It's not OR, it's AND. You need raw talent AND you need to work incredibly hard to be good. There are a lot of talented people out there playing ball, running, skating, biking, or doing whatever your sport is. How far you're going to get is going to depend on how hard you work to cultivate the talents that you have and what kind of support you have around you in the form of coaches and teams. Depending on what your physical gifts are, some sports just may not be available to you competitively, but others may. In my high school we had a lot of guys who tried out for the football team but just didn't have the size necessary to be competitive on the field. But a lot of them ended up finding other sports that played to their strengths, some getting into endurance sports, and others into finesse sports. Even Jordan had to work incredibly hard to get to where he was at the peak of his career. If you don't believe me, let the man tell you himself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Uugz5Y7u6M
If you want to be competitive, and use that to take you to college or beyond, start by understanding your physical talent. Match it to your passion. Get a coach who believes in you and shares your vision. Then get working. There's a lot of work to be done. Go!</body></html>
There is a LOT you can do to become a great athlete.
When I was a sophomore in HS, I was a good-not-great swimmer. I worked VERY hard. I learned to visualize what success would mean. I learned what types of activities I needed to do to get better. I talked to my coaches. I practiced. I did things outside of practice to set myself up for success - eating better, running, etc.
In the end, I found out my natural talent would only take me so far in swimming. I could have swum in college, but I learned that I liked water polo even better.
On the individual sports, like swimming, it's all about you and how you treat your mind and your body. I think natural ability plays a bigger role when it comes to races like this - but believe me you can do A LOT to affect it.
On the team sports or ones where you compete head-to-head (tennis), I think it's almost better to NOT be a natural. As I said, I was not a good water polo player to start. I'd played baseball and soccer so I knew about strategy and I could throw very hard. Plus I was a good swimmer. I had to learn - and I did that by watching others, watching videos, challenging teammates who were better than me in practice, training hard and using the skills I did have - making those better first. For instance, rather than become a great shooter first, I learned to be the best passer I could be and I worked on it all the time. Try picking a skill and building it up, because it will help you learn where you have hidden talents. In the meantime, learn how to visualize what you need to do. Practice it in your mind. Talk through it or write it out for yourself.