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Topend Sports Newsletter: 15 Nov 2016

Have You  Been Served Your Share of Luck?

Only a very small number of athletes make it to the pinnacle of their chosen sport. Getting there is not just all hard work, a bit of luck is also involved. Luck around being a certain body size along with favourable physiology, being born in a country and era with the availability of facilities and coaching, plus the opportunity to participate in the sport. Luck can also be involved in being well nourished, healthy and staying uninjured, as well as having the time and financial resources required to participate. There is not a lot you can do to change these factors, so yes it is luck!


While your physiology can be trained up to your full potential, and you can train to modify your body fat and muscle composition, there is not a lot you can do about your height, especially if it is well away from the optimum height for your sport. For example, there is an advantage being tall for sports such as basketball, volleyball and rowing, while in sports like diving, gymnastics and for jockeys short stature is advantageous.


In the example of the sport of tennis, height is not usually considered an important factor for success. If you look back at the history of tennis, there have been plenty of examples of successful players of all heights. Other attributes are undeniably important - I would rank good speed, agility and endurance as essential. Every time we have asked the question, body size and composition has ranked the lowest of the components of fitness for tennis (see poll1, poll2 and poll3).


If body size is not important, why are the best players getting taller? I recently did an analysis of the height of all Wimbledon champions, which showed a clear trend of increasing height over the last 50 years. The average male champion in the 1960s was 182cm (5 ft 11.5 in), and so far in the 2010s it is 188cm (6 ft 2 in). For the females, it has increased from 170cm (5 ft 7 in) in the 1960s up to a peak of 181cm (5 ft 11.5 in) in the 2000s. So is being tall an advantage for tennis players


There is an argument to support the advantage of being tall - as tall players (with longer limbs) can reach more areas of the court with ease, and when serving can generate more racket speed and contact the ball from a higher height. On the other hand, being shorter is usually associated with greater balance and agility, very important attributes for tennis players so they can quickly cover all areas of the court.


Maybe height is more important than people realize, and at the highly competitive elite level, with the current power hitting game, the height advantage is playing a greater part. So for budding young tennis players, if you are short, maybe you should reconsider your chosen sport. With your great endurance, speed and agility there are many other sports you can try your luck with. 

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Newly Added to Topend Sports
Recommended Book
Anatomy for Strength & Fitness Training: An Illustrated Guide to Your Muscles in Action 

Perfect for both beginning and advanced fitness practitioners. Using detailed anatomical illustrations, this book provides visual insight into what happens to the body during exercise.


There are 90 exercises, grouped by body region and involving gym machines, free weights, and body weight/stretching, as well as yoga and Pilates. Each exercise is vividly illustrated by a full-color anatomical illustration of the targeted muscles, together with instructions on execution and technique.


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