Nature or Nurture to make a great angler?

11th June 2019

Richard Hadley, Angling Trust Coaching Centre Manager and Lead Safeguarding Officer reckons that the talent versus nurture conversation will long-continue, and there are arguments on both sides……

Many coaches have read a book called Bounce by Matthew Syed.

It’s a great read and you may soon find yourself nodding and agreeing with the premise that all talent is acquired from experience gained at an early age, and even intuitive decisions are based on informed (albeit unrecognised) experience.

This may be reflected in top anglers making decisions around where and how to fish and seeming to be able to choose the best swims and catch when others don’t.

Many people would argue that this is talent, but is it really?

Last edition of this newsletter, I gave you an example of a top angler who was constantly being berated for “just turning up and winning”, as if he walked around in a talent-bubble without any preparation, when in fact five years of constant everyday practice was the story behind his success.

How does this relate to me as a coach?

Often, you’ll see someone arrive at an event and seem to make things look easy, or have success straight away, and in these cases, we conclude that “they are talented”. No one ever questions where this talent has come from or how it manifests itself in performers.

From experience, skills-based aspects of fishing, such as casting, tend to be linked to the experience of striking sports, especially when that exposure is across a wide band of sports, rather than just one.

One interesting development for me is the impact of Xbox and PlayStation (for example) on manual dexterity, coordination and rapid decision making under stress.

On a recent programme to select potential astronauts, a gamer beat both a commercial pilot (…who worryingly failed to complete the task!) and a RAF fighter pilot, in docking a spacecraft in 3-dimensional space. Could the experience of gaming increase an angler’s “talent” in performing multiple tasks simultaneously when match fishing?

You might ask where I stand on this matter and honestly, I think that the nature/nurture debate can be applied differently to each parts of the whole of a sporting performance.

Physical build and characteristics, including inheritance, allow some people to perform better than others in sports that relate directly to physical performance. I believe, for instance, that cycling, athletics etc. must have a bias towards strength, physique and so on.

When you introduce a technical aspect such as jumping, throwing and striking, then early and purposeful practice is of more importance, especially when looking at coordination of movements.

I also believe that the:

  • more and varied experiences gained, the higher the overall ability to acquire complex movement skills will be
  • tactical and mental aspects of performance are heavily influenced by doing, rather than being born with and that (again), the greater the opportunities in early development the better

As a coach myself, my approach to coaching delivery is to use a self-learning and whenever that begins to fail then guidance back onto combining self-learning with the widest possible range of purposeful experience.

If you haven’t read the book then it’s a good and convincing read. Try it.


Richard Hadley
Angling Trust Coaching Centre Manager and Lead Safeguarding Officer
07720 974811 |