…A letter discussing recent events at the Air Force Academy

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I was asked to post this for a friend:

…While racism has no place in our society, I believe that Coach DeBerry’s comments do not meet a reasonable person statute for the level of punishment he appears to have received from his employer. I encourage you to read the article found at the link below. I pulled the quoted material that follows, from the article.

From: http://www.blackathletesportsnetwork.net/artman/publish/article_0686.shtml

…Why do we so readily accept that evolution has turned out blacks with a genetic proclivity to contract sickle cell, Jews of European heritage who are one hundred times more likely than other groups to fall victim to the degenerative mental disease, Tay-Sachs, and whites who are most vulnerable to cystic fibrosis, yet find it racist to acknowledge that blacks of West African ancestry have evolved into the world’s best sprinters and East Asians, the best divers?

Genes circumscribe possibility. I believe that we need to look at the causes of differences in athletic performance between races as legitimately as we do when we study differences in diseases between the various races,” notes Claude Bouchard, geneticist and director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. “I have always worked with the hypothesis that ignorance fosters prejudice. [Critical inquiry] is the greatest safeguard against prejudice.

Indeed, if we do not welcome the impending genetic revolution with open minds, if we are scared to ask and to answer difficult questions, if we lose faith in science, then there is no winner. We all lose. The question is no longer whether genetic research will continue but to what end. If decent people don’t discuss human biodiversity, writes George Mason professor Walter Williams, who is black, we concede the turf to black and white racists.

The coach’s comments did not come in an educational forum, nor were they spoken with great sensitivity for the subject, but they do not incorrectly state what is fact, scientific as well as performance measured. Success, in whole or part thru genetic pre-disposition is still success. Acknowledgment of the same, spoken in plain words is all I have seen from video and print media on his comments.Sensitivity training? fine, but censure? surely not at of all places, an institution of higher learning. Public punishment in this case denys truth and serves only to extend the time that misconceptions will rule this subject and thus impare dialog as well as on going social interaction.

I was recently sent a set of interview questions by someone who is authoring a book on the training of athletes. I would like to share one of the questions asked and my answer.

Where do you stand on nature versus nurture? How much difference can training make?

I’ll take nature first every time. To me this parallels the old basketball truism that goes, “You can’t teach height” People are born with certain advantages and disadvantages and most of them can not reasonably expect to contend for a spot in their favored event on the next USA Olympic Team.

That being said, I also believe that there are regular examples where a lesser naturally gifted athlete achieves great success. In this case, training makes all the difference. Here specificity is critical as there is no margin for error. The lesser gifted athlete needs to be supremely skilled and conditioned to succeed. An ancillary benefit is that they tend to be more consistent performers than their more genetically gifted teammates and / or competitors.

Take the successful lesser gifted athlete. A measuring of the sum of their parts so to speak, would likely fall within maybe 95%? of the physical gifts of the genetically advantaged athlete. Hard work and dedication can close a small gap but not a void the size of the Grand Canyon. From my reading, only deities can change water into wine. Those who fall outside of the 5% margin, will consistently fail to succeed at the highest levels.

There are those at the D I and post-collegiate levels who trumpet their coaching success when often they simply are taking talent from disadvantaged backgrounds and giving them their first access to: regular health care and rehab, 3 square meals a day, a decent bed / nights sleep, etc, etc. This is perhaps the greatest example of nature and nurture coming together but is not a true measure of one’s skill in coaching athletes. Discuss Entry¬†

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