One of the biggest arguments throughout the sports world is the idea of nature versus nurture. Many believe that in order to be a successful athlete, someone has to be gifted with athletic prowess from the day they come into this world. LeBron James is a good example for nature as arguably the most athletically gifted professional athlete.
On the other hand, nurture is innumerable hours of work to gain a specific talent. In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers,” he discusses the idea that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. That begs the question, can the lack of a so called “LeBron like” genetic makeup be overcome with hours of dedication and practice? Is there hope for me at 5’ 10” and 170 pounds?
In an attempt to answer this question, I actually sat down and did the math. At two hours of practice each day it would take between 13 and 14 years to achieve 10,000 hours of practice. But what if someone was immersed into the skill at a young age, such as the Manning brothers?
These three brothers learned to love the game of football at a young age. In the Mannings’ book, “Family Huddle,” they talk about football as their livelihood from birth. Imagine this, if someone were to soak up all the information they could about a sport starting at age four, they could technically become an expert by the time they graduated high school. If they counted watching, talking about, playing and evaluating the sport towards the hours of practice, 10,000 hours certainly feels like a much more reasonable goal.
The Mannings are a prime example of why athletic gifts are not a necessity for professional athletes. By immediately surrounding themselves with the game of football, they were able to outwork those who may have been born with greater athletic abilities.
So how about a call to action. Many people believe that if they aren’t blessed with a six and a half foot frame then they wouldn’t have a chance as a successful athlete, but I strongly disagree. The head baseball coach at SHS, Phil Webster, always says “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” To me, this is an essential concept for athletes to understand.
Athletes should not lose hope just because there are others that may have more talent than them. If they surround themselves with those who have similar interests and they do everything in their power to learn as much about the sport as possible, they always have the opportunity to surpass another who may be ahead of them in athletic abilities. Always remember, hard work can beat talent.