The Sports Gene

sports gene cover imageThe Sports Gene

by David Epstein
Sports
Current Hardcover
Hardcover, 352 pages
$26.95

Is it nature or nurture that is the fount of athletic excellence? Epstein, a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, opens with the “10,000-hours rule” as the recipe for success as an athlete (or any other performer for that matter). That rule holds that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice is the route to sufficient skill and expertise to achieve stardom in sports. For example, Stefan Holm, under his father’s stern eye, was rigorously trained from age six to be a world-class high jumper. Sure enough, in Athens in 2004 he won the Olympic gold. But wait! In 2006 Donald Thomas, a student from the Bahamas, tried his first high jump. He cleared 6’6’’. In 2007 he met Holm at the World Championships in Osaka, Japan. Holm dropped out at just under 7’9”. Thomas went on to win at 8”2". Epstein plumbs the depths of sports physiology and psychology to conclude that nature and nurture are so interlaced in any realm of athletic performance that the answer is always: it’s both. Sometimes it’s long, hard work. Sometimes it’s a mutant gene. When they occur together it’s dynamite!