Champions aren’t born, they are made

How many times have you heard this quote over the years?

Most know my general dislike of motivational quotes, but this isn’t about motivation, this is truth.

Genetics plays a huge role in determining future athletic success, but that success relies solely on you applying your genetic potential with hard work.

If genetics were worthless, the Soviet system of selecting kids for certain sports based upon their predisposition as children would have never existed. – (yes, this is from Duke to lend some credibility to it, not from Joe Blow blog author – like myself).

The Soviet program started with the kids doing gymnastics, which I firmly believe is a critical component missing from our childhood gym classes. Instead of spending time playing kickball, tag, dodgeball, those kids were learning how to move, balance and be stronger with their own bodyweight. And its fun.

Here in America, that is largely determined by chance and you select your own sport of choice based upon what you enjoy doing rather than what you are best at.

Its freedom of choice for us, which leaves your potential not up to someone else’s decision but to your own.

Some of us do well with it, some don’t.

Todd Marinovich was one who didn’t do very well with it. Sure he was groomed as a child to be a QB. his dad, Marv, monitored his diet, training and raised him to be a superstar athlete. Todd had some success in college, got drafted into the NFL, played a little Arena League, CFL and then disappeared due to personal issues and drug use. (

Todd is now a recovering addict.

Scottie Pippen was a player who received zero attention coming out of high school, had to walk-on at a NAIA school and it wasn’t until a growth spurt and subsequent attention from being an All-American did he receive any looks from the NBA.

You know the rest, he went on to have a career where he is considered one the top 50 players of all time.

Did the growth spurt help him? Of course, but so did hard work. He was an incredible defensive player and that is a true mark of how hard a basketball player works. Everyone wants to score, but working to keep the other guy from scoring is a sign of dedication to fundamentals and a drive to be the best.

Both of these men had genetic potential, one of them became a legend, the other became a what-if.

The same applies to all of us. Each of us has something in us we are good at. It doesn’t even have to be sports, lifting or any athletic activity. You can be incredibly smart at computers, you could pick up math and sciences easily, you could learn several languages easier than most. It doesn’t matter.

What does matter is applying those gifts you have to the best possible outcome.

What does matter is even if you aren’t the best at your chosen sport, you apply everything you have to be the best at it for yourself.

I’ve seen skinny kids who will never see a starting position in their lives bust their asses harder than some star players. I’ve seen star players lose out on positions for lack of caring, coming to practice late, missing the weight room and slacking off in school. It doesn’t matter how good you think you are, you are truly only as good as the effort you put into your chosen goal, genetics or not.

Tom Brady still uses the fact he was a 6th round pick to find that fire to practice, be the best and to win. Despite the fact that he is one of the best NFL players at his position in history, he sees himself as the overlooked skinny QB from Michigan. (

Was he the genetic best? Maybe, maybe not. But he set out to prove 198 picks in front of him were dead-ass wrong.

This is real motivation, not some quote, not some meme, not some picture. These are real stories, these are real wins, real losses and real people. We are the same. Find the reason to win.


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4 thoughts on “Champions aren’t born, they are made

  1. As a former World Series of Beer Pong champion, I can attest that hard work and dedication to the sport were critical in my success. But at some level, I can just out-drink everyone, so genetics certainly gave me an athletic advantage.

    1. What you wrote hit my heart.It applies to so many things in life and things I have been through. Very nice, Jay.

  2. I don’t entirely disagree with you Jay. However, the problem is that this isn’t an either/or discussion. It is different for everyone. Every person that is 6’10” or taller has a genetic advantage in basketball. However once they are playing against people of equal genetic advantage then hard work and practice comes into play. With the Tom Brady example…there is no real way to KNOW how good he actually was in comparison to the almost 200 people taken ahead of him. Was it is hard work that made him one of the best, or was he already one of the best and other people’s analysis of him was wrong. Without that growth spurt Pippen would more than likely not been a star, or even in the NBA. So in my opinion BOTH are required.

    1. both are required, that was my point too. my examples were laid out in a way to show three gifted players who were either passed over or praised for their gifts and what path they chose to take with work ethic


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