Nature or Nurture?


Duncan Holland writes;

I watched a BBC programme last night, Colin Jackson, the
making of me
. (As an aside the BBC is
one part of Britain
I am going to miss.) The programme
addressed the old nature versus nurture debate in the context of Jackson . It didnt do what the trailers promised, answer the question, but it
raised some good debating points.

The real answer of course is that to be a world class
athlete both sides are needed, great genes and great support. This is where I start getting
interested. Jackson was fortunate in
having supportive parents and a superb coach just down the road who was
prepared to invest time and energy into a kid with not much apparent talent,
and who saw sooner than others that Jackson had something special.

Rowing in most countries is haphazard in its search for talent;
GBR is an exception here with the World Class Start programme. There is though, the informal network of
clubs. Most clubs have a few big young
rowers who are considered to be talented. What I am interested in is the conversion this talent to
performance. In the old days before the
advent of National Training Centres and HPC s and RPC s and professional
coaches these talented youngsters were bred up in the clubs and educated in the
way of the sport by rowing with, and mixing with, the older, faster rowers in
the club. Now with most of the top
rowers spending their time as professionals hidden away at the National Centre
the young athletes miss role models and leadership in the clubs.

This sets the rest of us a challenge; we need to help those
talented rowers who arent identified early to blossom. I believe the best way to do this is to keep
them in a group. It isnt necessary to
isolate talent. Rowing in a crew boat,
even if most of the crew have less talent, is a good way for a potential star
to develop. Dont forget that a top
rower needs social skills as well as physical ones. A good apprenticeship in club crews, and at
local regattas, can prepare an athlete to make the jump to top sport.

And finally, Jackson
told us he was proud of his genetic make up, his rare and special mix of muscle
fibre types. I would suggest he should
be proud of what he did with his inheritance. Lots of people inherit a great body, few become World Champion!



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