The Sports Gene (2013) – a review

MANY told me I MUST read this book. And I finally did get to it.

Very entertaining. And thought provoking.

The_Sports_Gene_Book_Cover_2013Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training?

In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success and the so-called 10,000-hour rule, David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving it. …


I wouldn’t count on every factoid being correct. He’s out of date on women’s Artistic Gymnastics, for example.

The 10,000-hour rule is quickly debunked, David Epstein repeatedly pointing out that researcher Anders Ericsson NEVER called it a “rule”. If you train Beam seriously for 10,000 hours, your chances of making it to the Olympic Beam final are still infinitesimal.

There’s no controversy. The best of the best have both very specific genetics and excellent training.

If you don’t have time to read this book, you can get a glimpse by watching David Epstein’s TED Talk from 2014 instead – Are athletes really getting faster, better, stronger? (15min)

Read reviews on NY Times and The Guardian.

Published by

Rick Mc

Career gymnastics coach who loves the outdoors, and the internet.

2 thoughts on “The Sports Gene (2013) – a review”

  1. So, since Ragan Smith will not be in the Olympic beam final, she’s not an expert on beam? Madison Kocian most likely won’t be in the final either yet she’s an actual Olympian but Ragan is still better than her on beam, isn’t she?

    Ten thousand hours over 10 years for six days a week is over three hours a day on beam. I don’t see how somebody couldn’t become an expert on one event if they’re putting in that much time. That’s practically enough time to become an expert on all four! Especially if you don’t use completely unrealistic criterion for what makes someone an expert.


  2. In gymnastics smart training is much more important than genetics. For example I have seen extremely talented gymnastics struggle to learn a double layout on floor and much less talented gymnasts learn it much easier by training smarter.


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