10000 hours to make a champion??? What rubbish!

10000 hours to make a champion??? What rubbish!


This “10000 hours to build a champion athlete” stuff seems to have popped up in a lot of places recently.

Just goes to show how many people in the world can write stuff about sport without knowing anything about it.

The Golden Rule….there isn’t one.

The Golden rule about producing champions is that there are no golden rules.

There are no “always” have to…

There are no “must” do this…

There are no “can never” do that…

And there are no magical, miraculous number of hours required to produce greatness.

The Search for “The Formula”

Everyone in sport is searching for “the Formula” – a set of training routines, skills, drills, supplements, equipment and systems which will guarantee success.

Just look at the recent “power-band” debacle! People wanted something which would guarantee performance enhancement for everyone who purchased one.

The search for a 100% guaranteed, never fail, always successful system which will produce winning athletes and teams is like the “diet” industry: everyone is looking for an easy solution which is guaranteed to work every time for every body but ultimately it takes a lot of hard work and even then nothing is certain.

Ten Reasons Why The Ten Thousand Hours is Rubbish.

  1. Not all athletes learn, grow, adapt and improve at the same rate;
  2. Not all athletes learn, grow, adapt and improve the same way;
  3. Each athlete has a different capacity to recover;
  4. The level of engagement determines the effectiveness of the training activity;
  5. Why 10000? Why not 11000? Why not 8000? Why not 83456.72 hours?
  6. Training environments are incredibly different;
  7. The Quality of coaching is incredibly variable;
  8. Potential to perform;
  9. Passion to prepare, drive, enthusiasm…….
  10. Being unique, being different, being individual……….that’s what makes champions champions.

There is a secret to success – but it isn’t a piece of equipment, a special diet, a gym membership or a mythical number of hours of preparation.

The secret to success is – as it always has been- is to make the most of every opportunity (i.e. every training session, every recovery session, every competition) and prepare to the full extent of your potential every day.

If it takes 10000 hours, great.  Someone will sell a few more books.

Chances are, that if you prepare consistently to your full potential it will take a whole lot less.

Wayne Goldsmith


  • Jeremy Pryce Posted January 29, 2011 12:52 am

    The 10 000 hours is a way of saying that it takes time, committment, preparation etc to succeed. But you are ofcourse absolutely right, it could take less. Ask Björn Borg, Boris Becker, Mats Wilander Dawn Frazer or any other successful child protogé. There is a lot of 10 000 hour rhetoric going on in Sweden at the moment, mainly because a high profile soccer club has given it the thumbs up. People need to think for themselves….

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted January 29, 2011 9:17 am

      Thanks JP.

      That was my point. I am actually seeing sporting organisations change their athlete development policies and using the term “10,000 hours” as if it is some kind of written in stone sports “law”.

      Seen a lot of this stuff over the years but in the end it is up to individuals to prepare to the limits of their potential at every opportunity – no limits, no constraints and certainly no magic number of hours of training.


  • Brian McCormick Posted January 29, 2011 2:36 am

    However, Bjorn Borg and others engaged in hours of deliberate play before specializing in tennis, and Cote, Abernathy and others argue that deliberate play is a significant factor in development of expert performance, and those hours “count” toward the 10,000-hour magic number.

    As for 10-000 hours itself, I don’t think many people take it 100% literally, as if going from 9999 to 10,000 is going to turn one into an expert. However, it is a marketable idea that illustrates the work and dedication necessary. Anyone can say “put in the time” or as BG says “the hard yards” or work hard or whatever, but what does that mean? How do you quantify that “the time”? 10,000 is an attempt to quantify the work and use terms that are more specific and understandable. If someone hits greatness at 8000 hours, good for him.

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted January 29, 2011 9:23 am

      Thanks Brian.

      I think that whole concept of deliberate play is over-rated and more than that, the traditional thinking on skill-learning is pretty much one dimensional, i.e. physical or at best neuro-physiological. The role of personality, coaching techniques, parental engagement, learning environment and other factors have never been seriously looked at and each of them can potentially impact on the “magic” number of hours to achieve skills mastery.

      Go a watch kids at a skate park and watch them just express themselves creatively through the activity. Go and watch a switched on modern coach (i.e. one who actually understands how to engage young athletes) and watch how they create a learning environment rather than an impose a coaching environment.

      I see some great things happening in sport right now if we are in tune with them and are all prepared to re-think the way we coach, teach, practice and train.

      Really enjoyed your comments – thanks.


  • Sergio Nivon Posted January 30, 2011 4:52 am

    Hi Wayne,
    Gennidi Tourestki, by the way, he knows well and told me to say hello to you. He thinks that 10,000 hours in the water is to “discover” a talent.
    Sergio Nivon

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted January 30, 2011 9:27 am

      Thanks Sergio.

      Touretski has been in my view one of the most influential minds in world swimming and he certainly influenced me during the ten years or so he was in Australia.
      His thoughts on training and preparing swimmers and his philosophies on sprint technique changed swimming in Australia more than people care to admit.

      He is a classic case of what can be achieved by thinking differently, by gaining an advantage through learning from a wide range of sources, by being unique, by being creative and by being an individual. I learnt a lot from him.



  • valentin Uzunov Posted February 1, 2011 4:01 pm


    Thanks Wayne and all other posters for sharing these interesting and thought provocking comments and posts.

    Even though, i don’t think that there is a Golden rule, there are most definitely characteristics shared between all those who succeed in sport, or any other field. One of those is that it takes time. The 10hr rule maybe needs to be revisited since first introduced by Anders Ericsson.

    The classification of mastery is a gray line at best anyways, as there are clearly different shades of mastery.

    Valentin Uzunov

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 3, 2011 7:51 am

      Thanks Valentin.

      This is the challenge I believe. I am not a “short-cuts” guy. I am not looking for an easy way. Just a better way.

      If we can get a better result, in a shorter time by coaching more effectively, it has to be the way to go.

      Thank you for your comments.


  • Matthew Lavine Posted February 17, 2011 8:39 am

    I see your point here, but to be fair, the “10,000 Hour Rule” (initially put forth by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “The Outliers”) wad never meant to be prescriptive. Gladwell was simply pointing out that people who excelled in a given field were not so much prodigies, as they were individuals who put in a great deal more time in practice than others who did not reach their level (about 10,000 hours, on average). This very intriguing (and commonsense) idea was then perverted into a one-size-fits-all recipie for certain sucess. Other writers have even adopted the idea somewhat with different insights. Matthew Syed wrote a very intriguing book called “Bounce” in which he argued that it does not just take a certain amount if time in practice to reach elite status, but the practice itself must be challenging and increasingly difficult before we can expect improvement.

    Well, I’m enjoying your site so far. Keep it up–there’s some good reading here!

    • Wayne Goldsmith Posted February 18, 2011 8:36 am

      Thanks Matt.

      I really love reading both Gladwell and Syed because they challenge people to think and they challenge people to challenge themselves.

      The motivation behind writing the “10000 hours..rubbish” post was that I have been working with a few sports who are taking it literally and talking about how they can actually periodise 10,000 hours as an exact, prescriptive number of hours required to achieve success.
      As in that athletes must do 10,000 hours divided by the average length of a career to come up with a formula of hours per week based on the Gladwell model.

      I was – and still am – in shock and disbelief at the stupidity of this thinking.

      So an athlete trains for 9,990 hours – no champion. 10 hours later……pow…world record holder???

      Surely, they can’t be serious (sorry for calling you Shirley).

      As usual the “truth” is probably somewhere on a continuum between Gladwell – Syed (and Goldsmith????).

      Thanks for your great comment.


  • malcolm wallace Posted January 26, 2018 10:53 am

    Hi, The interesting thing is everyone writes about the “10,000 hrs” but fail to read the research that Gladwell purloined it from. There is no such thing as this rule and to understand the research you must read the research or even some of the comments by Erickson. Out of this rule came long-term athlete development which lots of people write about. LTAD is, I believe, why children drop out of the sport along with the biomechanics and sports scientists that take fun out of sport

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