After this question: https://sports.stackexchange.com/questions/13060/athletic-relating-age

I noticed questions about age and its appropriateness to start pursuing a sport/competitive activity is an occasional occurrence that tends to swing either way. See the following:




Age to start cycling

Are questions in the form/manner "Am I too old/young to start/pursue...?" on topic? Why/why not?

2 Answers 2


The first question is clearly off topic as it's related to recreational activities, not competitive sports.

The second question is clearly off topic as it's fitness related, not competitive sports.

The cycling question I think is on topic, but is too broad the way it's asked.

The curveball question is asking for medical advice - so clearly out.

Finally, the question that prompted this question is clearly not a good question, for multiple obvious reasons.

As far as what should determine on/off topic, my feeling is that questions of the nature of "Is it possible to ..." are always "too broad". Sure, anything's possible. I could run a 3:00 mile tomorrow. So much level of detail would be required to even have a guess at the answer - and nobody can ever know until it's been tried - that it's impossible to answer those. How are random strangers on the internet going to tell you if you could have a professional cycling career? It can never be anything but a discussion/opinion question. (So "Too Broad" or "Primarily Opinion Based" are both good reasons here.)

However, that question towards the end becomes closer to on topic. "Are there any pros..." I think I'd be okay with, if that were the whole question. That gets at a specific, useful piece of information. Even "What is the average age" or similar - that's answerable.

  • I think "average age" and "pros who do [x]" is objective enough to ask. However, regardless of scope, the questions I link to have a similar topic, "Can someone do [x] at age [y]"? As you say, anything's possible, so asking about it is opinion-based and promotes discussion while possibly being very broad.
    – user527
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:21
  • I slightly disagree with your view on the second question. Half marathons are/can be competitive (unless the runner is focused solely on participating without a desire to get the best time possible). The "fitness" part, if any, is geared toward training to compete, and we've generally allowed those kind of questions. meta.sports.stackexchange.com/questions/30/…
    – user527
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:26
  • Half marathons could be competitive, but my understanding was that running questions that aren't at a fairly high level aren't intended to be on topic here, no? I mean, technically the 5k I'm going to run in a few months is timed and I get a "place" and all that, but it's not actually competitive in my mind... I didn't see anything in the question that suggested competitive running - just running. (Also, it's more of a medical question, that aside...)
    – Joe Mod
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:26
  • What is high level? Of course, running for fun/fitness isn't intended to be on topic here. However, to your point about the 5k, how do we know if said 5k, half marathon, or whatever is just for fun/fitness or someone grinding to compete without any added detail?
    – user527
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:32
  • Well, I think the dividing line is whether the question is related to doing so competitively, no? In my mind at least it's almost always obvious.
    – Joe Mod
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:33
  • Right. Looking at the question again, there isn't any specific request with respect to training or competition, so I can see where you're coming from.
    – user527
    Feb 11, 2016 at 17:41

I find that I would rather leave questions open when I can find something about them that would make them on-topic. I only vote to close when I can't find anything, or when the question is blatantly breaking one of our on-topic rules.

With that filter, here is how I would classify each of your example questions:

  • Is 35 too old to learn to skateboard and water surfing? - On topic. Skateboarding and surfing are definitely sports, without question. The fact that they can be done recreationally doesn't matter. If you really don't like the question, you could just downvote and move on.
  • What is the best age to start running distances longer than 15k / halfmarathon - On topic. Half-marathons are a competitive sport, and the age at which one is too young to compete is a good question.
  • Becoming a pro cyclist late - On topic. Pro-cycling, by definition, is a competitive sport. The question addresses training for it and also asks about when people who are already pros got started training.
  • Age appropriateness of throwing curveballs - Off-topic. We have explicitly excluded health and medical advice, and this particular question is about a very controversial subject in youth baseball. The question fails not only the medical advice test, but is also primarily opinion-based, because of the controversy. It is a great question, but not a good fit for our site the way our site has been defined.
  • Athletic relating age - Should remain closed. The athletics racing that the OP is asking about is definitely an on-topic sport, but the question itself is primarily opinion-based, because he is asking whether he himself will be able to be competitive, something that there is no way for anyone on this site to know. Perhaps the question could be reworded to ask about whether there were any serious competitors who started training at a late age, but the question should stay closed the way it is.

It looks like I agree with the current state of all 5 of these questions.

I don't think there needs to be a new rule stating that all "Am I too old/young" questions should be on- or off-topic. Instead, we can look at the merits of the questions themselves. Ask yourself this:

  1. Is the subject a legitimate on-topic sport? (Each of these five example questions is about an on-topic sport.)
  2. Does the question not delve too deep into "medical advice" territory? (The "curveballs" question fails this one.)
  3. Is an objective answer is possible, or should the question should be closed as primarily opinion-based? (The "curveballs" and "athletics" questions both fail this one.)

If you really don't like a question (maybe you think it's a dumb question), but it doesn't really fail any of the three tests above, downvoting the question is a better option than stretching one of the close-reasons to fit.

  • Anyone can appreciate the three tests you provide to ask yourself when considering the merits of whether a question is on-topic or off-topic in this case. If the community is in agreement with the state of these questions, then the community is doing a great job reading the question and focusing on what is being asked rather than how it is being asked. That said, applying these tests, any time a question is placed on hold, a reason that is objective and can be referenced as to why it is placed on hold should accompany it.
    – user527
    Feb 12, 2016 at 14:19
  • The question that prompted this meta post (and the deleted question) and similar "I'm [x] years old, can I take up [y] sport and be competitive/turn pro"? type questions has inherent expectations that is covered by your third test. One person may say yes if the right training is provided. Another person may say it is too early/late, young/old. It invites opinion and discussion and can possibly be too broad. However, if we all focus on what is being asked, and consider the merits for closure as you provide, then the phrasing of how these questions are asked doesn't matter.
    – user527
    Feb 12, 2016 at 14:29
  • That says the community can identify an on-topic question from an off-topic question, and can provide guidance in order to turn an off-topic/borderline question into an on-topic question, and that is a good sign.
    – user527
    Feb 12, 2016 at 14:30

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