The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance by David Epstein (© 2013, Penguin Group: New York, NY) may not sound like a book for general educators and parents, but it is as it explores the messy relationship between biological endowments and the impact of training. You don’t need to be a sports fan to appreciate this look at modern genetic research that should apply to any kind of human accomplishment. Be sure to click at the bottom of any page to purchase this captivating book.

David Epstien

  • David is an award winning senior editor for Sports Illustrated where he covers sports science, medicine, and Olympic sports. He was a track start at Columbia University and has a master’s degree in environmental science.

Innate or Will to Train

  • The book opens by wondering how much of an athlete’s success is based on innate genetic composition (nature), and how much is a function of the will to train and time spent doing so (nurture). The first story deals with how a top flight women softball pitcher can routinely strike out the top men baseball hitters. How is it possible that girls can hit this stuff while top men can’t.
  • In addition to action sports, David looks at how chess masters can reconstruct a chess game in progress after a quick look. This is where chunking theory came from. It was discovered that what the chess masters remember were clusters of pieces rather than each individual piece. Others also discovered that elite players of action sports need less time and less visual information to know what will happen in the future. Top tennis players, for example, can discern from the minuscule pre-serve shifts of an opponent’s torso whether a shot was going to their forehand or their backhand. No one is born with such anticipatory skills. Such skills are analogous to software, while genes are analogous to hardware.
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