200 freestyle, where a boy has 1.5 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl. The fairest 10/Under event is the 500 freestyle, where a boy has only 1.08 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl.



11-12 Events.

Turning now to the 11-12 events, we see it’s easiest for boys to qualify in the freestyle events and for girls to qualify in the individual medleys.

To quantify the gender disparity in these 11-12 qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’s.  This plot shows that all fifteen 11-12 events favor boys at the expense of girls. A boy has at least 1.5 times the likelihood of qualifying than a girl in nine of the fifteen events.  The 50 freestyle has the most unfair qualifying times, with a boy having 2.2 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl.

13-14 Events.

Looking next at the 13-14 events, we can see that the shorter freestyle events are again the easiest to qualify for, while the distance freestyle events are most difficult.  We’ll also note that for the first time it’s easier for a girl to qualify in most of these events.



To quantify the gender disparity in these 13-14 qualifying times, we plot the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl's.  This plot shows that only two of 13-14 events favor boys at the expense of girls: the 50 freestyle and the 100 breaststroke.



Next we’ll plot the ratio of the girl’s acceptance likelihood to the boys. This plot confirms that it’s easier for girls to qualify in eleven of the fourteen events for the 13-14 age group.  The most unfair event in this age group is the 100 backstroke, where a girl has nearly 1.4 times the likelihood of qualifying than a boy.


15-18 Events.

As in the other age groups, the shorter freestyle events are easiest to qualify for in the 15-18 age group while the distance freestyle events are the most difficult to qualify for.



Plotting the ratio of the boy’s acceptance likelihood to the girl’ shows that all 15-18 events favor boys at the expense of girls.  The 100 breaststroke and 400 IM have the most unfair qualifying times, with a boy having 1.3 times greater likelihood of qualifying than a girl.


Conclusion.

We’ve seen that the qualifying times for the 2019 Eastern Zone Short Course Age Group Championship provide significantly more opportunity to boys at the expense of girls, and to older athletes at the expense of younger athletes.  To address these inequities, we recommend that future Eastern Zone Short Course Age Group Championships drop the 15-18 age group and use the “AAA” USA-S age group motivational times, which are known to be gender-fair overall.