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Serena and Venus Williams at the 2014 U.S. Open. Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Younger siblings have a significantly higher chance of becoming elite athletes, according to a new book titled, "The Best: How Elite Athletes Are Made."

What they're saying: "Playing with older siblings is better for skill acquisition because athletes learn at a faster rate when they fail regularly," co-author Tim Wigmore tells Axios. "Younger siblings can't use physical advantages so they need skills, tactics and resilience to compete."

Case study No. 1: In a study of USWNT candidates, 75% had an older sibling, 20% were the oldest child and just 5% were only children.

Case study No. 2: In a study of 700 pairs of brothers who played Major League Baseball, the younger brother outperformed the older brother in two-thirds of cases and played an average of 2.5 years longer.

"What helped Andy become that sort of uber-competitor was having an older brother who's a bit bigger and a bit stronger than him through most of his formative years. And all he ever wanted to do was to beat Jamie."
— Andy Murray's mother, Judy

Another area that the book explores is the striking correlation between the amount of informal play an athlete engages in during childhood and how successful they are in sports later in life.

  • Case study: This could explain why the working-class "banlieus" on the outskirts of Paris — where kids grow up playing informal street soccer from dawn to dusk — produce more talent than anywhere else in Europe.
  • From the author: "A healthy amount of informal play cultivates creativity, freethinking and technical expertise," says Wigmore. "A diet of rigid and hyper-serious coaching alone can be detrimental."

Buy the book.

Go deeper

18 mins ago - World

HRW: Over 100 former Afghan security members dead or missing under Taliban rule

Members of the Taliban movement patrol Kabul's airport in September. Photo: Valery Sharifulin/TASS via Getty Images

The Taliban have "killed or forcibly disappeared" over 100 former members of Afghanistan's security forces since the group took power in August, a Human Rights Watch report published Tuesday found.

Why it matters: It means former military members and officials from the ousted government, activists and other Taliban critics are facing peril amid executions driven by revenge — despite Taliban promises of an "amnesty" with no retributions, notes the New York Times, which first reported the news.

1 hour ago - World

Barbados becomes a republic, replacing U.K. queen with president

Combination images of Dame Sandra Mason, president of Barbados, and Britain's Prince Charles at her swearing-in ceremony in Bridgetown, Barbados, late Monday.

Barbados officially became a republic at midnight local time after Dame Sandra Mason was sworn in as the Caribbean nation's first president in a ceremony attended by the United Kingdom's Prince Charles.

Why it matters: Mason replaced Britain's Queen Elizabeth as head of state Tuesday — removing the country's final remaining colonial tie to the U.K. almost 400 years after the first British ships arrived in Barbados.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.