Ahead in the Count

Tee Ball or Pee-Wee Soccer? Let the DNA Test Decide

posted by Ted Sullivan

Our good friend Greg Paukstis (tennis pro at Army Navy Country Club in Arlington, VA) sent me the link to this NY Times piece by Juliet Macur: 

Born to Run? Little Ones Get Test for Sports Gene


Macur writes about parents using a genetic test to see if their children are genetically predisposed to succeed in certain sports. “The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two.”

My first reaction was, “this is ridiculous” but then I considered how important athletic success is to the development of self-confidence in young people. I’m not a genetic scientist but let’s just assume that a test like this can, in fact, determine in which category of sports a young athlete will be successful (there are clearly more outrageous advances in medicine these days). Why shouldn’t parents guide their children towards those sports? It would certainly be a better choice than guiding kids towards the sports (or other extracurricular interest) that the parent alone desires for the child. 

I know it’s an over-used cliche but the key here is “the love of the game.” If my mom had taken me to get one of these tests the results wouldn’t have been pretty. (Doc: “Well, looks like little Teddy is going to be just about 6 feet tall, right-handed, with below average leg strength and arm speed. I think he’ll be a valued member of the debate club.”) But I fell in love with sports and specifically baseball at a young age thanks to a sports-obsessed older brother and parents who gave us every opportunity to find what we loved and then taught about dedication and hard work. It was that love and dedication that resulted to success on the field. 

I have more thoughts on this topic but I’d love to hear what others have to say.

Hey Greg, are you planning a DNA test for Brett any time soon? (FYI, Greg’s wife Kendall is a sick athlete too and the head coach of the ISL Champion National Cathedral School tennis team in Washington DC. The DNA of their newborn Brett would surely register off the charts in any sports-related genetic test.)

December 1, 2008 - Posted by | Media Commentary, written by Ted Sullivan


  1. Why not, right? My completely uneducated thought on this is that most children either will or won’t gravitate toward competitive sport/athletic activity in general. Among those of us who were/are, I don’t think that most children are predisposed to love one sport or another. Like Ted, I was exposed to baseball in particular at a very early age. I grew up in a baseball town, and my parents certainly encouraged me to pursue that passion. Yet, I often think that soccer or football would have been the better fit for me given my physical skill set. Assuming, as I believe, young people have an affinity team sports and physical activity as opposed to one sport in particular, why not find out where we might enjoy the most success?

    The answer of course is that my assumption is just that – and is far from certain. And as long as sports remains an outlet for character building, confidence and physical activity, it may not matter which one or three young people focus on.

    Comment by John Bramlette | December 1, 2008

  2. you got to be kidding me right??? check the freaking DNA of Dusitn Pedroia, or David Eckstien at birth, or any age prior to breaking in the big leagues!!!!

    Comment by mwhitey | December 5, 2008

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