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Small Data in Sports: Little Differences that Mean Big Outcomes

David Epstein (Sports Illustrated)

Mission City
Average rating: ****.
(4.89, 27 ratings)
Slides:   1-PPTX 

The gap between legendary and anonymity in sports is often less than a 1% performance difference in elite sports. Thus, finding the core, modifiable variables that determine performance and tweaking them ever so slightly can alchemize silver medals into gold ones.

Photo of David Epstein

David Epstein

Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated

Are stars like Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, and Serena Williams genetic freaks put on Earth
to dominate their respective sports? Or are they simply normal people who overcame their
biological limits through sheer force of will and obsessive training? In the decade since the
sequencing of the human genome, researchers
have slowly begun to uncover how the
relationship between biological endowments and a competitor’s training environment affects
athleticism.
In this controversial and engaging exploration of athletic success, based on his best
selling “The Sports Gene: Inside the Science of Extraordinary Athletic Performance”,
David Epstein tackles the great nature vs. nurture debate and traces how far science has come in solving this
timeless riddle. He investigates the so-called 10,000-hour rule to uncover whether rigorous
and consistent practice from a young age is the only route to athletic excellence. Along the way,
Epstein dispels many of our perceptions about why top athletes excel. He shows why some skills
that we assume are innate, like the bullet fast reactions of a baseball or cricket batter, are not,
and why other characteristics that we assume are entirely voluntary, like an athlete’s will to train,
in fact have important genetic components.
As Senior Writer for Sports Illustrated (SI), Epstein has become one of the top sports science and medicine investigative journalist today.
His science writing has won a number of awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists 2010 Deadline Club Award for an article on the genetics of sports performance;
Time Inc.‘s Henry R. Luce Award for public service for an article on the dangers of the dietary supplement industry; and the Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Association’s “Big Hearted Journalism” award for his story, “Following the Trail of Broken Hearts,” on sudden cardiac death in athletes. Epstein was a 2011 Livingston Award finalist for a package that included articles on pain in sports and the anticipatory skills that allow Major Leaguers to hit 100 mph fastballs. Epstein’s work has appeared in Discover, Scientific American,
US News and World Report, The Guardian, and Inside Higher Ed, among other publications.

Since 2008, Epstein has co-authored several of SI and SI.com’s most high profile
investigative pieces, including the revelation that Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez tested
positive for steroids in 2003, and an investigation that revealed a pattern of NCAA violations
under former Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel. Audiences from the education, business, and health worlds
will be captivated by the knowledge and experience Epstein possesses on the topics of sports. His speeches will alter the
public perception of how athletes train and work towards success through learned performance
from a genetic and biological perspective.
Tying this in with how companies function today, the
wisdom Epstein shares will produce irreplaceable lessons
for all.