ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — For 11 years, Shjon Podein played in the National Hockey League. At times he was an enforcer, not afraid to drop the gloves for little fisticuffs.

The former UMD Bulldog even won a Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche in 2001.

And while he still spends plenty of time on the ice, it’s safe to say his competition these days isn’t trying to ruthlessly check him into the boards.

Podein is the St. Louis Park boy’s hockey coach. And while he spends time working with the varsity, he also spends time working with his 5-year-old son, Junior, and his 8-year-old daughter, Anna.

Like any parent of two young kids, he wonders what their future holds.

“They are involved in five or six different sports and they are loving being kids and playing. It’s just fun to watch,” Podein said.

But Podein would also like to know what sport they would have the most success in.

If it isn’t hockey could it be football, basketball, soccer or tennis? That’s where Atlas Sports Genetics comes into play.

Atlas is based in Boulder, Colorado.

For $160 per kid, they send a kit with instructions on how to get a DNA swab. The swabs are sent to Atlas, then to a lab in Australia.

The company is looking for something called the ACTN 3 Gene, which is responsible for fast-twitch explosive muscles.

“It’s really just a tool in a tool box of an athlete to analyze a scenario,” said Nat Carruthers, president of Operations for Atlas.

It’s all about sports science. If you don’t have a lot of ACTN 3, you’re better suited for endurance sports like cycling and swimming.

A little bit of ACTN 3 means you are a mixed-pattern athlete with strength and endurance, and you have potential in just about any sport. That was Anna.

“They kind of hit it on the head with her. She just likes to do a lot of different things. She’s not the fastest or the slowest, she doesn’t burn out the quickest and she doesn’t last the longest,” said Podein.

The third and final category is strength and power. When you fall under this category that means you have a lot of ACTN 3 in your body. And that, was Junior.

“Junior, would you like to be a football player one day?” Podein asks.

“I already am,” Junior responds.

“He already is, of course,” Podein said, with a laugh.

And according to Atlas’s results, football, rugby, wrestling, and even power lifting are sports Junior could excel at. Ice hockey is on that list, but is considered more of a mixed-pattern sport.

“I see a kid who bounds around like a kangaroo and has limitless energy, but after he gets half a block down, he falls down because he’s so tired. Obviously they know what they’re talking about because they kind of have him pegged on the scientific side,” Podein said.

But even after all this, Atlas admits this doesn’t mean a kid won’t succeed at a sport they like if it doesn’t fit their genetic code. Because of that, some skeptics have called the test snake oil. Atlas calls it science — and a head start.

“We hope they use it to highlight ways they can train different or it inspires them in a different way as opposed to just locking them into a single sport,” said Carruthers.

That’s exactly what Podein hopes his kids will do. He doesn’t care if they don’t follow in his skates, but he also knows if they work hard they may end up even better than their old man.

“I’m a pretty open-minded kind of guy and keep all doors open because you never know which one can give you education that can help your kids going into a direction that gives them confidence. Not just in sports, but in life,” he said.

The results for Atlas take a few weeks to get back.

They stress that exercising, coaching, practicing, and nutrition are all major factors in producing star athletes.

John Lauritsen

Comments (4)
  1. Donna Lusciousdc Sayles-Corbin says:

    I really can see this turning out bad. If the DNA test shows neither one of his kids will be successful in a sport, what will he do next. Pump them full of the recommended “potion” that this research company suggests? There are more important things in life than whether your kid is a great sports player.

  2. Amy McLaughlin says:

    I can not tell you how much this new genetic testing angers me. Do we really need to know this, or is this just another way that sports has gotten out of hand with our kids? So if a child shows a higher level of this gene, what will be the expectations from the parents, and from the child themselves? Will there be more pressure to do better? Will there be more of a focus on performance rather than playing for the enjoyment? Will higher levels of this gene increase parental bragging rights?
    BUT here is my even greater concern!! When a child shows a lower level of this gene, will this discourage the parents from inspiring their kids to be a part of a team if they know they MAY not excel? Will it discourage the kids from even trying a sport because of what will become a lower “substandard” level? What happens to being a part of team for the FUN of it, and the shared camaraderie of teammates? What will happen to the kids who may not have the gene but have the spirit and drive to DO and achieve more… the ones who won’t give up? Will those dreams be dashed because of a genetic test?
    And what will be the next level of kids sports?…..Will this test which is now an option, be a required test one day, and only a certain level of ACTN 3 will even be accepted? Or will certain levels of ACTN determine which position you play? Sounds preposterous? Perhaps, and then again with the level of practice time increasing each year along with the increased stresses that partner these expectations, perhaps not.