The Sports Gene

Aaron King (00:00):
Hey everybody. Welcome to the podcast. This is Aaron King with Coach Bob King. Today we're gonna talk about the sports gene. (It's a book) Well, BK. I'm gonna let you just explain what it is and why we're talking about it. I have not read it, everybody. So this is me, literally asking him questions, just like you might want to ask questions. So BK, so tell me about the sports gene and why are we talking about it?

Coach King (00:21):
Well, the thing about it, it's a book of course called The Sports Gene. The reason we're talking about it is because I wanna make sure there's a balance to the information. Now, this is not really a book review, but it's an information update. And that is, the book goes into detail about everything we already know and its summary? Some are born with it. Some are not.

Now to that end, what that means is, in my opinion as a coach, or even as a parent, you need to give your young athlete the opportunity to find out what sort of sports genes do they possess. High, medium, low? Just show up and be great? What does that mean? So we can go through and the data's in the book, global examples are in the book, and a lot of it is environmental. People have grown up, or populations have grown up, and their bodies have adapted to the need to protect themselves in cold weather, in hot weather, in cases of danger, in fleeing, or fighting. All sorts of circumstances have created a type of genetic predisposition for an attribute.

Aaron King (01:25):
So what sort of things, when you say the level of genetics, are you looking for? Are we just looking for a mindset? We looking for physical? I'm sure it's all of that stuff, but what are we looking for?

Coach King (01:37):
Yeah, let me just jump in on that right there. It's all of it. In my coaching career, I've seen both sides of it. The guy, one of the finest young football players I had in high school was undersized, under [strengthed], under in everything, but he was over driven. He was out of his mind intent on being successful playing football. He was an asset to our team. His high school career was gonna be the end of his career. So he just possessed that drive, that mental/emotional strength. I've seen athletes like, ‘Man, you are so gifted. Can't you just turn it on?’ They don't have the desire that it can't turn on. So there's where we hit that real kind of the dichotomy, the tension, the seek for balance with a possession of great talent physically and maybe not so much on the mental side.

As a coach, I know I have said more than once, you've gotta win the mind game. We see it all the time, especially in close games or in the championship of some sort, usually is the mental toughness that's gonna win out. So all of that said, the sports gene simply means that you were born and you were incredibly gifted, but that by no means means that we just say, oh, he's got it. He doesn't. She's got it. She doesn't. Because our job as coaches is not only coaching is teaching, but to develop. That's a big part of what we do, obviously, at King Sports, is develop the athlete.

Aaron King (03:10):
You know, it's funny you talk about the mental side, physical side. Tom Brady's the first guy that comes to mind. He's the most gifted competitor, perhaps ever, even Peyton Manning, you know, with that sort of work ethic and drive. Tom Brady, you know, they make fun of how bad he was at the combine when he was coming out of the draft. He's always had a good arm, a cannon of an arm, but how smart he is and how focused he is and how locked in. And when you see him sitting on the bench with his hands folded in the fourth quarter, and you're up by two touchdowns, you better watch out. That’s the Tom Brady and you're up, but you're basically behind at this point.

Coach King (03:47):
That's exactly, I think, one of the strongest points to come out of what we're talking about. Tom Brady was not gonna impress anybody with his athleticism, but his leadership ability, his ability to learn and control, and when I say control, that means the tempo of a game. His ability to get the locker room in control because people know that football's a quarterback's game. And so if Tom Brady's in that locker room, I'm following him.

Aaron King (04:17):
So, when we say that you either have it, or you don't, how much in this book, I don't know how much it touched on it, but we'll start splitting hairs here. What's the compensation that you can make with work ethic and training and programming, if you don't have ‘the gift’? Some people just don't have it. It's like, no, no, sorry, dude. You're just do not have it. I apologize. You're just not gonna be a pro athlete. Some, you know, hey, he's okay. Okay speed, whatever, you know, kind of undersized, but they can compensate with the mindset and the work ethic.

Coach King (04:54):
That's huge because I talk about it with athletes all the time about having a sports IQ and that doesn't have anything to do with knowing batting average of any of their favorite baseball players or any stats of their soccer players, number of goals, assists, etc. That's not sports IQ. Sports IQ is knowing a game and how the game ebbs and flows. There's a difference between practice speed and game speed, all coaches know that, but at game speed, the really high IQ sports IQ athletes, they just see things as they unfold. They read and react and we call it in football. They read and react because they can see it as it's being unfolded. They know what the play is or what's gonna happen.

It can be soccer players, they do the same thing. They set you up because they have such a good sports IQ. They can dribble in one direction and kind of get you leaning and boom, they counter against you, and off they go. So sports IQ (mental/emotional) can help balance the lack of a sports gene. I think that's a huge point that we all need to keep in mind because everybody has to work. Everybody has to work to reach and tap their genetic potential because it doesn't come out in a card when you're born saying here's your genetic potential. In the book, I think the summary statement that I read by the author was that he was quoting a guy at a university who just said, well, I know we've got all the science and we can break genes down into different strands and so forth, but we can also do the same thing with a stopwatch. So, I think, well, yeah, you're right. So you light up and run 'em and you can go, wow, that guy's got it. It goes across the board. Now, I always use my reference as guys in football, but we've seen it with the female athletes who, when it comes to, especially with volleyball and tennis and soccer, the athleticism is very, very strong.

Aaron King (06:55):
It's not only the athleticism, but it's also picking the right sport and right position. I was always fast for size, but there's guys way faster. And I was not that tall, but skill stuff I had a knack for. So you start gravitating towards the things where you're like, okay, hold on. I have an edge here, because I'm pretty detail oriented, and I'm talking about anyone. So maybe I should be a skilled player or a field goal kicker. Maybe golf is my thing, because I'm really technical, or baseball versus I can shoot the three, like nobody in dunk and rebound, the pure athleticism. So were there any insights into that in the book or do you have any thoughts?

Coach King (07:39):
The book didn't play into that so much except for outside the idea of what we all know about and that is committing or commitment to an end here. The classic case is the guy or girl out in the driveway at one o'clock in the morning shooting free throws, because they are determined to be the best in the league or wherever they are playing. That kind of commitment can help pull that along. I think one of the things that really matters the most, and I don't know if you wanna just call it mental or emotional or a combination psychological, is that, I'll use myself as an example. Even though I was involved in sports at various levels, you would not–well, one time. I take that back. One time you saw me at a golf tournament, a charity golf tournament.

I was there to say hello and maybe grab something to eat, but to get me on a golf course happened one time. I think it lasted three holes. Cause I don't have time for this. And that's a personality flaw, I guess. I mean, I train golfers. I trained PGA guys and of course they love the sport. Certain sports, I'm just not mentally able to sink myself into now or growing up. I think that's a big part of it. If a person has a certain talent, it's very difficult sometimes to push them in that direction or lead them in that direction, if they don't want to. They have to have self discovery. I think that's the tricky unknown when young athletes are trying to pick where they want to go.

To that end, I like to always say, in the lower levels, say fifth grade and below, it's important to let the kids play. And what I mean by that, literally, is just play. You go out and maybe you're on a team, that's fine, but you're simply playing the sport. You're not worried about winning the championship. You're not worried about the all whatever team you're just wanting them to play. When you get to middle school, it becomes extremely structured because now you have, typically, a setting with school coaches and that's their job, and you still have the ability to play. Because everybody that comes out for the team is typically on the team. Get to high school, the game changes, and now we start separating you. You don't get to play just because you're on the team or you may not make the team. So we have a structure built in to help identify where athletes should go to play what they're talented, or gifted with.

Aaron King (10:09):
It's funny because I can't golf because I would be addicted to it. So it's the other reason why I can't golf because I would just be out there obsessing about that stupid swing. Well, you touched on something there that–some folks get it, some don't. It gets brought up. Some folks are ex exposed to sports versus, the parent that might not have played sports and are new newer to some of these concepts, but playing multiple sports as a youth developing–I know of some folks who their son might be pretty good at baseball and they're seven years old, you know? Well, they might be pretty good and they might love it, but before we dedicate 10 hours a day to this for the next 20 years, let's let em play some sports, have some fun, develop some other skills, some other teamwork traits that come from other sports, etc. So can you touch a little bit more on developing athletes playing multiple sports and not focusing on one.

Coach King (11:18):
No doubt. I think back to the middle school and lower levels–play everything. I'm gonna be very careful; I'm putting a fine print on this to say, play everything no matter how good you are at it. Not to the detriment of the kid, to where they're so bad, they're embarrassed and whatnot. If you have enough aptitude to be able to function in a sport competently, play as many things as you can. Because as you go through the pro ranks, the dealings I had over years with the athletes, whether tennis, soccer level, the crossover was huge. We were, for example, doing a pre-draft workup for the Mavericks and had a player from Connecticut and he was a 400 meter runner in track. He was good. We tested him to do the things on the court and I was looking into his background. It's like, dude, you were a 400 meter guy in high school. I want you, I hope the coaches do too. He was on our board and we wanted him, and so did a bunch of other teams. So he wasn't there when we got to him. But he's an example where you see a lot of tennis players, especially in other countries, who have soccer background, and that's excellent because there's a lot of running. So soccer's a good developmental area.

The point here is, I think you want young athletes to get used to doing athletic, sport things. Running is a big one, you know, oh, I hate to run. I hate to condition. You're gonna have a tough time coming up in the ranks of any sport. So, soccer, lacrosse, which is a big open field game and other things, especially with field sports, it's great to have athletes at least trying those. First of all, they are being exposed to running and what it means to be fit. Number two, it really helps to be fast.

Aaron King (13:09):
It's not only that, but it goes back to the game speed versus practice speed. Because you're competing in other sports, you're getting that neuro imprinting in a competitive environment at a faster speed. So if you're playing competitive soccer, but you're a basketball player, all that footwork you're getting in a soccer game/soccer match while you're being challenged, pushed off the ball, is different no matter how hard the workout is. We're putting you through on an agility ladder. That game speed is totally different. Especially on the running side, playing basketball.

Coach King (13:40):
Well, I talk about this all the time. We'll create drills and do things with our cone ladder, and I will put things together that are not just way out in left field or too crazy, but I tell the athlete that I'm trying to give you a repertoire. I don't know if you'll ever use this. It's not a bad drill, but if you do need it, you'll recall it. Your body will recall it. If you don't need it, you may need a pattern in your foot movement that reflects that, that you have been somewhat prepared for. Then like all of us coaches, or even spectators would like to say, whoa, what was that? That was just a good athletic play. You didn't practice it. You didn't necessarily even visualize it. I'm not talking about visualizing, making the last second shot to win the game, but I'm talking about just doing something that no way you could have prepared for that, but you have a repertoire of movements and body control and balance that allowed you to make that athletic play.

Aaron King (14:37):
So, for the coach, who's got a really talented athlete, but they're having a hard time motivating them to train because the athlete's already winning. They're already top of their game in their division, district or whatever. It's hard. Every time you get to those levels, all the best people from their district level or community, get together. So you have these young athletes who have this perceived level of success. Like even though it is a success, they are doing good. So it might be hard to motivate some of them and not all of them. Some kids are just natural workers, but there are athletes we've worked with, some that were blue chip, all American, whatever they were, and they didn't understand why they needed to train because they were already at the top of their game, even though we were only competing, maybe with our immediate community. So what are some things you tell a younger athlete to be like, listen, this is why you still have to train. Here are the benefits you can get. Here are the outcomes you're gonna have, even though you're already numero uno in your immediate space.

Coach King (15:41):
I mean, that's a huge explanation of a problem. It's not rampant or anything like that, but it's a huge problem. In the sense that if there is an athlete that has that approach it's a devastating thing. In the sense of this, you have so much ability, so much potential and you have not gotten to one tenth of it. Of course, we all coaches say, ‘potential means you haven't done nothing yet’.

Now to your point, you can't do a lot for it, but I have two things that I do. The simplest thing that is obvious is like, you know, young man, young lady, there's gonna be a day when somebody is gonna come in the room or onto the field or onto the court that’s just as talented as you. And they've been working their butt off since day one and they're gonna mop the floor with you. Now, you don't have to believe me, and this is not my opinion, but when it happens, you will know it. So you hope that has a little bit of an impact.

What I also do, because I have the opportunity in my facility, I'll have athletes just kind of come through. If I have an individual session or something going on with a younger athlete, I'll invite the older guy. And this usually is some like middle school and then a high school. So it's not a huge gap. I don't have a pro with an 11 year old, but I'll have a couple, you know, at least one level up, come do some of our running work. And I say, I want you to see where, where you may be headed. All right. And let them see what's ahead of them. Because even though they say, well, you know, they're three or four years older than I am. Doesn't matter. That's what's coming. You're gonna meet that guy or girl. So make sure you understand this, is what hard work will get you if you don't work hard.

Aaron King (17:28):
The biggest thing right there I think is, watching their attention to detail and focus. Working with NFL quarterbacks or pro anything, the attention to detail and the hours spent on the simplest things. I mean, a wide receiver, I've seen guys spend three hours working on a five yard out route. They're not trying to make diving catches, one hand catches. They're trying to get that bread and butter, five yard out on the sideline. Maybe they're doing tiptoes one day. Maybe they're working on across the middle just on catching the ball and rolling, so there's no question that it hit the ground or not. Just those little details that you see at the pro level. And sometimes when these kids can just watch these guys work and see how it's always hard. You want to heave the full court shot. You wanna see how far you can throw the football. Whereas the pro is working on the free throws. The pro is working on just maybe some band work to get their hips stronger. Like just the little details. Anything that we didn't touch on from the book that you thought was a great takeaway as we're wrapping it up?

Coach King (18:37):
Well, I just think what he was saying about some are born and gifted, but everybody has the opportunity to find out where they can take whatever gift they have and how far they can max it. So by no means is it intended to say that you don't have it, sorry, no room for you. There is a lot of room for a lot of individuals with a lot of variability and talent and will to drive and drive those kinds of things, make a big difference. So what we want to do is encourage people to pursue excellence. To understand what you just said about the details and the grind and the work. It's really great turning on the TV and watch the big boys and girls play–college and Pro, Division I stuff. What goes on behind the scenes and practice, and what goes on behind the scenes in a three month off season, you just have to be there to understand it. If you visit one day, you still don't get the picture because grind is synonymous with time. So if you think you're gonna grind it out, you better be willing to put in the time to do it.

Aaron King (19:40):
Thanks everyone for joining us today. We will certainly revisit this topic. I think there's a lot more we could get to, but we try to keep these episodes about this time length. So if you have any questions, just reach out to CoachBobKing on Instagram, that's probably the best place to reach out, and then follow him on TikTok at CoachBobKing, and then check us out on YouTube King Sports Training and go to to get all the training programs. We put it all out there and then the newsletter we send out every week with all this information. So thanks for listening. We'll talk to you next time.


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