Is Athleticism Genetic?


I grew up in a family where our lives revolved around sports. Falls were spent at football games and tennis matches. When winter rolled around, we divided our time between the basketball court and hockey arena. Then with spring came endless days and nights at a baseball or softball field. Even to this day, as a non-collegiate athlete, when I travel home for breaks, I always find time each day to run with my dad or do crossfit with my mom. I never thought anything different of our seemingly athletic family, until I came to school and realized this was not the norm. So what was the difference with my family?

For starters, my dad was a two sport college athlete and a diehard sports fan, so naturally sports became a part of our life from the beginning. However, without tooting my own horn, both my brother and I were blessed with some natural athletic ability. Was this genetic or just a case of good luck?

After digging a little deeper into this topic, I discovered that genes do in fact play a part with one's athletic ability. According to an article from, genes can be attributed to 20-80% of a person's athletic ability, since they code for proteins which may give a person strong leg muscles to run farther and the "proteins in your blood which carry oxygen" that allow you to have more energy and run longer. (

Apparently I'm not the only one who was curious about genes and athletic ability because an article from discussed a company who would actually sell tests to parents to determine if their child would or would not be athletic. "The Boulder, Colo., company Atlas Sports Genetics today began selling just that sort of product: for $149, it says it will screen for variants of the gene ACTN3, which in elite-level athletes is associated with the presence of the muscle protein alpha-actinin-3. The protein helps muscles contract powerfully at high speeds, which may explain why the combination of ACTN3 variants that produce it has been found in Olympic sprinters."

So while research does support that genes play a part in a person's athletic ability, I do not believe it is the only factor at play here. My brother, a Division I baseball recruit, was definitely blessed with some natural athletic skills, however if it weren't for his persistent practice and hard work over the years, he would never be in the position he is today.  Genes can help set you up for athletic success but in the end, it's a matter of what you will do with those skills, which determines whether you become a better athlete or just stay the same.


It makes sense that athleticism is genetic because it has a lot to do with body type and mindset which are both definitely genetic. I also believe that it could be inadvertently genetic just by simply having a parent that is athletic to raise you in a world filled with sports. Having an athletic parent that can teach you how to play sports can be a factor besides natural athleticism. Take the Manning family for example, not only were they genetically and naturally athletic and big, they also had their father and each other to help teach them and increase their athleticism.

I've always believed in the idea that athleticism is genetic based. Just from my experiences growing up, the kids who possessed the most athletic ability had at least one parent who was athletically gifted at one point in time. Those who are naturally gifted don't have to work as hard as the rest of us who are not as athletic because their abilities come naturally. According to JumpScience, there are a number of physical traits that that contribute to athletic ability and are influenced by genetics. Those physical traits include body type, strength, explosiveness, springiness, and recover ability.

The fact that athletic ability is significantly influenced by genetics creates a higher ceiling for the naturally gifted. I do believe that those who are not as gifted can improve some aspects of their genetic ability such as speed and jumping ability if they work on those areas though.

From personal experience I can safely say that I don’t think genetics have anything to do with athleticism. Neither of my parents are athletic or were ever athletic. They never played any kind of sport in high school and now it’s a rare occurrence for them to do a physical activity for fun. I was the only one out of all my siblings to participate in sports through out high school and find a way to remain active since I was little. I think when it comes to athleticism it is more of a nature vs. nurture issue rather than genetics and in this case nurture definitely wins. Yes, having athletic parents definitely helps athletic kids but as long as non-athletic parents provide their athletic kids with the tools they need to be successful in the sport or whatever activity they choose then the rest is up to pure talent. I mean, out of all the famous athletes in the world the majority of them came from parents who weren't very athletic or at least weren't star athletes. This article actually talks about how non-athletic parents may be have a better advantage at raising athletic kids

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