The myth of talent and ability in sports

A lot of psychological data now exists to promote the myth that natural ability or talent can be the primary basis of a sportsman’s success. This is perhaps one of the greatest sporting myths as many of us, the experts included, consider talent as everything.

It is also a great misconception to consider natural, particularly physical attributes, endowments as the only basis of prowess in a certain sport. Whether you are tall, stronger, heavier, or more agile is not an assurance that you will succeed in the particular sport. Some athletes are actually ‘built for the sport’ if we consider these endowments, but we know too well that they can flunk just as much.

So powerful is this misconception that it has become a key part of our assessment in recruiting programs across the sporting world. Sporting teams employing these drafting techniques have borne the wrath of this misconception. Check this out; In 1984, a top NBA team rejected a player that according to them did not possess the required talent. He was just another industrious shooting guard from college who was dumped by his high school team. The name of the player they rejected; Michael Jordan!

Basic training and relentless pursuit of excellence and improvement are the common denominators among top-performing athletes. This is even before you enter into the mind game, which is also a potential determiner. It is somewhat paradoxical that this is not obvious enough, but few people want to sit and listen to someone yapping about technique, agility, and physical fitness as crucial parts of an athlete’s success.

This misconception is better dispelled by considering what we refer to as the ‘naturals’ during their youthful years. Almost always, they are exposed to the sport at a tender age and immediately develop interest. This will lead to long periods of practice that will develop their skills and hence their ‘naturalness’ in the sport later on. In a nutshell, we can safely conclude that there are no real naturals. Everyone has to work their talents and abilities long enough to become outstanding.

So you’ve got bigger muscles and are much heavier, here is your next opponent; M.A.!

[M.A. = Muhammad Ali!]

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