The Science and Luck Behind Elite Athletes

Here are some things we know. Millions of children participate in youth sports, and many will drop out by the age of 13. Others will continue for longer, but only about one percent of those athletes will become professionals. Even in that group of professional athletes, a smaller percentage stands out as elite among their peers.

I received a review copy of a new book recently that provides insight into the secrets of super athletes’ development: The Best: How Elite Athletes are Made

The book was written by one of the world’s leading authorities on the psychology of expertise, Mark Williams, and a sportswriter for The Daily Telegraph, Tim Wigmore, which details the unique journey into being the best athletes in the world. The new book blends dozens of exclusive interviews with leading athletes and coaches and cutting-edge sports science research to describe how elite athletes think and develop.

The Best details how parents can raise elite athletes through science-based research, pick-up games, left-hand dominance training, and more.

Other topics include the global pandemic’s effect on elite athletes and breaks down the change in environment, limited fans, and new protocols.

Have you ever wondered why athletes choke under pressure? The book explains the mental process.

Why was Serena Williams always more likely to do better than her sister Venus? It’s something about being a younger sibling and performing better in sports.

Does size matter? When it comes to creating elite athletes, the size of the town does make a difference. Mid-size towns, according to the authors, create more sporting champions.

If you’re into golf, you’ll discover how leadership and teamwork work in sports and explains the United States’ record against Europe in the Ryder Cup.

Practice doesn’t make perfect. The role of coaches, innovation in sports performance, and a section on underdogs offer compelling insight for those involved in sports and those who hope to produce the next great athlete.

The book, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, covers all sports and ‘super’ athletes worldwide and through the decades.

Personal stories are shared from top athletes, including Pete Sampras, Steph Curry, Ada Hegerberg, Elena Delle Donne, Shane Battier, and many others in tennis, rugby, football, cricket, hockey, and even chess.

As the back cover of the book says, “The Best reveals how the most incredible sportspeople in the world get to the top and stay there. It is a unique look at the patch to sporting greatness; a story of origins, serendipity, practice, genetics, and the psychology of excellence, as well as of sports science and cutting-edge technology.”

The book is available through Amazon. For information about Mark Williams, visit and follow Tim Wigmore on Twitter at @TimWig.