Perhaps the most intriguing psychology question debated today has to do with how much of your personality is due to genetics versus learned life experiences — also known as nature versus nurture. Some human qualities, like hair and eye color, are clearly due to genetic influences, while other life skills like throwing and catching a ball are learned through experience. While there are many absolute examples of things like your height being attributed to genetics and learning how to shoot a ball being a learned experience, there are many more instances where nature and nurture intersect and influence each other. It is at this precise point where the introduction of skill acquisition builds from one’s natural genetic structure, thereby providing a new look at nature nurture, but in a less “absolute” sense.
Many times in life biological aspects of human development emerge, and then are either capitalized upon or ignored. For example, lets say you have a son who from the very first time introduced to a baseball picks up the ball with his left hand. Dad, a former baseball pitcher, realizes the advantage of being a left-handed pitcher, and immediately praises his son each time he picks the ball up with his left hand. In fact, dad not only gets excited about this discovery, he finds himself now regularly handing the ball back to his son’s left hand. His son, now catching on that dad becomes very happy when he throws with his left hand, is encouraged to continue using his left hand and, over time, becomes a “lefty.”
Using this example, we can see an initial potential predisposition of left-handed throwing, but you could easily argue that it was dad’s encouragement and positive reinforcement (learned behaviors) that really prompted the kid to become a left handed baseball player. Would this be nature? Nurture? Or both?
Being good at something in life is usually a combination of have some natural talent (and interest), coupled by life opportunities that allow skills to develop and flourish. The challenge for parents is A) noticing natural interests and tendencies their kids display, and B) creating an environment around the child that allows him/her to further develop specific skills. Additionally, parents need to keep emotions in check when the potential for a skill develops, as in the case of the overzealous dad who quickly capitalized on his son’s potential to throw left-handed. The best-case scenario is when a child displays an above-average talent and interest toward something, and parents then create specific, reward-driven learning opportunities so the child can improve in the skill.
Nature (genetics) alone will only provide part of what is needed in order for kids to fully develop specific life skills, including sport skills. In addition to good genes, kids need life opportunities to further enhance skills, as well as solid parenting and coaching around them to consistently shape behaviors through positive reinforcement. Kids with natural advantages will only go so far if they aren’t surrounded by adults who can provide important opportunities, as well as motivate kids to reach their best through positive encouragement and reinforcement.