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Testing Kids for a Sports Gene: Would You Do It?

Michael Jordan

How badly do you need to know if the next Michael Jordan is shooting hoops in your driveway?

Do you have a hunch that the next Michael Jordan is dunking right under your roof? Or that the successor to Maria Sharapova is hitting balls against your garage door?

If you’re so convinced that your kid is an athletic prodigy and don’t want to wait to find out if endorsement deals will be forthcoming, new technology exists that can tell you how your child will perform in sports.

But here’s the question: do you really want to know? And will you do something differently once you know the answer?

For just $169 and a swab inside your child’s cheek, a personal genetic test from a company called Atlas Sports Genetics will predict their performance abilities based on biology.

But let’s say the results indicate that your little golfer is the next Jack Nicklaus then what? Do you quit your day job to get your kid out on the golf course all day, every day? Do you make them give up other activities and sports to train, train, train? Do you alter their diet? Pull them from classes? Cut back on their social schedule? Do you really think they have a shot at the green blazer?

Of course it almost goes without saying that there are skeptics who argue this gene test is somewhat bogus and shouldn’t be used on kids until they’re 18 years old and can understand the results (the test boasts it’s “Safe to use on the youngest of athletes”).

The company that manufactures the test says they encourage overall wellness and include an education packet with it. But that doesn’t mean that parents won’t start seeing sports agents and dollar signs in their dreams if all signs are pointing to a Heisman Trophy winner.

Do tests like these put an uncomfortable emphasis on winning? Does it send kids the wrong message about why they’re participating in sports to begin with? What if the test says they’re not destined for greatness are they more inclined to quit?

And what if the test is wrong (the results rely mostly on one gene, while some experts argue the best predictor of sports success can only be determined by looking at a combination of genes)? Will some kids miss out on the opportunity to excel at — and enjoy — sports because they’ll stop trying, and will others try too hard at the expense of other activities and academics when the reality is they are no better than average?

I think we’ve all done just fine without a test predicting how good were are at sports, and how good we were as kids. Cream rises to the top. Let it happen naturally. Kids don’t need another excuse to fail or succeed because of outside factors.

How about you? Do you think the test is cool, or a bit cruel?

Image: Wikipedia

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