sports geneDo you remember the star athlete at your high school? You know the one who excelled at every sport with ease? Maybe he or she was a natural. Or was it just disciplined training? For as long as humans having been competing, we’ve been debating nature vs. nurture. David Epstein, senior writer for Sports Illustrated, takes a look at both sides of the debate in The Sports Gene.

Since the sequencing of the human genome, scientists have been able to better understand the relationship between biological endowments and athletic training. This research sheds light on why the discipline to train may be innate and the lightning fast reaction of a baseball batter may be learned. Epstein also explores sensitive questions concerning race and gender. Are black athletics naturally better runners? Should males and females be separated in athletic competitions? Should kids be genetically tested for athletic ability? And could this genetic testing determine who might be more at risk for injury?

This book is a resource for educators and parents as well as a captivating read for the casual reader. Epstein has pulled together scientific research, interviews and anecdotes in such a practical and engaging way. It seems we finally have a basis to really understand athleticism in a holistic way. We will never have a definitive answer as to why one exceeds at sports and another is unremarkable, but Epstein’s book points to the potential that we all have.