Sports & Society’s Project Play on Reimagining Youth Sports

September 10, 2013

Full video of “The Sports Gene: a Conversation with Author David Epstein and Olympic Medalist Dara Torres”

As sports dominate the season and children fill local fields with their balls, equipment and hopes of a winning game, it’s time we all admit this to our kids and ourselves: practice does not actually make perfect, says Sports & Society Director Tom Farrey. Not everyone who plays a sport will be considered a success. But that doesn’t mean sports should be reserved for the “best” among us.

That was the sentiment that Farrey, 12-time Olympic medalist swimmer Dara Torres, and Sports Illustrated senior writer and author David Epstein expressed during a September panel discussion. The event was hosted by the program’s Project Play, a two-year thought exercise that will lay the foundation for the nation to get and keep more children involved in sports as a means to creating healthy lifestyles.

When it comes to the makeup of a top athlete, science shows that matching one’s genes and body type to a sport that best accomodates it can play a significant role in separating the would-be Olympic-level athlete from the amateur. But how do we get our children to enjoy sports — even if they likely won’t reach professional proportions? Based on Epstein’s New York Times bestseller, “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance,” Farrey moderated an exploration of how to use what we now know about the role genetics plays in athleticism to reimagine youth sports in the US. 

In the video below, Epstein explained the takeaway from “The Sports Gene,” about the science behind what it takes to develop a great athlete.

Throughout the conversation, Torres weighed in with her personal experiences growing up as a gifted swimmer. “Sports always came easy to me,” she said of her natural athletic ability.

So how can we reset our “in it to win it” mentality to one where every child has the chance to truly enjoy sports as an activity, rather than a mission? Weigh in below in the comments section to be part of this continuing conversation. 


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