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BE FITNESS │ SPORTS


Regional INFLUENCE ON SPORT


The “nature vs. nurture” issue has been debated for a long time. Are elite level athletes born or made? Most would argue a little of both. Yet another factor may be of consideration and that is the component of regional exposure and differences among athletes.


If you watch any sport on the television, you will expose yourself to the fact that certain successful athletes and teams come from specific regions of the world. For example: Kenya has a heritage of placing marathon runners in top positions while Jamaica seems to continually produce 100m sprinters. As I watched rugby on a recent weekend I was amazed at the dominance of the New Zealand All Blacks.


I remember hearing of their dominance in rugby during my rugby- playing days in the 1980’s. Considering all the nations that now have international teams, can anyone really make an argument that New Zealand has a special genome of human that manifests itself on the rugby pitch? Or perhaps, the importance of rugby within the region allows for early exposure of the sport to youth, and through sound developmental programs New Zealand continues to dominate the international competition. Perhaps the argument of genetics vs. behavior must also include exposure.


I grew up in a region of the United States and at a time that youth were exposed to specific sports as early as 6 years of age. In fact, there seemed to be only three sports available at time. I will call them the basic three and those were football (American), basketball and baseball.


Consequently, any child with athletic potential would parlay this potential to one of these team, ball sports. The inclusion/exclusion process began with those that had hand-eye coordination or not. Without it, the likelihood of that child finding success on one of these three sports was reduced, and eventually they would be removed from competition. As we progressed in age and maturity, other venues opened up. At the age of adolescences (approximately 13-14y) we were introduced to track-and-field and wrestling. Now those without “ball” skills had something to try that required more speed and power.


Later in our high-school years there were additional sports such as cross-country running, swimming, tennis and gymnastics. Not surprisingly, most individuals that went on to compete at the collegiate level did so in the basic three. The point of this story is that when we look at certain regions of the world and consider the success they have in specific venues of sport, the early and repeated exposure to those sports may be the determining factor as to their success.


It is easy to note, while watching international competition the successful regions such as the following: Australia-Swimming; Norway- Nordic Skiing; New Zealand-Rugby; Jamaica-Track Sprinters; Kenya- Distance Runners. I know I have left out many other nations such as Cuba and baseball or Spain and road cycling, but the message seems fairly clear: regional influence is a big part of an elite level athlete in a specific sport.


For instance, Colorado is a mountainous state here in the US with fairly long winters and fairly short summers. The kids are exposed to winter sports early such as Alpine and Nordic skiing as well as sports that can be played inside such as basketball.


However, baseball is not one of these sports.


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