GENEROUS GENETICS: CHS athletes discuss whether stereotypically beneficial traits offer an advantage in sports

SAME SPORT, DIFFERENT BODY:
Women’s varsity basketball player and junior Olivia Christy stands back to back with men’s varsity basketball player and senior Trenton Richardson. Although Christy is only 5’5” while Richardson stands at 6’8”, they are both able to play on the varsity team of a sport which stereotypically favors tall athletes. 
ALLY RUSSELL / PHOTO

SAME SPORT, DIFFERENT BODY: Women’s varsity basketball player and junior Olivia Christy stands back to back with men’s varsity basketball player and senior Trenton Richardson. Although Christy is only 5’5” while Richardson stands at 6’8”, they are both able to play on the varsity team of a sport which stereotypically favors tall athletes. ALLY RUSSELL / PHOTO

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For as long as  Trenton Richardson, men’s varsity basketball player and senior, can remember, he has always been tall.  “A lot of people are like, ‘How tall are you?’ or ‘Do you play basketball?’”

Richardson began to play in fourth grade. He said he saw the sport as fun and something he might be good at. He said his height was also a factor, and it has helped him throughout his career, especially going into high school sports.

“I would say that (when you’re) younger, body type is really important. Coming into high school, (coaches) really look for people that have that ‘ideal’ body type. They know that in four years they can work on (the player’s) skill, but you can’t really teach height, size and what not,” Richardson said.

In April 2014, during a TED Talk, sports investigative reporter, David Epstein discussed the concept of “The Big Bang of Body Types Theory” that is apparent in athletics. He explained that the athletes of today are seemingly bigger, stronger and faster than they were a few decades ago. This can be seen at CHS as well by looking at the record wall in the varsity gymnasium; one can hardly see a record more than 20 years old, meaning athletes today have replaced those created in the past.

The premise of the theory is that, over the course of the last few decades, coaches and scouts have sought out athletes who have ideal body types for their positions or sport.

Players like Richardson can easily identify that ideal body type.

“The stereotypical body type for a basketball player? I guess like 6’4” or 6’5”, of course taller and lengthier, longer arms and longer legs. So, I guess I’m a little taller than that. I have longer arms and longer legs, and then I guess overall basketball players are more lean (and) skinnier,” Richardson said.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.53.38 PMScott Heady, men’s varsity basketball head coach, said via email that he has, as Richardson described, “post players who are bigger and stronger (and) perimeter players who are less in size and strength but quicker and more skilled.”

Nick Mazza, varsity football player and senior, said coaches focus heavily on body types because they want to accomplish two things: improve the players and win.

“When coaches pick a position, if you’re 6’ and you don’t fit in your position based on your body type, they will try and move you to a position better suited for you. They know that will fit you in the future.”

Richardson also said winning is the driving force behind “The Big Bang of Body Types” at CHS. He said state championships are now expected at CHS, and this can drive coaches to try their best to build winning teams.

“If you want to win and you want to be a state champion, you have to have the right guys on your team. Body type, of course, is really important. As I was saying before, you can’t teach that, and that really helps in sports. Games can come down to winning matchups, and, obviously, the bigger guy has an advantage. Whoever is more properly suited for their position in their sport, they have the advantage going in. That can make the difference between winning and losing,” Richardson said.

However, not every varsity athlete at CHS fits the stereotypical body type.

One exception might be Olivia Christy, women’s varsity basketball player and junior. Christy said people are often shocked to find out that she has played varsity basketball for the last three years.

“I’ve been told multiple times I’m pretty short, like I’m on the shorter side of basketball. I don’t really like it, but I don’t mind it anymore. There have been plenty of successful small basketball players. Many have gone off and done just fine,” Christy said. “People are a little bit confused, but once they see me play, I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Christy said the best athletes are made. She said at the end of the day, it all comes back to skill and training.

“(Body type) doesn’t affect my position. When we’re both going for the same speed, quickness and ball handling, it all comes down to skill. So, no, I don’t think (a different body type) would change anything.”

Mazza  also said training can make all the difference for body types like his, which he considers undersized.

“For athletes, the emphasis has increased over the last few years on athletic performance. Body type has come more into play, and with that comes building mass. You can see this through all the (protein) supplements that have come out,” he said.

Richardson said that this type of weight training has also increased due to the recent emphasis on body type.

“Training is a lot more intense now,” he said. “We spend so much more time, effort, and focus on training, especially on building strength and speed, and we focus on other things with the end goals of building skill and winning.”

Heady said players today focus on “more sport-specific weight training and more off-season skill development.”

In all, Richardson said it is clear to see the “The Big Bang of Body Types Theory” in CHS sports, but that this is the only reason why athletes are getting bigger, stronger and faster.

“It can go either way,” he said. “I think people with the ‘ideal’ body type have the best opportunity, of course. You know they have that potential to do great, but athletics also comes with a mindset. If you don’t come with that mindset, it’s not worth anything; and the people who don’t have that ‘ideal’ body type may have that mindset.”

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