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Pondering the age thing

 
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pilight



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PostPosted: 12/04/04 11:33 am    ::: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

When thinking about the W and its players, I've been working under the assumption that they would have career arcs that are more or less identical to those that men have. That would mean a roughly bell shaped curve for skill, with a peak in the late 20's. However, there's no good evidence that women will progress the same as men do.

Let's look at other women's sports and see how different they are from men.

In tennis, women peak earlier and have shorter careers, on average, than men. The oldest major winner on the WTA tour in the past 5 years is Jennifer Capriati, who was two months short of her 26th birthday when she won the 2002 Australian Open. The only other major winners in that span over 22 were Mary Pierce, who was considered past her prime when she won the 2000 French at age 25 and Anastasia Mysinka, two months past her 23rd birthday when she won the 2004 French. The ATP, on the other hand, has featured at least one major winner of age 25 or older in each of the last 5 years and more than one in most of those years (and it's not just Andre the freak, it's six different players that have contributed). Two teenagers won majors on the women's side this year, no men's major has been won by a teen since Boris Becker won Wimbledon in 1986.

In Golf, women also peak earlier and have shorter careers, on average, than men, although the effect is much less dramatic than in tennis. OTOH, golf is not a particularly similar sport to basketball, tennis is a better comparison.

Anyway, I wonder if the WNBA players will show a career arc more like NBA players or more like WTA players. I'm using the former assumption on my website with the projections, but I could be wrong...



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womens_hoops



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PostPosted: 12/04/04 12:26 pm    ::: Re: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

I was meaning to ask you, pilight:

do you have the average age of W players compared to NBA players? or the average number of years in the league?


pilight



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PostPosted: 12/04/04 1:35 pm    ::: Re: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

womens_hoops wrote:
I was meaning to ask you, pilight:

do you have the average age of W players compared to NBA players? or the average number of years in the league?



The average age of a WNBA player is 26.6. If you prefer a weighted age, based on minutes, it's a little higher at 27.2. 84% of WNBA players are 30 and under.

The average years in the league for WNBA players (if you count rookies as 0, 2003 rookies as 1, etc) is 2.8 years. Again, weighted for minutes it goes up, in this case to 3.1 seasons. Nearly 1/4, 24.4%, of WNBA players were rookies last season. If history holds true, 1/3 to 1/2 of them will be out of the league next season.

If you're wanting to compare experience to the NBA as a possible explanation for the W's lower shooting % and such there are other factors in play. WNBA players generally play more ball in Europe and elsewhere to gain experience than NBA players. The NBA has longer training camps and seasons. Like that.



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womens_hoops



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PostPosted: 12/04/04 2:55 pm    ::: Re: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

interesting -- thanks!


womens_hoops



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 11:32 am    ::: Re: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

an addendum, following a conversation with Kevin Pelton...

the weighted average NBA age is 27.9, similar to the W.

the weighted average years of NBA experience for the NBA is 6.1, much higher than the W.

NBA players have less college experience, and as pilight says, W players have more overseas, etc.

But NBA players also get much more experience in each league year, since they play more than twice as many games.


pilight



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 12:06 pm    ::: Re: Pondering the age thing Reply Reply with quote

womens_hoops wrote:


the weighted average years of NBA experience for the NBA is 6.1, much higher than the W.


The W average has been rising steadily. There are several NBA players that have been in the league longer than the W has existed.


womens_hoops wrote:
the weighted average NBA age is 27.9, similar to the W


The W had been falling but held steady this year. My guess is that it's bottomed out and will go back up a bit.



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therese_defarge



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 5:26 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I would expect the women to have shorter careers on average simply because they make so much less money. I'm sure for many of the women they're just getting the basketball thang out of their systems before going on to their real careers.



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pilight



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 7:22 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

therese_defarge wrote:
I would expect the women to have shorter careers on average simply because they make so much less money. I'm sure for many of the women they're just getting the basketball thang out of their systems before going on to their real careers.


That doesn't explain the shorter tennis careers. Nuria Llagostera Vives made over $100k last year, for goodness' sakes.

The question is...will women still show a different career arc from men when they don't have to think about their next career?



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therese_defarge



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 8:06 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

pilight wrote:
therese_defarge wrote:
I would expect the women to have shorter careers on average simply because they make so much less money. I'm sure for many of the women they're just getting the basketball thang out of their systems before going on to their real careers.


That doesn't explain the shorter tennis careers. Nuria Llagostera Vives made over $100k last year, for goodness' sakes.

I'm not convinced about your tennis argument. You've focused on the elite few that win grand slams over a short period of time (5 yrs). If you go further back in time you find Martina, Chris and Billie-Jean with extremely long careers.

I'm not saying you're wrong either. I just don't think you make your case looking only at a small sample over a short period.



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pilight



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 10:48 pm    ::: Reply Reply with quote

therese_defarge wrote:

I'm not convinced about your tennis argument. You've focused on the elite few that win grand slams over a short period of time (5 yrs). If you go further back in time you find Martina, Chris and Billie-Jean with extremely long careers.

I'm not saying you're wrong either. I just don't think you make your case looking only at a small sample over a short period.



Martina, Chris, and BJK aren't typical either. There are a whole lot more Tracy Austins and Martina Hingises in tennis history than there are people like that.



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accommodatingly



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PostPosted: 12/05/04 11:45 pm    ::: it's too soon to know Reply Reply with quote

I think pilight hit it: WNBA players don't make enough money to retire at 35, no matter what they do in the off-season; so they're more likely to leave the game before they lose effectiveness in order to pursue their other careers. The NBA equivalent of Georgia Schweitzer (med school) would still be playing, and Katie Smith will most likely leave the game as soon as her numbers start to go down (unless she doesn't mean it about dental school)-- I'm guessing her last season's 2006 or 2007; the NBA equivalent of Dawn Staley may be Latrell Sprewell. So the average age of players, or the average time spent in the league, won't tell us much until WNBA players no longer need to think about second careers.

That doesn't mean we can't construct a statistic telling us when W players peak. Also, would the average age of peak performance, or the performance curve, look different for guards than for post players? (I have no idea; I'd like to know.)


blzntr33s



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PostPosted: 12/06/04 1:45 am    ::: Reply Reply with quote

I think the shorter careers are due to a combination of things. A lot of these women already have children, or want children, so the biological time clock and family time has to play a factor.

Secondly, women suffer ACL injuries at a higher percentage than men. I'm not sure what the exact difference is between injuries in the NBA and the W, nor if there's any difference with the types and frequency of injuries they suffer. I'm sure pilight or some of the other knowledgeable folks may have some sort idea.

And money definitely has to play a factor. I read recently that while W players can make really good money playing overseas, there are some leagues that don't pay nearly as much either. Again, I don't know exact number of W players (or W hopefuls) playing in the smaller, less financially enticing overseas leagues.

Granted, there are a few W players playing domestically in the NWBL, but is the average salary there? It seems more like a league players go to for fine-tuning their game, rather than for financial purposes.

Between that, and being away from family and friends (especially during the holidays), it seems to be more work to stay in the league than it could be worth.


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