Do Some People Have the “Sport Gene”?




There are instances where genes, depending on the sport, aren’t essential, although paramount for elite functionality. One clear example is height for the NBA. Less clear is the gene that tells you that you certainly will not be in the 100m final in the Olympics. The ACTN 3 gene, the so-called sprint gene, explains a small amount variation at very high levels of performance. So if you don’t have the correct copies of this gene for sprinting, you’re not going to be in the 100m final.

What science is proving to us is the more important part of overall talent, endurance and certainly skill is the ability to quickly respond to training specifically the biological makeup that allows you to train better than your peers. Your “edge” over the competition. If you don’t possess this biological “edge”, you can put in a lot of time and effort, but it might be impossible to reach elite levels.

The 10,000 Hours Rule

This has become a catch phrase to imply that training is important, which was never something that was controversial in the scientific literature. However, the job of the researcher is to determine how significant it really is. The truth is there’s not any evidence whatsoever that 10,000 hours are required or adequate for top-notch performance.

What science is telling us is that the level of talent is not pre-set, but based on our biological ability to respond to training. It sounds sad, that some people can train harder than others and still not achieve high performance, but I think it’s encouraging that if something is not working you, you should try something else. So you should pay attention to your training and what is or is not producing.

Natural Ability versus Enhanced Ability

It’s clear how sports governing bodies feel about performance enhancement if its natural, then it’s in the spirit of the sporting endeavor and thus okay. These governing bodies have questioned high performing athletes whose skill level seem so much better than the competition. Take, for instance, the saga of Caster Semanya. Female athletes with a natural condition that increases testosterone or other traits normally associated with male athletes, do not fit well with the sport governing bodies protocols.

What is clear is how the public views athletes who get busted for performance enhancement versus natural ability. If you take the shortcut to improve your ability your a cheat and have no business in sports. Although this may be a general sentiment, performance enhancing drugs, specifically steroids and HGH are on the rise with the teenage population.