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‘A wonderful book. Thoughtful…fascinating’ Malcolm Gladwell
Do you believe some people are born athletes?
Is sporting talent innate or something that can be achieved through endurance and practise?
In this ground-breaking and entertaining exploration of athletic success, award-winning writer David Epstein gets to the heart of the great nature vs. nurture debate, and explodes myths about how and why humans excel.
Along the way, Epstein:
- Exposes the flaws in the so-called 10,000-hour rule that states that rigorous practice from a young age is the only route to success.
- Shows why some skills that we imagine are innate are not – like the bullet-fast reactions of a baseball player.
- Uncovers why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like the motivation to practice, might in fact have important genetic components.
Throughout, The Sports Gene forces us to rethink the very nature of success.
Are Tiger Woods, Jim Ryun, Serena Williams, and Michael Jordan natural athletes whose success in their own sports would have occurred whether they developed their gifts or not? Are some individuals genetically disposed to some sports, while others lack the genetic predisposition to succeed at the same sports? Sports Illustrated senior writer Epstein probes these questions in a disjointed study. Drawing on interviews with athletes and scientists, he points out that "a nation succeeds in a sport not only by having many people who practice prodigiously at sport-specific skills, but also by getting the best all-around athletes into the right sports in the first place." Epstein observes that some scientists and athletes confirm that the so-called 10,000 hours of practice produces quality athletes, while others assert that the number of hours spent in practice matters little if a team has not already selected superior athletes in the first place. Epstein comes closest to scoring a home run in his provocative and thoughtful focus on the relationships between gender and race and genetic determination why do male and female athletes compete separately, and are there genetic reasons to do so? and why do the best sprinters always come from Jamaica and so many long-distance Olympian runners hail from Kenya? While he helpfully leads readers into the dugout of modern genetics and sports science, his overall conclusions challenge few assumptions. In the end, he concedes that "any case for sports expertise that leans entirely either on nature or nurture is a straw-man argument."