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The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of…

The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance

by David Epstein

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    Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise by Anders Ericsson (caimanjosh)
    caimanjosh: Both deal with the science behind expert performance...Sports Gene is more focused on athletic performance, but Peak provides more detail on just what "deliberate practice" actually entails. Both are worth a read.

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Not sure why I didnt like this more. Seems right up my alley. Sports. Science. Genes. But just could never get into it. Liked the reads about how the genes really control everything, and you either have the good ones or you dont. You can practice - but that only takes you so far. Got about half way through and had enough ( )
  bermandog | Dec 30, 2016 |
What makes a professional athlete? Does practice really make perfect -- can anyone do it? David Epstein sets out to answer this question, and the result is, well, maybe.

Epstein looks at a variety of sports and what traits are exhibited by the pros. Baseball, as it turns out, is a visual game -- while strength and reflex is important, it is exceptional visual acuity that separates the pros from the rest. Exceptional vision is a genetic trait, and those with genetically poor eyesight should probably seek a different profession. Genetics can't tell with certainty what combination of genes will make a pro athlete, however, it can spot poor genes that could stomp out a dream at a very early age.

Some sports, like golf, is more of an acquired skill. He follows the still-on going efforts of a man who decided one day to be a pro golfer and thought to test the 10,000 hour theory, which posits that if you spend 10,000 hours doing any given thing, you will become adept at it. While progress is encouraging, the bell curve would indicate rapid progress early in the program, with gains becoming more incremental and difficult to come by as the player reaches a certain point (and it's beyond that point where the masters dwell).

Epstein covers a variety of sports, not all of them big time, big money concerns. He tells us why Michael Jordan was destined to fail at baseball, and why Usain Bolt is the phenom he is. Some day we might be able to order certain genetic profiles that at least block the "you'll never make it" traits, but the road to perfection is complex, and there is likely to never be any guarantees. ( )
  JeffV | Sep 19, 2015 |
The Nature vs. Nurture controversy applied to sports. Pretty technical evaluation, best suited for those with strong background in genetics. ( )
  VGAHarris | Jan 19, 2015 |
I found Epstein's book to be a revelation. It contains a strongly reasoned argument about the impact of genetics on sport that does not pander to tired biases. Because there is a long history of horrid biases and some of humanities greatest crimes have been justified based on the alleged genetic superiority or inferiority of certain groups, many scientists have been justifiably leary of writing about the impact of genetics on athletic achievement.

Epstein does so very well. He write from data and he avoids making generalized judgements. I'd like to use his writing style as a primer for undergrads. This is how you write from evidence and avoid writing from conclusions based on that evidence.

It is not a perfect book, but it does so many things so well that it is difficult to fault him for neglecting the impact of performance enhancing drugs on athletic results.

Overall, this is destined to be a classic popular work in sports-science. It could also be sub-titled: how Malcolm Gladwell is wrong and misleading, but Epstein even has the grace to completely show-up Gladwell's arguments without turning this into a personal fight. (Gladwell has made a lot of money off of "10000 hours of practice is all that is needed for success" arguments. Epstein shows what the study this gloss is based on really showed and pointed out its shortcomings. 10000 hours will make anyone better, but it is incontrovertible that some people can benefit more from practice than others.

In any case, if you are at all interested in sport, genetics, or popular writing from research that is done very well, Epstein's book is for you. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
Does elite athletic talent arise from nature or nurture? That's the central question of The Sports Gene by David Epstein. The answer seems to be both. Upon closer inspection, though, it depends on the sport in question. In some instances, the 10,000 hours of practice rule produces competitive results. In others, it's genetics all the way no matter how hard you train. And neither does inherent talent vs effort tell the whole story. In a few examples, the common denominator of elite performance was the culture the athlete grew up in.

It isn't about athletics all the time either. I doubt that book would have been nearly as compelling. The Sports Gene covers ground from a multitude of standpoints: Athletics, biology, genetics and anthropology. And it was the anthropological angle that interested me the most. Before the advent of modern training techniques, those that did well usually arose from a society's working class. They had very little to lose, and everything to gain by being extraordinary. ( )
  Daniel.Estes | Aug 26, 2014 |
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Explores the roles of both genetics and training in athletic success, arguing that both are equally necessary components of athletic achievement while considering such topics as race, gender, and genetic testing.

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