Books are Rad - Episode 4: Dave Epstein's The Sports Gene

Growing up I always had aspirations of playing professional sports.  My focus was mainly on baseball as I loved playing middle infield.  I was a pretty decent athlete in my own right - I could play any position on the field - so early on it didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility for my 10 year mind to believe that I would one day play in the big leagues.

Then came middle school single A tryouts - the big leagues for sixth graders.  Going in, all I thought I had to do was stay focused and follow along.  To this point in my baseball career I had never faced any adversity so why would this tryout be anything different?  To this day I remember that it only took about 10 minutes to realize that I wasn’t prepared for the fast paced game that I had found myself in.  I also didn’t realize that I would be playing with kids who were over 6 ft. tall and were talking about shaving.  Shaving?  I weighed 75 lbs. and wore an extra t-shirt to fit into my youth medium uniform.  Shaving?!

Needless to say, I did not make the single A team.  Those guys were pros in my mind and I have never experienced baseball on that level before.  As I sit here and write this, I can’t help but chuckle a little and remember how out of place I felt.  I was not well equipped to play on the single A team and I had come to terms with that pretty quickly.  But what I couldn’t understand was, “how did those kids get so big?”

Today in this episode of Books are Rad, I wanted to highlight Dave Epstein’s The Sports Gene.  I came across this book back in 2013 and I have read it twice now.  I found it to be one of the most interesting books I had ever stumbled across at the time.  Throughout the book Dave investigates a wide variety of top level performers and looks into their backgrounds to see if their success in sport was truly a product of their training or a consequence of their genetic makeup.  

In Epstein’s book he brings to light some obscure nuances that actually bring to light what some athletes perform the way the do.  Did you know that Michael Phelps, who is 6’4”, wears the exact same size pants as a man who is 5’8”?  No?  Did you also know that Michael Phelps has almost the exact same proportions  as a dolphin - long torso with a very short tail?  As Epstein notes, having a frame like Phelps’ helps explain why he is so talented at the butterfly.  he is literally a dolphin in the water.  He also goes on to discuss how top level performers all have a certain uniqueness that no doubt aids in their success.

I highly recommend this book.  It is a fantastic read.  From the intricacies  of hitting a 90 mph fast ball, to understanding the physics behind the 100 meter dash, this is a book is for anyone who wants to take a deeper look at human performance!

Happy Tuesday Everyone!

D