Amazingly, there are those who insist that genes don’t matter

Wales call up Sir Ian Botham’s grandson James to Autumn Nations Cup squad for Georgia clash
Flanker James Botham, 22, is the son of former cricket, rugby union and league player Liam Botham who played for Cardiff in the late 1990s

Three generations of top flight sportsmen. All entirely due to environment, of course.

17 thoughts on “Amazingly, there are those who insist that genes don’t matter”

  1. They probably don’t. There have likely been thousands of blokes out there whose genes gave them the potential to be better sportsmen. Except they’re not interested in sport. Most people aren’t. If you come from a sporting family, maybe you start with the interest. It’s Venn diagram territory. The overlap is both the potential ability & the interest.

  2. What’s the grandson of the Greatest Living Englishman* doing playing for Wales? Is he not good enough to play for England?**

    * The GLE title is temporarily bestowed on sporting heroes at whim. 🙂
    ** That should annoy the Welsh. 😉

  3. Not sure about that BiS – being good at sport is a very useful way for young men to get status, even if they are not good enough to make a few quid at it, so all the incentives are there to keep at it. If anyone tells you “I could have played for ….. but decided to qualify as a plumber/train as an accountant etc” they’re probably bullshitting.

  4. I dunno. It could be having family that are pro sportsman also know how to teach their offspring and get the right doors open. Take Shaun Wright-Philips, Ian Wright is his step father so no genetic inheritance reason for his success there but lots of environmental.

    Probably both genes and environment are important.

  5. MC/BiS
    If you are bright enough to know that you are not good enough to gain status that way then there is no incentive to try.

    That Venn diagram has three elements: I’ll call them Gifts, Acquisitions, and Luck; other labels are available and there is plenty of scope to quibble over which applies. Some qualities are innate, talents you are born with or not. Some achieve greatness by practice or education or hard work. But is effort, perseverance, application an innate quality or a character that can be built. Being in the right place at the right time? Gift, Luck, or opportunity? Somewhere, between sitting around waiting for god’s smile and pulling manically on every leaver hoping for a jackpot, we make our own luck.

  6. “being good at sport is a very useful way for young men to get status”

    Yeah, but you’ve still got to get into it. By the time the status starts accruing, it’s usually too late to get into things at a serious level. Certainly too late for most young lads to make the rational calculation “being a professional footballer would earn me great status, so best start working on becoming one” if you’ve done no more than playground kickabouts until the age of 16. (Suspect having a famous parent, or as DJ points out, even a step-parent, is pretty handy for getting the attention of scouts, being taken into a high-level academy set-up and so on.)

    A nineteen year old professional football player, even rugby player, turning up at a club, sure, that might turn plenty of girls’ heads. Even high school team captain might not be doing so badly, likely not much or no worse than the guitar-playing singer-songwriter who gets a few small gigs. But all the grotty evenings spent at boring training, often just doing technical or fitness work rather than the fun stuff? For a lot of kids, most of whom won’t “make it”, this starts from a seriously young age. Meanwhile your mates are going out and doing “fun” stuff, maybe even actually meeting girls just as you’re cooped up in your parents’ car being whisked back and forth between training sessions… there’s actually a very big drop-off in sporting participation when kids leave school, then another after leaving university. Quite a big problem for minority sports like cricket that need to generate enough “recreational” players to keep the network of clubs and their distinct sporting culture alive. If being “good at sports” really was a status boost, you’d expect more young men to keep playing. At sub-professional levels, once you get out of educational settings, I’m not sure it does much.

  7. Zak Crawley looks like he’s related to John and Mark Crawley, and sounds like he’s related to them, but the bio on cricinfo mentions nothing about his parentage and grand-parentage. Would be curious to know if there is a connection.

  8. Connections are important, after we moved to Canada my son had a try out for the top junior league and made it right to the last cut, in the end the coach said they were interested but didn’t know who he was or his history so it was more of a gamble than the other kids they had been tracking for years.

  9. @ bis
    I don’t know what it’s like now but when I was young (in the days of the maximum wage and Gentlemen beating Players as often as not) being good at sport added to a lad’s status among his contemporaries.

  10. @john77

    “Gentlemen beating Players as often as not”

    The Gentlemen won seven matches between the end of WW1 and the final fixture in 1962. The Players had reached seven by 1923. Other than the 1870s, when the Gentlemen had a good run, the Players were generally well on top.

  11. @john77
    Depends who your contemporaries are. I’m told I was at school with one of England’s most famous footballers. Same year, same class. I haven’t the vaguest memory of him. Apart from the name. Which I never associated with the person in question. So what’s his status rating?
    It’s the thing about sport. People who are interested in it always think everybody else is. They think they have status. Others think they’re…

  12. My brother was quite good at sports; I couldn’t be bothered. Since we’re non-identical twins, I’d argue that genes do matter.

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