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The nature-nurture dilemma | Welcome and General

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Posted in: General

The nature-nurture dilemma

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  • Ralph

    Does one becomes an athlete because innately predisposition to body awareness or is it rather the constant training that increases body awareness?

  • JonWoodward74

    Hi Ralph - great question.....

    My view is that it is a mixture of both. I think any kind of training/awareness development will support the improvement in performance in any field. However, some are more wired to react to the training than others, and to develop their potential.

    I often see this mirrored in the development of babies into toddlers and where environments (either created or by accident) support/hamper this development of cralwing/walking and moving. Some will develop quicker down to their innate ability, but others will thrive through support.

    Not very scientific based......but it is a very individualistic development

  • Ralph

    You’re is a Great reply,

    It certainly seems to be a mix, I’ve seen as wide a vary as 60/40% to 90/10% in favour of nature.

     Some interpret this as meaning there is little that can be done to help those who struggle academically – and that spending extra money on these students to help them succeed is pointless.

     A major misconception is that genes are destiny. This is wrong because genes are never the full story. This is because environmental factors (“nurture”) also play a significant role in levels of academic achievement. Well-designed and well-delivered remediation can also help struggling students even in cases where genetic factors (“nature”) may be the source of the difficulties.

     My favorite quote on this is…

    “You can take the human out of the village but you can’t take the village out of the human.”

     This is why the conclusion that strong genetic influence makes additional spending “pointless” is too pessimistic. It could be argued that if some children struggling with sport are doing so because of constraints on learning with biological origins, then extra coaching delivered to these children is exactly what is needed. This is especially so if we wish to counter increasing gaps between the best - and worst -performing students.

     Some coaches may have been reluctant to acknowledge the role of genes in school performance, perhaps because of an aversion to biological explanations - so-called “biological determinism” - and perhaps because of the false impression that if genes matter, coaches don’t. Among other consequences, this has meant an overemphasis on the role of coaching skill and dedication in determining why some students prosper and others struggle.

     There is direct evidence from twins studied that teacher differences are not responsible for much in the way of student differences in literacy. Perhaps sports coaches as well? So teachers do matter in that they are the reasons why children know more at the end of the year or even the day. But our teachers are more uniformly effective than many give them credit for and parents that don’t give credit to coaches.

     You are right, we have an advantage over teachers in that we can make it a very individualistic development. Although I’d like to challenge you that ALL are wired to develop their potential but agree some are wired more efficiently for a particular requirement. What I find intriguing when speaking with the two top pediatric physios based in Southampton, is they are seeing far more “movement impairment syndromes” from “too big a *****” to, “leaving the child in a cot for prolonged times”, junior schools allowing girls to sit in the W sit position (which weakens ACLs), etc, etc.

     Have I written off a child that just isn’t getting it, in the past, just because I didn’t know to look for Genu Recurvatum? Probably! We hopefully can ALL agree, if we could take the brains we have now, back to when we first started coaching, we’d be far more successful?

    Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”-Albert Einstein

     Although it’s a lot to ask off a sports coach to make it science based, I think we need a more nuanced understanding of the factors that influence sporting achievement, including the role that genes play. At the same time, we need to avoid the unwarranted pessimism that can accompany acknowledgement of genetic influence, a danger that applies not only to attitudes toward academic development but to mental and physical health as well.

    We need to take comfort from the existence of scientifically-grounded interventions, which in the hands of coaches with sufficient resources, can make a difference to the prospects of students who initially find the going tough in particular disciplines of sport.

     I’d like to ask the coaches reading this;

    How do they make the determination between who is talented and who is not?

    How they determine who has ability and who has not?

    And once they’ve made that judgement on their athletes limits, how do they change the way they coach them and value them, beyond making things simpler?

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