10000 Hours to Make a Sporting Champion?

10000 Hours to Make a Sporting Champion?

10000 hours???? Don’t believe a word of it.

One of the most common questions I get asked on email, by phone or when I’m at seminars and workshops around the world is about the concept of 10,000 hours of training and dedicated practice being required for an athlete to realise their full potential.

I’ll have to admit, with no disrespect to the author of the book, that I don’t believe in it.

I really think that putting in a value of 10000 hours, or 5,000 hours, or 200,000 hours for that matter shows a complete lack of understanding of sport and  doesn’t really acknowledge the role that coaching can play in the development of athletic potential.

It’s not about practice makes perfect….it’s performance practice.

When training or practicing in sport – in music – in anything – it’s about understanding the difference between CONTENT and INTENT.

Content – is about the numbers, the exercises, the routines, the practices, the drills…it’s the WHAT of training.

Intent – is how you do those things – it’s your level of commitment and your level of engagement with what you’re doing.

I’ll give you an example.

10000 hours – might work on routine, simple, basic tasks – but not in sport.

Three athletes commence the same workout.

They have been asked to complete 10 repeats of the same exercise.

Athlete A completes the task: they do ten repeats. They get them done quickly and with little attention to detail. It’s all about getting them done.

Athlete B completes the task: they also do ten repeats but…they focus on their breathing, maintaining great technique and good posture and they perform the exercises with control and composure.

Athlete C also completes the task: they do ten repeats but…in addition to focusing on breathing, technique and posture, they “visualise” applying their strength in their chosen sport and they do 11 repeats to challenge themselves to achieve a higher standard of excellence in their training.

Attitude determines outcome.

Ten is not always Ten. Just as 10000 is not always 10000.

It’s not about counting the repeats….it’s about making every repeat count.

Coaching Counts.

And where the 10000 hours – or 5,000 hours, or 1,000 or 50,000 hours – concept really bothers me. It negates the importance of quality coaching.

Because a great coach may turn those 10,000 hours into 2,000 hours because of the quality of their coaching, because of their capacity to get the most out of every athlete in everything they do, because of their ability as great coaches to inspire the athlete to want to get more out of everything they do.

So, inspiring the difference between just doing an activity – the ‘what’ – or the content we have to do – and really understanding the ‘how’ or the intent – is coaching athletes to get the greatest benefit possible out of each training activity.

What do I think of the 10000 hours concept?

To be short and to be blunt…… I think it’s rubbish.

Not only do I think it’s rubbish in terms of athlete development, the original authors of the research that the popular book is based on also think it’s rubbish.

With no disrespect to the author, I think the concept’s quite interesting, it helped to sell a lot of books, but it shows to me they don’t really understand sport, the importance of coaching or the capacity of great coaches to help athletes achieve things that they couldn’t dream of without the input of a great coach.

Wayne Goldsmith

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