I often wonder is there is a co-relation between the sport you play and your height? Is being taller or shorter relevant in case of a sport? Can it be a determining factor in how much you excel at a sport? Well, there have been many researches and as one would expect and there isn’t a conclusion to yet, but the discussion has been rich.
There are few sports where there is an obvious impact; for instance, basketball has a bias towards taller people. But even within this, it’s not a direct relationship; taller the better is not true. After a certain limit, say 6 feet 8 inches, it’s not a linear graph. There are disadvantages of growing too tall. Apart from basketball, in sports like gymnastics or wrestling, height can put one down. This is mainly because a shorter height ensures a lower centre of gravity, which is helpful in certain movements.
Geographically, nations have a different average height too and this to an extent determines the inclination of a country towards a sport. But even here, there are aberrations; for instance China, a country with shorter average heights is excellent at gymnastics and Olympic sports. Being shorter gives them a bit of an advantage, but they also have a few tall blokes, which makes them a decent basketball playing nation with FIBA, giving them a ranking of 11 globally.
Football is perhaps one of those sports where height doesn’t matter and hence is played so widely! It does give an advantage with aerial abilities but a shorter person can also be equally agile. Cricket has seen some of the best batsmen who have had below average height: Sunil Gavaskar (5 feet 4 inches), Sachin Tendulkar (5 feet 5 inches) and Don Bradman (5 feet 7 inches) being prime examples. This is attributed to the fact that a smaller body makes for an advantage in footwork and balance.
Advantages for taller sports persons:
- A taller boxer with a longer reach can make contact with his punches
- Taller swimmers can cover more distance
- Taller quarterbacks can see over the line of scrimmage easier
- Taller volleyball players have an advantage at the net
Advantages for a shorter sports person:
There are no specific and obvious advantages but the advantages are more general. Shorter sport persons are quicker, more agile, flexible and durable in general. They also have a low centre of gravity, which enables better balance.
There have been studies which say that tallness is associated with better cardiovascular health and shortness with longevity and I agree with this. Taller sports persons will be better in spurts, their peak is higher than their sorter counterparts, but shorter sports persons edge it in the longer run, because they’re good over a sustained period of time.