Height in sports
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Height can significantly influence success in sports, depending on how the design of the sport is linked to factors that are height-biased due to physics and biology. The balance of the intricate array of links will determine the degree to which height plays a role in success, if any.
- 1 Advantages
- 2 Amateur wrestling
- 3 Artistic gymnastics
- 4 Association football
- 5 Australian rules football
- 6 Baseball
- 7 Basketball
- 8 Bodybuilding
- 9 Cricket
- 10 Cycling
- 11 Fencing
- 12 Formula 1
- 13 Gridiron football
- 14 Horse racing
- 15 Ice hockey
- 16 Judo
- 17 Mixed martial arts
- 18 Rowing
- 19 Rugby football
- 20 Sailing
- 21 Shooting
- 22 Sumo
- 23 Swimming
- 24 Taekwondo
- 25 Tennis
- 26 Volleyball
- 27 Weightlifting
- 28 References
Below average height
Advantages for below average height include:
Above average height
Advantages for above average height include:
Height can be both helpful and detrimental in wrestling. Since taller people have more bone mass, they will generally be slightly weaker than shorter people in the same weight class. This difference is made up in part by their longer arms, which allow them a longer reach and easier cradle. Long legs are detrimental in that they can easily be attacked by a lolly (shot). They do, however, assist in performing some actions and positions such as throwing, sprawling to counter a takedown or riding legs. The heights of amateur wrestlers vary greatly with successful athletes being as short as Sushil Kumar at 1.66 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in) and as tall as Alexander Karelin at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in).
In artistic gymnastics, it is advantageous to be shorter. A lower center of gravity can give an athlete better balance. A smaller athlete may also have an easier time manipulating their body in the air.
In association football, or soccer, a player's height may somewhat determine the position that they play; however, people of all heights have an equal opportunity to excel professionally at the sport. Goalkeepers, centre backs and "target" heading forwards tend to be taller, while players in wide and attacking positions tend to be shorter. A study of the greatest male players in history showed that the distribution of heights approximated the average man and, when also looking at the typical weight distribution, an estimated 95% of the world's population would fall into the body type distribution of great footballers. A sample of reasonably select players from ages 11–18 in the United States tended to approximate the height distribution of the population. However, there is an overwhelming tendency for the 11-most picked players in a squad to be shorter than their teammates, which could suggest a bias in the scouting system.
For wide and attacking positions, the players are generally relatively shorter. Many of the world class players have been shorter than average and in many cases gained an advantage from their low centre of gravity. Examples include Lorenzo Insigne, Ryan Fraser, Sebastian Giovinco 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in), Bernard, Ludovic Giuly 1.64 m (5 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Aaron Lennon, Diego Maradona, Marco Verratti, Shaun Wright-Phillips 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in), Thomas Häßler 1.66 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Mathieu Valbuena, Romário 1.67 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in), N'Golo Kanté, Roberto Carlos, Santi Cazorla 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), Alexis Sánchez, Garrincha, Pedro 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in), David Silva, Franck Ribéry, Lionel Messi, Paul Scholes, Philipp Lahm, Xavi 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), Andrés Iniesta 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Dani Alves, Luka Modrić, Philippe Coutinho, Robinho, Sergio Agüero, Zico 1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Eden Hazard, Michael Owen, Bobby Charlton and Pelé 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in). However, height is considered advantageous for forwards who aim to score with their heads. Forwards who are particularly noted for their strength in the air include Lacina Traoré 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in), Jan Koller, Nikola Žigić 2.02 m (6 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and Peter Crouch 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in). Many of the world's best forwards and midfielders are taller than average, while still possessing a high all round level of technical ability, such as Zlatan Ibrahimović 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in), Nemanja Matić 1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Luca Toni, Patrick Vieira 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in), Sócrates 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in), Paul Pogba 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in), Frank Rijkaard, Romelu Lukaku 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), Sergio Busquets, Yaya Touré 1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in), Didier Drogba, Eric Cantona, Harry Kane, Marco van Basten, Michael Ballack, Ruud Gullit, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Thierry Henry 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Rivaldo 1.87 m (6 ft 1 1⁄2 in), Fernando Torres and Kaká 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in). Players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale, Robert Lewandowski and Zinedine Zidane 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in), with their height being seen as an advantage for their heading and physical ability, adding to their completeness, are desired for modern top-level forward and midfielder positions.
Height is often an advantage for central defenders, who are assigned to stop forwards from scoring through the air, as exemplified by players like Matej Bagarić 2.02 m (6 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Jannik Vestergaard 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Brede Hangeland 1.99 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Naldo, Per Mertesacker 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), Daniel Van Buyten 1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Sebastián Coates 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in), Joël Matip 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in), Christoph Metzelder, Gerard Piqué 1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Marco Materazzi, Sami Hyypiä, Virgil van Dijk 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in), Jérôme Boateng, Laurent Blanc, Mats Hummels 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in), Raphaël Varane, Tony Adams 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in), Jaap Stam, Leonardo Bonucci, Nemanja Vidić and Vincent Kompany 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in). There are, however, central defenders who are not of above-average height, such as Héctor Chumpitaz 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), Daniel Passarella, Iván Córdoba 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in), Javier Mascherano 1.74 m (5 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Fabio Cannavaro, Franco Baresi 1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in), Roberto Ayala 1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in), Carles Puyol and Gaetano Scirea 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in).
Goalkeepers tend to be taller than average because their greater arm spans and total reach when jumping enable them to cover more of the goal area. Examples of particularly tall goalkeepers include Simon Bloch Jorgensen 2.10 m (6 ft 10 1⁄2 in), Kristof Van Hout 2.08 m (6 ft 10 in), Vanja Iveša 2.05 m (6 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Jason Mooney 2.04 m (6 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Costel Pantilimon 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in), Zeljko Kalac 2.02 m (6 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Fraser Forster, Goran Blažević, 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in), Andreas Isaksson 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Asmir Begović, Thibaut Courtois 1.99 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Maarten Stekelenburg 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), Edwin van der Sar 1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Dida, Diego López, Joe Hart, Petr Čech 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in), Vladimir Stojković and Wojciech Szczęsny 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in). In addition, there are examples of successful goalkeepers who are not significantly taller than average, such as Jorge Campos 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), František Plánička, Óscar Pérez 1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), René Higuita 1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in), Gyula Grosics 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in) and Ladislao Mazurkiewicz 1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in).
Australian rules football
In Australian rules, a footballer's height is considered an advantage. This is evidenced by statistics and trends from the professional (Australian Football League) level, including an average player height of 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in) as well as an ongoing trend in the recruitment of tall athletes from other sports, particularly basketball such as Dean Brogan at 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) and rugby football such as Mike Pyke at 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in).
In the sport, players frequently compete for possession of the ball above the shoulders. Players gain "free kick"s from a marking, that is, catching the ball in the air from a kick. As such, height combined with a vertical leap ability are advantageous attributes. Long arms assist in marking and ruckwork and defensive spoiling and long legs add leverage for long distance kicking - all key components of the sport.
Each Australian rules football team has at least one ruckman, a specialist position requiring height and leap. These player contest first possession of the ball or "hit out" after each goal or when the ball bounces out of the playing arena. At professional AFL level, the average height of ruckmen is over 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in) tall. In addition, "key position" players also gain significant advantage in height. Attacking key positions such as centre half-forward, such as Lance Franklin at 1.99 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in) and full-forward such as Tom Hawkins at 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) gain an advantage by being taller than their opponent centre half-back such as Heritier Lumumba at 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in) and full-back such as Mal Michael at 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) and vice versa.
Shorter players may have an advantage in the "crumbing" role of retrieving the ball from the ground or utilising pace to evade opponents. However taller players may also have these abilities and as such versatile talls are often favoured by professional recruiters (such as in the AFL Draft).
Brownlow medal winners have ranged in height from Tony Liberatore at 1.63 m (5 ft 4 in) to Scott Wynd at 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in). In 2013, professional AFL players ranged 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) to 2.11 m (6 ft 11 in).
The average height for a baseball player as evidenced by statistics is reported to be 6 ft 1 1⁄2 in (1.87 m) tall. In baseball, being taller usually means longer legs, which power pitchers use to generate velocity and a release point closer to the plate, which means the ball reaches the batter more quickly. The ball also comes from a higher release angle opposed to a shorter pitcher. While taller position players have a larger strike zone, most position players are at least of average height because the larger frame allows them to generate more power.
Taller players are often thought to have an advantage in basketball because their shots have less distance to travel to the basket, they start closer to the rebound, and their ability to reach higher into the air yields a better chance of blocking shorter players' shots.
Empirically, the over-representation of extremely tall athletes in basketball lends credence to the theory that the sport provides tall players with a very significant advantage. The average American male is 5 ft 9.3 in (1.76 m). Yet, in a 2007-08 player survey, the average player in the National Basketball Association (NBA) is listed at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) in shoes. However, from the 2019-20 season onward, NBA teams are required to provide accurate height measurements without shoes. This resulted in a near universal downwards correction of heights among players.
Despite this, some shorter players have played, and even excelled, in the NBA (and many players 6’7” or taller have not excelled at all). The list includes 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) Muggsy Bogues, 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m) Earl Boykins, 5 ft 7 in (1.70 m) Spud Webb, and both Isaiah Thomas and Nate Robinson at 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m). Webb and Robinson have also been crowned as NBA slam dunk contest champions, with Robinson being the only 3-time winner. In addition, a lower center of gravity allows greater ability to box out opponents for rebounds. Charles Barkley was considered to be undersized for his position at 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m) but was nevertheless a powerful rebounder. As for guards, usually being the shortest position in basketball, they have better control over their dribbling, and taller players often struggle to defend against their dexterous ball handling and speed. At the same time, they can disrupt the opposing teams' offensive flow or even steal the ball to create fast breaks and offensive opportunities.
Players sometimes inflate their height. Prospects may exaggerate their height while in high school or college to make themselves more appealing to coaches and scouts, who prefer taller players. Barkley stated, “I’ve been measured at 6-5, 6-4 ¾. But I started in college at 6-6.” Sportswriter Sam Smith said: “We sort of know the heights, because after camp, the sheet comes out. But you use that height, and the player gets mad. And then you hear from his agent. Or you file your story with the right height, and the copy desk changes it because they have the ‘official’ N.B.A. media guide, which is wrong. So you sort of go along with the joke.” In the NBA, there is no standard on whether a player's listed height uses their measurement with shoes on or without. The NBA Draft Combine, which most players attend before the draft, provides both measurements. Thereafter, a player's team is solely responsible for their listed height, which can vary depending on the process selected.
Players sometimes understate their actual heights to avoid being moved to a different position. One example is Kevin Durant, who's listed at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), while he stated his actual height is 7 ft 0 in (2.13 m). Durant's reasoning was, “Really, that's the prototypical size for a small forward. Anything taller than that, and they'll start saying, ‘Ah, he's a power forward.”
After the NBA instituted a new measuring system prior to the 2019-20 season, the average height of numerous players declined, by one to three inches, depending on the player. Players who had their listed heights revised downwards include, Dwight Howard, Bradley Beal, J.J. Barea, Kemba Walker and numerous others.
In bodybuilding competitors are generally average height or below. Thus, heights above 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) are the exception. In bodybuilding height is often considered a disadvantage due to the fact that smaller bodies have a shorter range of motion in order to lift weights. Smaller bodies also tend to look more filled out compared to taller builds in the same weight class. However, taller people at the professional level tend to have the larger overall body mass. Notable bodybuilders, who have held many titles, are Franco Columbu 5 ft 5 in (1.65 m), Phil Heath 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m), Jay Cutler 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m), Ronnie Coleman 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) and Arnold Schwarzenegger 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m).
In cricket, some of the great batsmen like Donald Bradman 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in), Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar both 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in) are or were below average height. This may be because a smaller body makes for an advantage in footwork and balance. Similarly, the most graceful wicket-keepers have tended to be average height or below. Although there are fewer tall batsmen, the stand-outs are often noted for their heavy hitting and an ability to get a long stride forward to reach a full length delivery. Australia's Matthew Hayden at 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in), West Indies' Chris Gayle at 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in) and England's Kevin Pietersen at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) are modern examples of powerful, tall batsman. Past greats like Clive Lloyd and Graeme Pollock were well above 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in).
On the other hand, many of the most successful fast bowlers have been well above average height; for example past greats Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh and Joel Garner were all approximately 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in) tall. Glenn McGrath regarded as one of the finest bowlers to play the game, was 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in) tall. Examples of forwards well above average in height are Javagal Srinath and Wasim Akram who measured 1.88 m (6 ft 2 in) and 1.91 m (6 ft 3 in). Taller bowlers have access to a higher point of release, making it easier for them to make the ball bounce uncomfortably for a batsman. For extreme pace however, bowlers tend to be around 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) such as Dale Steyn, Malcolm Marshall and Shoaib Akhtar thus combining advantage of shorter lever arms for pace generation with good ball release height. Since round arm bowling does not gain much advantage from taller release height, round arm bowlers tend to be shorter such as the classic Lasith Malinga at 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in). The fastest modern bowlers have ranged from Fidel Edwards 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) through to Brett Lee at 1.87 m (6 ft 1 1⁄2 in).
Height does not appear to be an advantage to spin bowling and few international spinners are ever much taller than 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in). Tall spin bowlers like Sulieman Benn 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) use extra pace and bounce, whereas spin is traditionally about using a looping, plunging trajectory at slow (70–90 km/h or 40–60 mph) speeds. The most successful bowlers ever in Test cricket, Muttiah Muralitharan and Shane Warne are 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) respectively. For extracting steep bounce height is useful for fast bowlers like Steven Finn 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in) and Boyd Rankin 2.03 m (6 ft 8 in).
Road racing cyclists can be of all heights but their height generally determines what role they choose. Taller cyclists tend to excel at the cobbled classics, as pure power helps get over the difficult and brutal cobblestones. Cyclists over 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) often understand the difficulties in hilly races, and realise their talents in cobbled classics from an early age and focus on them for their careers. This includes Johan Vansummeren, Taylor Phinney both 1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in) and Magnus Bäckstedt 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in). In recent years Paris–Roubaix has been dominated by Tom Boonen 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in) and Fabian Cancellara 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in).
Smaller cyclists on the other hand dominate mountain stages of Grand Tours. Their lack of body mass helps as it means they have less weight to carry up the steep inclines. José Rujano 1.62 m (5 ft 4 in), Domenico Pozzovivo 1.65 m (5 ft 5 in), Nairo Quintana 1.67 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Joaquim Rodríguez 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Gilberto Simoni 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in), Marco Pantani and Simon Yates both 1.72 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) are examples of pure climbers.
However none of the above-mentioned small climbers are known for their time trialing abilities, and in this slightly taller climbers, known as all rounders often gain the advantage in grand tours. Cadel Evans 1.74 m (5 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Alberto Contador 1.76 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in), Lance Armstrong 1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in) and Denis Menchov 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) have all won long Time trial stages in many races. Alejandro Valverde 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Samuel Sánchez and Vincenzo Nibali both 1.81 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in) are, on top of their climbing and time trialing abilities, 3 of the world's best descenders.
In recent years taller cyclists with low builds have become among the world's best climbers, particularly on long gradual climbs. The best examples of this are Ivan Basso 1.82 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in) who won on the Monte Zoncolan in 2010, Chris Froome 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) 4-times winner of the Tour de France and the brothers Andy & Fränk Schleck both 1.86 m (6 ft 1 in) who specialise on the Alpine stages of the Tour de France. Further Mauricio Soler 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in) could win the 2007 Tour de France Mountains classification, at the same height Bradley Wiggins achieved a Tour de France overall victory in 2012.
While there are exceptions to these rules, taller climbers do feature more in cobbled races and smaller riders in mountain stages. But where cycling does become indiscriminate height wise, is in sprinting. Sprints have been contested between Robbie McEwen 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and Mario Cipollini 1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in), or Mark Cavendish 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) and André Greipel 1.84 m (6 ft 1⁄2 in), or as the 2010 Milan–San Remo between Óscar Freire 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in) and Tom Boonen 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in).
In fencing, it is generally advantageous (especially in épée) to be taller because a longer arm span allows one's weapon to reach one's opponent's body from a further distance as well as in some instances being easier to make more angulated attacks.
However, there are some advantages a being a shorter fencer. Shorter fencers generally have less target area to defend. Furthermore, it has been noted that if footwork abilities are equal, a smaller fencer finds it easier to co-ordinate their footwork when moving in and out of distance than taller opponents due to their lower center of balance. In certain instances they may have a slight advantage when infighting as they can retract and replace their weapon point with more ease.
A good example of such a fencer is Valentina Vezzali 1.64 m (5 ft 4 1⁄2 in) who used her small size and lower centre of gravity to confound taller opponents.
Differences in height can also be mitigated in sabre or foil, because those weapons have Right of Way rules. Hitting first does not necessarily result in scoring, as a riposte may take precedence.
It is in épée where height poses a more distinct advantage: though the entire body is a target, and the closest point of the body (the hand) is always a sword's distance away regardless of the fencers height, replacing the point in any (remise) actions generally leads to the taller person reaching the body first.
The average driver height is around 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in). 18 of the 19 F1 seasons in the 21st century have been won by competitors shorter than 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), including Fernando Alonso 1.71 m (5 ft 7 1⁄2 in), Lewis Hamilton, Michael Schumacher both 1.74 m (5 ft 8 1⁄2 in), Kimi Räikkönen, Sebastian Vettel both 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) and Nico Rosberg 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), with the exception of Jenson Button 1.82 m (5 ft 11 1⁄2 in).
As F1 has strict size regulations for cars, designing cars for shorter drivers is easier. Shorter drivers also tend to be lighter which is seen as an advantage. This advantage has changed from season to season as FIA has altered the rules for minimum weight of the cars.
A 2014 CNN survey reported the average NFL player was 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and weighed 216 lb (98 kg).
In American and Canadian Football, a tall quarterback is at an advantage because it is easier for him to see over the heads of large offensive and defensive linemen while he is in the pocket in a passing situation. At 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m), Doug Flutie was initially considered to be too short to become a NFL quarterback despite his Heisman Trophy-winning success at the college level. In addition, shorter quarterbacks have an advantage with their lower center of gravity and balance, which means they are better able to duck under a tackle and avoid a sack. According to the former Washington Redskins quarterback Eddie LeBaron, being shorter means you can throw the ball higher instead of a sidearm release, meaning it is harder for the defense to knock it down. Shorter quarterbacks also generally have a quicker release time than taller quarterbacks.
Tall wide receivers have an advantage of being able to reach considerably higher than shorter defensive backs to catch highly thrown passes. Of course, this advantage has limits because exceedingly tall receivers are normally not as agile or lack overall speed or strength. Tight ends are usually over 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) because they need greater body mass to be effective blockers and greater height is an advantage for them as receivers, since they run shorter routes based less on speed. By contrast, shorter defensive backs are utilized because of their typically greater agility, as the ability to change directions instantly is a prerequisite for the position.
Offensive and defensive linemen tend to be at least 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) and are frequently as tall as 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m) to be massive enough to effectively play their positions. Height is especially an advantage for defensive linemen, giving them the ability to knock down passes with their outstretched arms.
Short running backs are at an advantage because their shorter stature and lower center of gravity generally makes them harder to tackle effectively. In addition, they can easily "hide" behind large offensive linemen, making it harder for defenders to react at the beginning of a play. Thus, in the National Football League and in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I football, running backs under 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) are more common than running backs over 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m). Former Heisman Trophy winner and Pro Football Hall of Famer Barry Sanders, thought by some to be the greatest running back in history, is a classic example of a running back with an extraordinarily low center of gravity, as he stood only 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m).
In horse racing, it is a considerable advantage for a jockey to be both short and light. Having a jockey who is of short stature and light weight makes it easier for the horse to run at top speed without being weighed down. At the Kentucky Derby, for example, a jockey cannot exceed 126 pounds, including his equipment. There is no specific height requirement, but due to the weight restrictions, most jockeys stand between 4 ft 10 in (1.47 m) and 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m). Examples of successful jockeys are Calvin Borel 5 ft 4 in (1.63 m), Mario Gutierrez 5 ft 3 in (1.60 m) and Victor Espinoza 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m).
While the history of the National Hockey League (NHL) is filled with shorter players who achieved greatness (Theoren Fleury, Martin St. Louis), and the highest scorer in NHL history, Wayne Gretzky, is 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) tall and played at 185 lb (84 kg), the physicality of the game has often put a premium on imposing players, particularly over 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in) tall and over 100 kg (220 lb) (Chris Pronger, Eric Lindros, Mario Lemieux). Taller, bigger players have a longer reach, are able to engage in more aggressive body checking, and have greater leverage for shooting, particularly on a slap shot (examples include Tyler Myers at 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), and Eric Staal, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, and Ryan Getzlaf, all at 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m). Since the 2004-2005 lockout, rule changes in the NHL have caused a trend towards more agile styles of play, allowing smaller players (Patrick Kane, Johnny Gaudreau, Tyler Johnson) to use their agility and puck skills to thrive. This has resulted in greater diversity of player heights despite the league maintaining a generally constant average height, while the average player weight has generally decreased. The average height of an NHL player is just over 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) tall. Zdeno Chára, at 6 ft 9 in (2.06 m), is the tallest player ever to play in the NHL. In recent years, the height of goaltenders has increased as taller goaltenders can cover a larger portion of the goal when on their knees in the butterfly goaltending style. Ben Bishop at 6 ft 7 in (2.01 m) is the tallest goaltender currently in the NHL.
In judo, height can work both ways. The shorter person tends to have an advantage (both offensively and defensively) in hip throws, dropping techniques i.e. drop seoi nage and wrestling style pickups such as ura nage. A low center of gravity allows better position for these throws. Taller players have an advantage in sweeps because they can often use these maneuvers before getting in range of the shorter person's kuzushi. They can also use their long legs to their advantage with many ashi waza techniques and throws with a significance on legs such as uchi mata and harai goshi. In ne waza (groundwork) having shorter limbs makes it more difficult to be submitted but also more difficult to use your legs to escape from hold downs. In contrast being taller can help with escaping hold downs and certain submissions i.e. sangaku jime. The 2013 judo rules somewhat shift or even out the advantages that shorter fighters had by no longer allowing leg grabs and no longer being allowed to prevent your opponent from taking grips.
Mixed martial arts
In mixed martial arts, taller fighters have a distinct advantage in striking, because of their increased range. Shorter fighters on the other hand, tend to be stronger than taller opponents of equal weight and tend to pack a heavier punch. Shorter fighters often have the advantage while grappling defensively. Their lower centre of gravity makes it difficult to take them down and their shorter limbs make it harder to submit them. This however works both ways with smaller fighters sometimes struggling from certain positions i.e. the guard. While height is still regarded as an overall advantage, there have been many great fighters who are shorter than average such as Frankie Edgar or José Aldo. Fedor Emilianenko, once widely regarded as the greatest heavyweight fighter in the world, stands no more than 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m) and has defeated opponents mostly taller than him, including most imposing Hong-man Choi, who stands tall at 7 ft 2 in (2.18 m)
In rowing, height is advantageous, because the taller a rower is, the longer his or her stroke can potentially be, thus moving the boat more effectively. The average male Olympic rower is 1.92 m (6 ft 3 1⁄2 in), and the average female Olympic rower is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in), well over the average height.
However, for the coxswain of the boat, it is advantageous to be shorter since having a lower body mass would contribute to a faster time for the overall crew. Most of the successful Olympic and Paralympic coxswains (Katelin Guregian, Phelan Hill) are shorter in stature and lighter in mass hitting close to the international minimum at 55 kg for both men and women's crews (Both genders have adopted 55 kg by an amendment by FISA to make coxswains gender-neutral on the international level. Previously, coxswains for women's teams had a 45 kg weight minimum).
Height is not generally seen as an important attribute in rugby league football, often with extreme height being a hindrance rather than useful. However, recent tactics of cross-field kicking have resulted in the success of taller outside backs.
A survey of 121 senior player for the Australian Newcastle Knights team, in 2006, found the average player was 182.1 cm (range 169.0 - 198.0 cm), with an average mass of 93.0 kg (range: 73.0 - 127.0 kg)
Fullbacks and halfbacks such as Andrew Johns 1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in), Billy Slater 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Brett Hodgson 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in), Cooper Cronk 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Darren Lockyer 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Hazem El Masri 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Johnathan Thurston 1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in), Kurt Gidley 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in), Rhys Wesser 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in) and Scott Prince 1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in) are usually average height due to their speed and agility.
Greg Inglis 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in), Israel Folau 1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Shaun Kenny-Dowall 1.94 m (6 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Mark Gasnier 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in), Jarryd Hayne 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), Colin Best 1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in), Manu Vatuvei 1.89 m (6 ft 2 1⁄2 in), Krisnan Inu 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) and Jason Nightingale 1.83 m (6 ft 0 in) are examples of the trend in taller wingers and centres.
In rugby union, lineout jumpers, generally locks, are usually the tallest players, as this increases their chance of winning the ball, whereas scrum-halves are usually nearer the average. As examples, current world-class locks Chris Jack, Paul O'Connell, Richie Gray and Victor Matfield are all at least 1.98 m (6 ft 6 in), while George Gregan, who has 139 international appearances with Australia, is 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in).
When sailing small dinghies (rather than keelboats), the crew hiking or trapezing - essentially hanging off the side - is an important factor in keeping the boat upright and sailing it fast. A tall sailor can get their centre of gravity further out, thus providing more righting moment. For example, in the 470 class, only the crew is on trapeze, so it is beneficial to have a taller crew and a smaller skipper (because the boat requires a light overall weight). Australia's top crew of Mathew Belcher and Malcolm Page exemplify this at 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) and 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) respectively.
In shooting sports, a shorter shooter can maintain better balance when standing for long periods of time holding a gun, as well as keep their gun steady.
Professional sumo wrestlers are required to be at least 1.73 m (5 ft 8 in) tall. Some aspiring sumo athletes have silicone implants added to the tops of their heads to reach the necessary height. The average height for a sumo wrestler is 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in), far above the national average in Japan.
Elite swimmers are generally taller than the populations at large, indicating that height confers a competitive advantage. A main factor in swimming is the amount of drag the swimmer has to overcome when swimming. Drag is composed of pressure drag, friction drag, and wave-making resistance.
The pressure drag is related to cross section size, the friction drag is related to total skin surface (which is generally higher in tall people), and the wave-making drag decreases with body length because a longer body will generally generate less waves due to a decreasing Froude number. Studies have found that total drag does not increase as swimmer height increases, mostly due to the decrease in wave-making drag. Since taller swimmers tend to have bigger muscles and bigger hands and feet to propel them, then they are generally at an advantage.
An example of a tall swimmer is Michael Phelps, at 1.93 m (6 ft 4 in) who won 8 gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games. The average height of the eight finalists in the 100 meter Freestyle final at the US Olympic Trials was 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in). Another exceptionally tall swimmer is Michael Groß, a German great of the 1980s who is 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) with an arm span of 2.13 m (7 ft 0 in). Notable exceptions for shorter swimmers, are Japanese Kosuke Kitajima, who at 1.77 m (5 ft 9 1⁄2 in) is much shorter, and with a more slender build, than a typical Olympic champion swimmer, has achieved astounding results in breaststroke, and Ricardo Prado, a Brazilian medley swimmer of the 1980s, who at 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) held a world record and a world title for 400 metres medley for a number of years.
In taekwondo, a taller height gives the advantage of having a longer range and increased chance to strike a target when sparring. However, due to the length of the kicks, combinations and reflexes will not be as quick when compared with a fighter standing at a shorter height. A shorter height will also increase a lower centre of gravity giving a fighter better balance.
Height is advantageous to a tennis player as it allows players to create more power when serving as well as giving players a greater arm span, allowing them to get to sharp-angled shots more easily and a greater chance of returning a lobbed shot. However, being tall can have some disadvantages, such as difficulty bending down to reach low volleys or striking shots close to the abdomen.
Examples of very tall players are Ivo Karlović 6 ft 11 in (2.11 m), John Isner 6 ft 10 in (2.08 m), Kevin Anderson 6 ft 8 in (2.03 m), Juan Martín del Potro and Marin Čilić both 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m), all known for their powerful serves.
The Big Four in the present all measure above 6 ft 0 in (1.83 m), but not exceedingly in the way those mentioned prior. Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both stand 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m), Novak Djokovic 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and Andy Murray 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m). Other top greats of the game in the 21st century have been tall players, such as Andy Roddick 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) and Gustavo Kuerten 6 ft 3 in (1.91 m).
For both sexes, there have also been some successful players with lesser height, like Billie Jean King 1.64 m (5 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Justine Henin 1.67 m (5 ft 5 1⁄2 in), Chris Evert 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), Pancho Segura 5 ft 6 in (1.68 m), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario 1.69 m (5 ft 6 1⁄2 in), Rod Laver 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m), and Michael Chang 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m). Shorter players continue to thrive. Present-day examples include Dominika Cibulková 1.60 m (5 ft 3 in), Sara Errani 1.64 m (5 ft 4 1⁄2 in), Simona Halep 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), David Ferrer 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m), Fabio Fognini and Kei Nishikori both 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m).
In volleyball, tall players are usually desirable, because it would be easier for them to attack or block the ball. However, shorter players usually have faster reaction time during defense and can pass the ball better. Therefore, since this game is a mixture of speed, skills and tactics, a typical team consist of players of varying height to cater for the specific roles required. The introduction of the libero since 1998 has developed the need for agile and quick-moving players who are usually of shorter stature. In professional volleyball, the men's height generally falls between 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in) to 2.10 m (6 ft 10 1⁄2 in), while for women it ranges between 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in) and 1.95 m (6 ft 5 in). Thus, most of them are above average height.
In weightlifting shorter levers are advantageous and taller than average competitors usually compete in the 105 kg (231 lb) + group. Short people also have a lower consumption of ATP and glycogen than a tall person to make the same proportional effort. So at professional level, it is more advantageous to have short stature.
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