March 15, 2011
Do Young Athletes Need Practice or Genetics? by Dan Peterson
Recently, while I was taking up my normal Saturday position on a youth soccer game sideline, I overheard a conversation between two parents as they watched the players warm-up. The first saying, “I just love watching James play soccer. He’s just one of those natural talents.”
“I agree," the other replied, "Even though his parents never played growing up, he just seems to have inherited all the right genes to be a top player.”
It’s a common belief among parents and some coaches that kids either have “it” or they don’t.
Of course, some skills can be gained from practice, but the talent theory of player development and team selection seem to favor the opinion that athletic skill is “hard-wired," unable to progress much beyond the natural limit.
Now, several books are out to prove this theory incorrect, with titles such as “The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born, Its Grown," “Talent Is Overrated" and “The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You've Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong.” The common thread through all of the research studies quoted by the authors is the mantra that practice makes perfect. More specifically, about 10,000 hours of highly structured practice is required to reach elite performance levels.
Is athletic success that black or white? Instead, is there a combination of talent and tenacity that is required to reach the top? I put these questions to an expert who spends most of his waking hours trying to find the answer.
Check back next week for the continuation of this article and get the answers in this article.