A different slant on nature vs nurture

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Thud and blunder, Jul 27, 2012.

  1. Thud and blunder

    Thud and blunder Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2006
    Messages:
    767
    This one always tends to go round in circles, but here's a new slant (for me anyway).

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443570904577544984097844856.html?mod=wsj_share_tweet

    (may be paywalled; I'm not sure)

    key quotes:

    "With high-level training so ubiquitous, God-given talent and physical advantages become the great differentiators."

    They go on to consider the huge advantages enjoyed by physical outliers like Usain Bolt, Missy Franklin, Robert Harting, Sebastian Brendel, Mijain Lopez etc.

    There's also a tennis hook:
    "Coaches and trainers now look more and more at size when evaluating talent. Patrick McEnroe, the former tennis pro who is now the general manager for player development for the U.S. Tennis Association, said he takes a long look at a promising young player's parents and growth potential when trying to decide whom to recruit. Tennis, he says, has gotten too physical to do it any other way.

    "I'm not saying everyone has to be 6-2, but if you're 5-9, I'm not sure that's going to work," said Mr. McEnroe, who at 6 feet even is an inch taller than his brother John."

    So the idea is that with huge strides in training, more rapid diffusion of knowledge etc creating a more level training field, the pendulum swings back towards nature being the big differentiator...

    Food for thought.
     
    #1
  2. tommyfr

    tommyfr Rookie

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Cebu, Philippines
    McEnroe seems a bit disciminatory here

    a) no 5 in the ATP Ferrer is 5.9...and Rochus around 60 is only 5.5

    b) on the WTA tour Cibulkova is only 5.2 and ranked around 20 and recently some of her competitiors (Bartoli) said she is top 10 material

    So you still can be worldclass, like top 10, top 20 without being really 'tall'
     
    #2
  3. Thud and blunder

    Thud and blunder Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2006
    Messages:
    767
    Sure, the situation in tennis is much more nuanced, because it's ultimately a skill sport, so sheer physicality combined with the laws of physics and homogenised training won't be enough to get the job done. However, because of the homogenisation of training, we may be getting closer to the situation that a good big one will beat a good little one, as they say in boxing.

    All at the margins, of course...
     
    #3
  4. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Size and strength are not as important in sports like tennis and golf, which require more skill, and a wider array of physical talents, than most any other sport. Of course speed and strength are important, but, no more important than balance, timing, coordination, eye-hand coordination, and most importantly in tennis, rapid visual information processing.

    This is why, for example, 5'2", 95lb, highly ranked, 12 year old girl, who can tear the cover off of the ball, will double bagel most full grown, adult male, club level players.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
    #4
  5. mightyrick

    mightyrick Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2010
    Messages:
    4,756
    Location:
    Austin, TX
    You're going from #5 to #60? That should be very telling. The reality is, you have to search to find these physical exceptions.

    In any sport, it really can't be argued that some physical body characteristics are more advantageous (or disadvantageous). It is obvious common sense. In basketball, height is obviously an advantage. If someone's life depended on it, and they had a choice between being 5'10", 6'5", or 6'10"... people are going to choose the tallest one. That is a reality. In a complex system of variables, there is always an OPTIMAL set of variables that meets an outcome. Tennis has that same reality. There is an optimum height in tennis (I have no idea what it is). There are other optimum characteristics, as well.

    In my mind, the truly talented and gifted players are those who do not possess obviously optimum characteristics in a sport... but still accel.
     
    #5
  6. 1HBH Rocks

    1HBH Rocks Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2012
    Messages:
    426
    Unfortunately, the argument isn't valid... it's not only tennis training which influences development. The future player's behavior will be grown according to various environmental factors which will all of them impact development to varying degrees as the player ages.

    If you learn anything from developmental psychology, it is this: as you age, your initial genetic propensities get overrun by the influence the environment has had over you. If you want an example, in theory a 16 or even 15 years old kid could enact the characteristics typical of normal adults socially and emotionally -- and it does happen at times -- and a 50 years old could still act like a teenager; a 12 years old can potentially think using abstract terms (it's biologically possible around early puberty), but a 30 years who never got in contact with theoretical work will never be able to do it even once in his life.
     
    #6
  7. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    4,092
    ye, Ferrer is more like 5' 8", actually, but he is without doubt teh exception to the rule. Very few top class players are under 6' these days...

    Ferrer proves it can be done, sure, but the rest of teh tour shows how much harder it is!
     
    #7
  8. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Through out tennis history, the best players tended to be about 6'1" - 6'3". The exceptions were those who were extremely gifted in those other areas of athleticism that I mentioned above. I don't know that Ferrer has better balance, timing or coordination than the others, but, he makes up for his smaller stature with superior speed and conditioning.
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
    #8
  9. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,057
    PMac needs to educate himself on genetics. Height of the children is not always the average of the parents. I am 5 10, my wife is 5 5, and my son is 6 2 (my wife's brothers are around 6).
     
    #9
  10. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    From research by Piotr Unierzyski...(the father of LTAD)

    "Sport results achieved by young players during puberty are significantly correlated with their biological development, but there was no correlation between their performance on a professional level and possible acceleration in their biological development during puberty. On the contrary, a significant increase in the number of players who were biologically less advanced as juniors was observed among the world top seniors"

    Cheers
     
    #10
  11. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Haha! How tall is the mailman? J/K!
     
    #11
  12. anubis

    anubis Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2012
    Messages:
    3,013
    IMO knowledge and skill far outweighs height and strength. Tennis is a game of angles and tactics... and then speed/strength.

    I was watching the MSG match between Sampras and Federer the other day. It was like watching two masters at work. Neither of them were trying to overpower the other. It was all finesse, angles and shot placement.

    By PMac's logic, someone like Sampras would never be picked again as a junior. And that is a damn shame.
     
    #12
  13. Thud and blunder

    Thud and blunder Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2006
    Messages:
    767
    The question I'm interested in is how do we expect this to change as we roll forward? Will we see the same results replicated over time? Or will we see certain variables become more or less significant? Obviously, there are no definitive answers; it's just food for thought at this stage.

    (the first question to be answered is are training methods becoming more homogenised? I would have to say the answer is yes...as would anyone who observes that players are becoming more similar due to the infulence of academies etc. Now iff nurture is becoming a more level playing field, then it's almost certainly true that differences in nature become more significant explanatory variables......of course that's a huge simplification, but we're just outlining plausible hypotheses here, not shooting for Nobel Prizes)
     
    #13
  14. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    Until Piotr and his ilk started researching LTAD, this is how Talent ID went. Players were picked because they either showed advanced physical characteristics over their peers (height, physical maturation etc) and were generally the older in their age group, or because they were simply more experienced and performing the task in question. This was true in a majority of sports and is NOT Talent ID!!!

    Cheers
     
    #14
  15. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    Interesting. I was reading an interview with Tim Kerrison (Head of Performance Science at British Cycling) and he was hypothesising that with the increased levels of knowledge is exercise physiology and improvements in SSSM that "anybody" could train to the level of an elite track cyclist under their programme, but that it would be the "individual" that made it to the podium!

    Cheers
     
    #15
  16. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,057
    I was waiting for this. I knew what I getting into when I posted, but educating people about genetics took higher priority.
     
    #16
  17. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,057
    I am afraid of the future and the coming low-cost gene sequencing tools. The day of the $1000 complete genome sequencing is near. PMac is partially correct, though as I pointed out not always. Since the USTA is quasi-government, can a similar organization screen students in academics based on the IQ and education of the parents?

    This thread is very timely for me, because I just returned from vacation in India where I was told that the government has recently banned interviews with parents for school admissions even for private schools. Public schools were always disallowed from doing this (like in the US), but now the ban has been extended to private schools, where the practice of judging the parents was widely prevalent. Schools used to evaluate the appearance and dress of the parents, their college education or lack thereof, and their conduct during the interview. Now they have to admit if the parents can pay, that is all.
     
    #17
  18. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    But, lung capacity is largely an inherited trait.
     
    #18
  19. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,057
    People in mountainous regions have 1/3rd more lung capacity than others, as do the mountain goats, yaks etc which roam up there
     
    #19
  20. TomT

    TomT Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2012
    Messages:
    1,954
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale, FL
    I for one am rooting for the next 5'11" world number one in tennis. :)
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2012
    #20
  21. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    Is it? It can also be trained (improved) from an early age and affected by circumstance.
     
    #21
  22. Mikael

    Mikael Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Messages:
    1,042
    Pat MacEnroe's approach is the right one. If he is screening hundreds of promising juniors he can't spend much time with every single one so he makes the job easier for himself: just look at height. Parents' height can give the wrong impression though, I guess you ought to wait until mid teens at least to have a broad idea of how tall a guy is going to be, **in general**.
     
    #22
  23. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    ^^^By which time it is too late to make a Talent Development Selection - so this approach is flawed from the start! The only true measure of "talent" is to identify a profile which the athlete should aspire towards achieving and develop 'steps' along the way to measure their rate of progression towards meeting this profile. Rate of progression is the only real measure of "Talent"

    Cheers
     
    #23
  24. Mikael

    Mikael Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2004
    Messages:
    1,042
    You're right, Ash. Ideally one would measure rate of progression. However, doing so requires plenty of time and effort. My impression was that Mac was looking for some kind of preliminary selection method, and only after that focus on each kid's game as you suggest...
     
    #24
  25. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    All true of course but remember Mac is looking for a different goal. He is looking for someone who would be Top 50 material that he can groom into the Top Ten.

    He is looking at differences at the very bleeding edge of the margins.
     
    #25
  26. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    ^^^How does that make the process any different? He needs to be looking for the right material to get to top 50 in the first place - and judging purely on physical size for that has been proven to be largely irrelevant!

    Cheers
     
    #26
  27. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    Really good post
     
    #27
  28. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    This is progress in the right direction, but many greats do not show super progression all along the way for a variety of reasons.
    But what your saying makes a ton more sense than 90% of what is going on
    in this area.
     
    #28
  29. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    I like this and see it often this way.
     
    #29
  30. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    PMac is on the right track but goes wrong in the highlighted above. We need to
    work to have several avenues of success and not limit it to the one we see as best or more likely. Maybe height will give us 15 players in the top 100, but miss the one guys who could be 4 yrs at #1. We can't afford to miss him imo.
     
    #30
  31. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,414
    this is actually true. 15 years ago the new technique with the kinematic sequence (hips lead hands) made a huge difference since with that modern technique even a small guy can hit harder than the greatest athlete with traditional technique.

    guys like agassi dominated the old fashioned hitters like that.

    however now everyone uses that technique which means that ultimately again the guy with the most fast twitch fibres hits the hardest. you can't gain much by better technique.

    thise DOESN'T mean techique became less important. you do need the proper technique (even a fat and old guy with great technique can beat great athletes with bad technique) but since so many have good technique you cannot really differentiate yourself with technique.

    This will continue as long until a player developes a new technique to gain an edge. every time a new technique is invented often inferior athletes can take a lead (see the ski jumper boklov who invented the V style or dick fosbury). a few years later the athletes close the gap by imitating the new technique.

    tennis is the same now. the modern rotational, windshield whiper strokes are getting "old". that means it's not a privilege to use them anymore-anyone in the top500 does. so athleticism is taking over now. this will contiue until a smart mind finds a new way of tricking the athletes.

    while size is important I think even more important is being fast twitch. kids should be recruited by having a fast arm (use throwing) and fast legs (sprinting). those things can easily be evaluated.
     
    #31
  32. LuckyR

    LuckyR Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2006
    Messages:
    6,404
    Location:
    The Great NW
    It all depends on your meaning of: "purely". Only the most naive and simplistic would think that tennis potential is "purely" based on size. But your guru Piotr Unierzyski even stated at the 2011 ITF Worldwide Coaches conference:

    " There is a strong relation between body build and tennis-specific fitness measured during childhood and adolescence and future performance level"

    and

    " The assessment of future adult height must be considered when analyzing talent (e.g. individual game style)"
     
    #32
  33. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    I think you overestimate speed of the ball as a factor. Technique is very important
    because it allow very good pace, very good spin, along with very awesome
    consistency. It's the blend it brings, not just pace. Many times the Gonzo or
    Del Potro will not win over slower hitters. It's more of a threshold of pace that
    needs to be achieved more than just high speed imo.
     
    #33
  34. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,414
    but isn't ball speed the factor that vreates the greatest differences? It's basically the only factor that can be maximized.

    however more correctly we would need to speak about heaviness. the more you put in the ball (either spin or speed) the heavier the shot will be. So more RHS= more heaviness.

    Don't you think that the best players in the world also have the highest RHS?

    there might be some guys who slap a ball harder than nadal or federer but I do think they are pretty much on top considering RHS.

    this is just a guess though since I don't have data but I would not be surprised if the guy with the highest RHS (which also needs a lot of technique not just power) usually wins.
     
    #34
  35. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    You may be right at the highest levels, but only the highest levels (top 20 or so), as here
    is where they all have high levels of execution.


    but I was speaking of ball speed, not
    rhs. I though you were too earlier. Maybe I mistook your comments.
     
    #35
  36. KineticChain

    KineticChain Professional

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,102
    THANK YOU. This is the first time I've seen someone on the forum reference the change in standard technique between eras as a defining moment/shift in the game. Most people like to blame the rackets/strings only and give no acknowledgements to the many tennis coaches who have studied the physics of tennis kinematics and changed how the game is played.
     
    #36
  37. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    Evolution!

    10monkeys
     
    #37
  38. Limpinhitter

    Limpinhitter Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 10, 2010
    Messages:
    9,277
    That's why I said "largely."
     
    #38
  39. dominikk1985

    dominikk1985 Legend

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2011
    Messages:
    6,414
    yes. however it was not the scientists who changed the game. they described it after athletes used it.

    discus throwers, baseball hitters and other athletes use the same principle since the 1950s. the priciple is easy: you coil the body back and then push off with the back leg to rotate the hips/trunk ahead of the arm.

    Tennis was just late in using what every other sport uses (probably because of the "polite" background of tennis). but I think material also has something to do with that. you can execute those full body strokes easier with the new material rather than with heavy and small sweetspot wood rackets.
     
    #39
  40. tommyfr

    tommyfr Rookie

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2009
    Messages:
    134
    Location:
    Cebu, Philippines
    heigth for tennis talent id?

    Bollettieri used to say that he looks for 3 things to id future champion:
    -footwork, speed
    -will to win
    -rigth attitude

    And Robert Landsdorp
    -foot eye coordination, more important than hand eye coordination
    -ball striking, hit clean, consistency, never misses
    -competitiveness (similar to 'will to win' above)
    -love of sport, passion
    -parental support
    -Independent thinking, basic idea of tennis tactics, where to hit the ball and why
    -Willingness to learn and be coached (similar to rigth attitude above, i assume)

    Rick Macci similar as the above.

    Heigth was not mentioned by these guys that have seen many champions at young age over the years, and many more promising kids that did not reach top level.
    And there are many men ranked top 100 between 5.5-5.11 and among women 5.2-5.6.

    Conclusion: I am not very much impressed by Macs thinking here, very superficial. Seems desperate.....And note, most markers mentioned above is neither physical or about technical talent, most are within the area of (sport) psychology.

    And USTA even states on their homepage something like this: the factor that usually makes or breaks a player is in the mental component of development.
     
    #40
  41. sureshs

    sureshs Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2005
    Messages:
    35,057
    If the rate of progression is high and ultimately saturates, it is not talent.

    Talented people can come from behind and surpass the early fast progressors.
     
    #41
  42. Ash_Smith

    Ash_Smith Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2005
    Messages:
    3,909
    Location:
    A green and pleasant land
    If the rate of progression is high, the athlete in question can be said to be "talented" in performing that particular skill. If their progress tails or levels off, it is likely not through lack of "talent" but more likely through change in stimulus or motivation, be it either intrinsic, extrinsic, internal or external.

    and you are correct Sureshs, but those who come from behind...show a fast rate of progression when playing catch. The biggest issue facing those making decisions on Talent Identification/Talent Selection is not those athletes you select, but what to do with those you do not!

    Cheers
     
    #42
  43. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,409
    We need more paths to success!
     
    #43

Share This Page