Friday, 20 April 2012

P is for… Practise makes perfect

In his book Outsiders: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell theorises that it takes about 10,000 hours of deliberate practise to really master a subject area or skill. Whilst there are some obvious exceptions to this rule, in most cases it seems to hold true. Even the most talented of individuals usually have to put in thousands of hours of practise to make the most of their abilities.

Beckham practicing his skills
When I think of the above, my mind often turns to sport. On his way to becoming one of the best dead ball specialists in football, David Beckham was reported to have practiced 500 free kicks a day whilst growing up, And for all their physical traits, the Williams sisters also played tennis for 6 hours a day, 6 days a week to hone their skills with the racquet. To become the best you also need to work phenomenally hard, that much is without doubt.

However getting to the top is one thing, and staying there is another. The truly great champions of our sports, those who we’ll enjoy telling our grandchildren about, continue to work hard and push themselves to new heights even when they’re at the top of their games.

As an example, Gary Ablett Jr could have rested on his laurels in his mid-20s after a stellar few years in the AFL. He’d been voted the AFL MVP for a record 3 successive seasons, had picked up 2 Premierships with his childhood team, and he’d captured the game’s highest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal. However instead of being satisfied with his lot, he challenged himself by moving to a new start-up team, becoming their inaugural captain. He’s started this season in phenomenal form, picking up 127 possessions and kicking 6 goals in just 3 games. It seems improbable that he’ll carry on in this vein for too long, but if anyone can, this future AFL legend is certainly capable of doing so.

I’ll leave you with one of my favourite sporting stories. Daley Thompson is one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes, winning gold medals in the decathlon in both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Olympics. However his success didn’t come easily, he also worked phenomenally hard to fulfill his potential. Always looking to get an advantage over his opponents, Daley would even train on Christmas Day. However, knowing that his rivals might also be training on that day, he’d make sure he did 2 or 3 hard sessions each December 25, believing that might just give him the edge over his rivals. That sort of dedication is why he became an Olympic champion, and should serve as a reminder to us all.

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