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The Sports Gene: Talent, Practice and the Truth About Success

The Sports Gene: Talent, Practice and the Truth About Success [Kindle Edition]

David Epstein
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Product Description


"A wonderful book. Thoughtful... fascinating." (Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers)

"Provides a powerful and convincing analysis of how genes influence all our lives, especially the careers of elite sportsmen" (The Times)

"A fascinating, thought-provoking look at the leading edge of sports performance, written by a guy who knows the territory. David, besides being a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, was a collegiate runner for Columbia University. More to the point, he’s a terrific researcher and a fine, thoughtful writer" (Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code)

"Full credit to David Epstein, a Sports Illustrated journalist with a serious and deep knowledge of genetics and sports science, for his terrific and unblinking new book, The Sports Gene, a timely corrective to the talent-denial industry" (Ed Smith New Statesman)

"Endlessly fascinating" (John Harding Daily Mail)

Book Description

An entertaining and thought-provoking examination of the truth behind talent and success.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 696 KB
  • Print Length: 353 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1591845114
  • Publisher: Vintage Digital (29 Aug 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00CQ1D1OI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,127 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brief Summary and Review 13 Aug 2013
*A full executive summary of this book is available at newbooksinbrief dot com.

What does it take to become an elite athlete? The intuitive answer for most of us is that it probably takes some lucky genes on the one hand, and a whole heck of a lot of hard work on the other. Specifically, that we may need to be blessed with a particular body type to excel at a particular sport or discipline (after all, elite marathon runners tend to look far different than elite NFL running backs, who in turn tend to look far different than elite swimmers), but that beyond this it is practice and diligence that paves the way to success. When we look at the science, though--as sports writer David Epstein does in his new book The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance--we find that the story is much more complicated than this. In general terms we find that nature and nurture interact at every step of the way in the development of an elite athlete, and that biology plays far more of a role (and in far more ways) than we may have expected.

To begin with, when it comes to physiology, we find that genetics not only has a large role to play in influencing our height and skeletal structure (as we would expect), but that genes also influence physiology in many other ways that are important when it comes to elite sports.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The 10,000 hour rule, which emphasises the importance of practice and training in achieving world class sporting success, was popularised by Malcolm Gladwell and Mathew Sayid in “Bounce”. In this meticulously researched book written in a compulsive story telling style, Epstein argues that the studies undertaken by K. Anders Ericsson – the so-called father of the 10,000 hour rule – do not address the existence of genetically based talent because their work begins with subjects of high achievement in music or sports. When most of humanity has already been screened out of a study before it begins, the study has nothing to say about the existence or non existence of innate talent.
Trelawny is a tiny parish in north west Jamaica. Sprinters and jumpers from Trelawny won 8 medals at the Beijing Olympics – more than entire countries won the in the entire Olympics. 32 marathon runners from the Kalenjin tribe in Kenya ran a sub 2hours10 minute marathon in one month in October 2011. Only 17 Americans in history have run sub 2.10. This is convincing evidence of the existence of the sports gene. Epstein looks, in some detail, at the genetic exceptions that these Jamaican and Kalenjin populations exhibit – the ACTN3 “sprint gene” prevalent among Jamaican people and the genetic make up of Kalenjin that gives them a particular linear build with narrow hips, and long , thin limbs.

But Epstein does not ignore the cultural and environmental factors. For example, the immense popularity of athletics and its passport to fame and fortune among impoverished west Indians, or kids running long distances to school at altitude in Kenya, and again the route out of poverty that athletic success can provide.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting if depressing 22 Feb 2014
By Tanda
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Interesting book though the conclusion that genes count for a great deal in a vast range of sports is a bit depressing. One criticism is that is a little repetitive and reads more like a compilation of journal articles.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful! 30 Oct 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Having read 'bounce' and 'the talent code', two books that fall on the nurture side of the fence, 'the sports gene' provides an insightful addition to the age-old debate highlighting just how important the acknowledgment of genetics may be in our quest to better understand what it takes to make it in the world of elite sport. Eloquently written making timely reference to relevant sporting examples backed up by scientific references made easy to understand for the lay reader.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars 4 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very good, but a little heavy going at times
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, and full of quotable trivia 6 Jun 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If you've watched David's TED talk (as I had), then you probably have a fair idea of what this book will be about - suffice it to say, I was not disappointed, the book was very interesting and a nice insight into the many unusual ways that natural/genetic talents influence sport today.

As a fan of cycling, one must concede that performance enhancing drugs have altered the landscape of competition, and it is hard to know how far this has distorted the fields and results - although this question isn't ignored (particularly with respect to female competitors) it would be an improvement to the book if somehow it could have peered back behind that curtain, although I appreciate that this is a big task given the obvious secrecy involved!
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Format:Kindle Edition
This book addresses with nuances and subtlety the debate between culture and nature. It emphasises the complexity of the subject. When one chapter would develop the argument of the "10,000 hours", the next would allude to "naturals" who excel at a sport without any previous training.
It is well written with multiple examples; an easy and enjoyable read.

My take-aways would be:
- Know oneself:
It is clear that certain body types are more suitable to certain sports. The optimist message is that there is such a diversity of sports that one should find the sport that fits its own body type. For example, long forehands are an advantage for some ball sports, while short forehands are an advantage for weight-lifting.
There is no one-size-fits-all training programme. It looks like athletes react differently to training volume. There is a very interesting paragraph on training response with the example of two athletes: one "natural" and one who would outwork the other. Some long-distance athletes are gifted with high trainability; others are gifted with high baseline aerobic fitness.

Environment is key: it will direct a gifted athlete into the right sport, it will gives motivation, it will make it natural to train. The book gives the example of The Jamaican sprint factory. "Jamaica has thousands and thousands sprinting, and you get the best coming through." It also talks about Eero Mantyranta, the Finnish cross-country ski champion. He was certainly gifted with a specific gene mutation but he also skied from his youngest age and ski was his way to get a job and escape a previously miserable life.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars We are who we are
Similar to 'Faster' by Michael Hutchison. So many ingredients determine how we perform and there is little we can effect except train and diet sustainably hard.
Published 2 months ago by Mr. Colin Simpson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I really enjoyed this book. Fascinating read
Published 3 months ago by Elaine Blenkinsop
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book, a must read for the analyst or sportsman alike.
Great book, a must read for the analyst or sportsman alike.
Published 5 months ago by Matt
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic !
Really insightfully written great read !
Published 5 months ago by lookalikey
5.0 out of 5 stars Very insightful!
Interesting book containing a lot of valuable information on the mystery of "talent", mostly from the perspective of sports performance. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Henning Langer
2.0 out of 5 stars Read with caution
This is an extreme curate's egg of a book. Parts of it are good but there are other parts which are particularly awful. Read more
Published 9 months ago by James Medhurst
5.0 out of 5 stars Thought provoking
This book is a true insight into the human debate on nature-nurture, with plenty of examples carefully investigated and clearly set out by the author - it is clearly a subject... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Steve
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book
Fascinating, gripping and easy to read. Must read for any sports science or strength and conditioning students. I shall be reading this again
Published 10 months ago by Mr M J Irwin
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