Monday, April 4, 2011

Vertical Jump and How Sterotypes Can Affect Them

This week I read two very interesting articles relating to white people and their arch nemesis…. Jumping. First I read Brian McCormick’s newsletter, where he talked about the idea of Choking with stereotypes. In summary he talked about how females and African Americans perform better on tests when alone or with or females or African Americans compared to when they take a test with white people in the room. He then went on to talk about how the typical “white men can’t jump” stereotype is more environmental than it is genetic.

To play off of this idea I was reading the book What the Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell, which is a compilation of his New Yorker pieces, where one of the chapters talked about choking. In the piece entitled “The Art of Failure,” it talked about similar studies Brian mentioned as well as a study on white people and (dun duh dun…) jumping.

At Tufts University, Julio Garcia gathered a group of athletic white students and had them perform a vertical leap test and a 20 second push up test. Twice each group performed the tests. When administered by a white instructor the students improved on the second test as expected. The next group though had a black instructor administering the tests. The vertical leaps didn’t improve. He did it one more time with a black instructor who was taller and bigger than all of the athletes. Their verticals actually went down. The push ups? They had no difference between any of the three groups.

So what does this mean? That sometimes the stereotypes that the media and environment brainwash us with might be false. Maybe we have more control over our athletic and mental capabilities than we think.

If you had a chance to watch the NCAA dunk contest, a 5’10” white kid named Jacob Tucker from a Division III school stole the show with an impressive vertical leap and even more impressive dunking repertoire. I guess he didn’t get a chance to see the Woody and Wesley classic.

Personally I’ve always wanted to dunk. When I was young I had an adjustable hoop that I constantly tried to dunk on. I jumped and jumped and jumped. Now I have over a 32” vertical (no step) and can throw it down (almost 2 hands now). A 32+” vert is above average in the NBA combine (Blake Griffin’s was 32” no step at the NBA combine), but my height is slightly lower (by slightly I mean miniature at 5’9”). If you look at my parents, my mom pushes 5’2” and my dad pushes 5’8” and neither can jump over a tuna fish can. If I received their jumping genetics I might hit the backboard.

Fortunately I didn’t really care much and my town was whiter than a glass of milk. I really didn’t know the stereotypes until middle/high school. Even then I didn’t really care and just kept lifting and playing. What resulted was every summer trying to dunk on the next height up from age 8-14. Now I can throw it down (video to come this week) at 5’9”.

One more comment on the vertical leap. Remember; as you get taller your wingspan also grow in proportion. Kevin Durant has a sub 30” vertical but his wingspan is 7’+ giving the illusion that he’s a high riser when in actuality his reach is bonkers. A person under 6’0” also has to battle shorter arms, as well as smaller hands most likely.

The Other Side:

The new Lupe Fiasco album is off the hook. Here's my favorite song so far.


  1. Really interesting post. Thanks for the inspiration. Jumping is like anything else, it just requires practice, like any acquisition of skill. A lot of times people place TOO much stock in genetics, almost like a cop out for why they can't reach their goals.

    See ya on strength coach

  2. Agreed Josh. It's an easy way out and rationalization to why they wouldn't reach a goal they desire.

  3. Such a nice information you are giving through this blog.

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