Sports and Environment

I’ve written about genes and freewill. Today I will talk about the third component of player development: environment. Environment is the hardest one to talk about because it is so interconnected and sort of abstract. What exactly is environment? I define environment as the people, places, things, and culture that surround you. It also includes the era in time that you live in. These outside forces sometimes have great influence on you, even if you are unaware of them. Environment may be the most underestimated component of player development.

I’m not trying to undervalue personal freewill and willpower. I’ve already talked about their importance. But sometimes environment is stronger than willpower. Think of all ways that environment affects us. Here are some examples:
  • The way your parents raise you.
  • The way your culture conditions you.
  • The influence of your teammates and coaches.
  • Your socioeconomic class and the resources it provides for you.
  • The temptations you encounter on a daily basis (tv ads, peer pressure, easy access to drugs, etc.)
  • The era in time you live in (advancement in equipment, technology. Modern rules of the game fitting your style of play).
  • The weather of where you live (year round access to outside fields/courts).
  • Being in the right place at the right time (given a great opportunity, or avoiding a bad event).
To help better understand the influence of environment, I will provide some real world questions:
  • Has Tom Brady benefited from playing for the Patriots and Bill Belichick?
  • Would Stephen Curry be as successful if he played during the 1960’s (with no three point line)?
  • Would Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer be as good if they didn’t have each other to push each other to improve?
  • Would athletes who have gone from “rags to riches” succeeded without the motivation to escape poverty?
As you can see, environment, genes, and willpower all interact to shape your reality. For athletes such as Tom Brady and Stephen Curry, part of their success can be credited to their personal freewill and willpower and part of it can be credited to their environment. Because life is so complex and interconnected, it is very difficult to find out exactly how much willpower matters and how much environment matters. The important thing is to understand the importance of all three components of player development: genes, willpower, and environment, and not to over or undervalue any one of them. If you overvalue the importance of genes and environment, you won’t have the motivation and initiative to work hard. And if you overvalue the importance of willpower, you may be disappointed about your limitations or you will fail to put yourself in a better environment.

My advice is to value all three components about equally. Consider genes and environment when setting goals. Maximize your willpower to get the most out of your genes. And put yourself in a better environment to make it easier to succeed.

You can't completely control your environment, but here are some way that you can improve your environment:
  • Move to a location that give you more opportunities and resources.
  • Search for great coaches.
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Remove temptations (tv, junk food, etc.) from your house.
  • Don't place yourself in bad situations where you could get in trouble or get hurt.