{{show_title_date || "What makes athletes great: practice or DNA?, 8/13/13, 4:45 PM ET"}}

Are great athletes born and not made?


As the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” Yet when it comes to sports, is it really practice or is there a biological reason to why some people are better athletes than others? Sports Illustrated writer and author of The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance says it is all about a person’s DNA.

A baseball player, for example, is all about visual precision and not a baseball players faster reflex to hit those 100 mph fast ball, according to David Epstein. “A fifth of a second, which is the bare minimum time that it takes to initiative muscular action is half the total flight time of a major league pitch,” Epstein said on Tuesday’s The Cycle. “In order to hit that ball you actually have to be able to predict the future and that’s all based on learned cues from a pitchers body, from the flick, which is the flashing patters at the seams that the ball makes, and that’s all perceptional cues.”

However, while Epstein does make the case that for the most part it is all about DNA he does believe that there are some sports that are more nature than nurture. “There are sports, like golf, where there is some evidence where early hyper specialization will get you pretty darn good,” Epstein says. “For Tiger it goes back to he could balance on his father’s palm when he was six months old. Which doesn’t mean you are destined for greatness but you can sure start practicing earlier.”