- Hereditary aspects alone don’t make a good sportsman’, says expert, revealing sports success wholly depends on how nature and nurture interact.
- A new study shows that an amateur footballer has a 0.13% higher chance of going pro if a family member has played the game previously.
- Despite this, the study found that the average person has a 0.05% chance of going pro without a family connection.
Genetics alone are not enough to make a talented athlete into a professional, a leading expert in athletic development has told a new study.
With the ‘nature vs nurture’ debate running rampant in professional sports – particularly in the run-up to the Olympics – there is evidence that some athletes are more talented than others due to genetic advantages.
A new study, titled Athletics Genetics, analyses the role genetics play in popular sports, asking whether family connections increase your chances of playing professional sport, or whether other factors play a part in success according to genetic experts.
The research revealed that while the majority of success depends on work ethic and support from peers, there is a 0.8% higher chance athletes will go pro if a member of their family has previously played the sport.
Professor Kevin Till, Professor of Athletic Development at Leeds Beckett University, told Athletics Genetics: “The term ‘talent’ is commonly used across a range of domains, such as education, music, the arts, and sport. Within sport, national governing bodies and professional clubs can invest heavily into the identification and development of sporting talent. However, few concepts are as divisive as talent within sport!
“One substantial debate in relation to talent is the Nature or Nurture debate. Nature suggests that talent is an innate ability (you are born with it) and achieving excellence is solely determined by genetics. In contrast, nurture dismisses the existence of innate talent with the achievement of excellence determined by the environment (the quantity and quality of the opportunities and experiences an individual receives, such as coaching).
“While the nature-nurture debate remains of interest, experts have moved away from this black and white view. As ultimately it is a combination of nature and nurture factors that contribute to the success of an individual. The question is no longer whether it is nature or nature – but how they interact.
“The parental aspect is more a nurture aspect than nature. For example, if you are born into a family who plays rugby (such as Owen Farrell and George Ford) then you are more likely to watch that sport, play that sport and receive better development opportunities in that sport. These players will likely have been nurtured by parents who are also some of the best coaches in the game, so have probably had better opportunities to exploit that than most.
“Hereditary aspects do have an influence, but don’t make for a good sportsperson alone. Ultimately, the hereditary aspect may influence some sports more than others (like height in basketball) but you still need to be trained and developed to succeed.”
Former professional footballer and father of aspiring young players Roger Eli added: “In my experience, a talent scout will always take the parents’ sporting background of a potential young player into consideration. The physical build of the parent and their athleticism is also a key factor.
“The sporting environment that a child is brought up in is also a key factor. In some cases, a child will get daily sporting education from an early age. There may be regular sporting conversations around the house, displays of achievements and other influences like teammates’ discussions. All these have the potential to inspire a youngster to strive for their own success.”
For access to the full infographic and results, visit: https://www.olbg.com/insights/