It’s In Their Genes

By Brooke Hrouda

About a year ago, Sports Illustrated came out with a magazine article talking about sports DNA testing. While browsing around the internet yesterday, I happened to run across this article again, and it really got me thinking. While it doesn’t explicitly state this, the article insinuates that parents will someday be able to prove whether their children will have what it takes to be a professional sports player, and they will know this information before puberty.

Hypothetically, sports DNA testing for young children works this way: Parents send in a sample of their child’s DNA along with $200, and, poof, the company, one of which is called Atlas First, can test whether the child has the potential to thrive in a certain sport by testing specific markers in the DNA strand that are related to athleticism. The companies promise to help boys and girls of all ages make better decisions in the sports they choose to participate in.

“This could be the future of sports and allow kids to live out their dream,” said one employee of the DNA testing company.

“Or it could destroy them,” said a mom of a 6 year old from Athens, Ga., who said her son wants to be a professional football player.

Almost every child dreams of being a professional athlete at some point in his life, whether it’s baseball, football, soccer or something else. What eight year old doesn’t think that he’s going to be the next Michael Jordan or Chipper Jones someday. It is every child’s dream, both boys and girls, but in my opinion, sending in these DNA tests is the absolute worst thing a parent could do for their child as it pertains to athletics.

Yes, the test might be able to tell if your child has natural talent, but these tests can’t put in to play the determination and drive that a child might have or how much practice a child might put into the sport otherwise. There are two scenarios that could happen with these tests, and neither one leads to the child completing his or her dream.

The first case is that a child gets back the results, and they say he or she is not fit for a particular sport. The child will then give up and quit the sport. Let’s be honest here. The chances of becoming a professional athlete are probably about one in a million, and if the child quits a sport after learning that he or she is never going to succeed, it ruins what could have been many years of enjoyment and friendship.

The second scenario would be that a child gets back the results, and they say that he has the potential to thrive in a certain sport. The young boy or girl is going to be over-joyed with this information, and from that point on they are not going to work as hard, practice as much, or feel the same drive as they would have had they not known in advance they had these genes. Why put effort into something that you know beforehand you are going to achieve? No good can ever come from this.

Although it may seem to parents that having this test done will help their children, sports DNA testing is not worth the price these kids will pay. There is no reason to take years of athletics away from children just to see if they could succeed in the future. Sure it would be nice to know whether those countless hours of toting children back and forth from practice to practice will pay off in the future. But why give up that smile you see on your son’s face when he scores his first goal or the giggling you hear from your daughter when she receives her first trophy?

It seems to me that this hypothetical future test could be more detrimental than helpful to the children. Maybe these hypothetical tests should stay hypothetical for a while longer.

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