Monday, December 01, 2008

Testing For "Sports Gene" In Children--A New Way To Part Foolish Parents From Their Money

Yesterday's New York Times had a fascinating front-page article on a rush by parents--especially in Boulder, Colorado--to get their toddlers tested for a so-called sports gene.

That's right, genetic testing now purports to be able to tell you whether your little tyke will be the next Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan or Usain Bolt. Well, not really--the gene has been identified in white Olympic athletes, so we guess you'll have to settle for Roger Federer, Tom Brady or David Beckham.

Anyway, we had a good time with some friends yesterday making fun of this genetic test (they've probably all secretly swabbed their children's mouths and sent in for the test by now). For $150, Atlas Sports Genetics in Boulder will tell you whether your child has has the version of the ACTN3 gene that is supposedly beneficial for elite/power athletes, such as sprinters, as opposed to the version found more frequently in "endurance" athletes.

When you get the test results back, you also get a little pamphlet telling you how to develop your little super-athlete. And if you haven't parted with enough of your money on such silliness yet, then you can also go to Epic Athletic Performance, a company that will put children through a talent identification test.

The apparent idea behind the testing is to match your children with the types of sports they are most genetically compatible with. One overwrought parent quoted in the NYT article said she thought such testing would "prevent a lot of parental frustration" as she watched her 2 year old struggle through a toddler soccer class. (Note: 2 year olds do not need soccer classes--just let them run around and have fun!)

As a public service, the Curmudgeon is going to give all those parents contemplating these tests some completely FREE advice: (1) no matter what your child's genes say, he or she has an infinitessimally small chance of becoming an Olympian or professional athlete; (2) if your child is really talented, it won't be that difficult to tell; (3) if you want to know if your child is going to be fast, wait until he or she is 5 and have 'em race the kids at their school. And finally, this: for goodness sakes, encourage your kids to play sports for FUN(!!!) and as their parents, take a chill pill.

Now, if you're still hoping to part with your money to find out what your child's professional sports prospects are, leave us a comment with your email address and we'll get in touch with you about our program for a mere $200 that will help you decide whether he or she is going to be a 2024 Olympian.


MonkeyGirl said...

That is absolutely ridiculous...and just one step away from designer babies. Above all, whether a child has the gene or not, what's essential is desire. If the child doesn't want to play soccer, not matter how talented or genetically prone he or she is, they aren't going to be a good soccer player. No amount of genes is going to change that.

Bluedog said...

This is just absurd. As my daughter was growing up I exposed her to golf (through her grandfather) and to rock climbing (me) and although she had some interest in those sports she kept gravitating back to dancing. So, the golf clubs are gathering dust and the climbing shoes sit unused in the garage but Megan is loving her ballet classes.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Tom Brady is Olympian, but we'll put that aside.

If my child has this gene she is going straight to David Ledbetter's academy. Never mind that she can't walk or even stand yet, but she'll be banging out 300 yard drives by the time she's 3!

Just kidding. If people want to test thier kids, let them. A certain quote from P.T. Barnham comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

No Ken, we didn't secretly send off our kid's swabs, my husband sent off his own to find out what sport his mid-40ish body could possibly compete in at the Olympic level. He's joining the Colombian curling team so look out. That is $150 well spent -- just don't tell our kids.