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Nature or Nurture?

Building an environment for our young athletes to flourish with Donavan and Roxie McNabb

Are elite athletes born or made? We have all heard this question being asked before at some point or another. Sport scientists, trainers, managers, corporate sponsors, and parents have been asking this same question for ages. If there was a recipe, someone would probably have already made a fortune.

Elite athletes inspire us by their amazing accomplishments but also by their tenacity, their commitment, the disciples they have to submit themselves to and the mental toughness that it takes to stay motivated. Sure, there is an exceptional amount of natural talent – you and I probably could spend most of our life practicing without ever having a hope of going head-to-head with the likes of Lionel Messi, LeBron James, or Serena Williams – but talent is not only the foundation great athletes rely on in order to excel in their fields.

Most important of all the factors contributing to the development of young and talented athletes is the environment they grow up in. When and where they were born, access to training facilities, coaches, and a community that supports them, but also provides them the social and cultural support needed to shape their development. Recent studies even consider the presence of older siblings as an environmental factor contributing to the development of young athletes – consider Venus and Serena, Peyton and Eli, Michael and Larry Jordan.

Two people who would know this better than most are long time Gilbert residents Raquel-Ann 'Roxi' McNabb and her husband Donovan.

If the name sounds familiar, it may be that Donovan McNabb was starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles from his rookie season in 1999 and held the position for the majority of his career, including leading the Eagles to five NFC East division titles and to eight playoff appearances.

An elite athlete herself, Roxi was a point guard for the Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team, was Most Valuable Player, 1997 Athlete of the Year, and a three-time Big East Academic All-Star. She also holds a Master of Public Administration Degree from Syracuse’s Maxwell School and a Master of Educational Policy from the University of Pennsylvania.

As you can imagine, the McNabb family can be a bit competitive. Following in the footsteps of her parents, their daughter Alexis, 'Lexi', is a freshman guard on the Syracuse women's basketball team and, according to dad, the friendly game of hoops with the boys - Donovan Jr. and Devin - can become spirited.

Both Donovan and Roxi have experienced the benefits of being exposed to sports early and are working on building an environment for their children to flourish. They are also committed to building a community that can provide this opportunity to other young and talented athletes.

The Caris Sports Foundation, founded in 2019 by Roxi, gives young athletes in Arizona the opportunity to participate in organized sports by removing the financial obstacles and covering the costs associated with recreational and competitive sports. The foundation assists financially with equipment to registration fees. - carissportsfoundation.org

Elite athletes inspire us by their amazing accomplishments but also by their tenacity, their commitment, the disciples they have to submit themselves to and the mental toughness that it takes to stay motivated.

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