Recently, the Associated Press published an article entitled, “The Return of Simone Biles and Sunisa Lee is a Boon for US Gymnastics. It’s Created a Logjam, Too.” Then, the other night during a Baltimore Orioles baseball game, one of the announcers noted that because there were so many good young players on the team, there were fewer opportunities for talented minor league players to move up to the big leagues.

This got me to thinking about the countless articles, commentaries, and admonitions of late—ageist, one and all—about the need for older workers to “move on” in order to give younger workers their chance. How many times have we heard comments like, “It’s time for a new generation to take over?” Such ageist laments are prevalent virtually everywhere: in politics, in the workplace, in houses of worship, the list goes on.

But not in sports.

That’s because success in sports is measured almost singularly by performance. Those who perform at elite levels—and consistently deliver results—ascend to the top. Those who do not, don’t. Period. The only time age enters the conversation is when an athlete’s achievements seem remarkable for the athlete’s age—be it young OR old—and the analysis is peppered with ageist words like “just” or “still.”

The fact is performance is predicated on an individual’s ability to master a set of skills—sometimes over a period of time and, in the case of a prodigy, perhaps almost immediately—and then demonstrate those skills with the highest level of proficiency when called upon to do so. Athletes know and understand this—as do coaches. And so their focus is on building a team based on who has the talent to go the farthest and perform the best—rather than on whose turn it might be, who’s been waiting the longest, or who is closest to moving on to something else.

Such should be the case in the workplace, as well. Employers would be wise to concern themselves with fielding the highest-performing team—regardless of age. Because as is the case with virtually everything else, age is not an indicator of talent, stamina, energy, creativity, or willingness to develop new skills.

It is simply an indicator of time.

Barbara Raynor headshotBarbara Raynor is an award-winning writer and strategic marketing and communications specialist with a particular passion for Adults 50+ and the challenges they face as they grow older. Based in Denver, she fervently believes AGING IS LIVING and frequently writes and speaks on topics related to aging and ageism.

Read more about the “lump of labor” fallacy, that idea that workers need to move on to make room.

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