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Maximising sporting potential

We have all heard of the famous “10,000 hours rule” – the theory that anyone with serious ambition can transform themselves into a competent practitioner of virtually any skill or activity if they apply themselves to it with enough dedication and repetition.

The theory is grounded in every human’s personal history.

Whether the skill is learning to crawl and then walk, backing a car, public speaking, mastering your times tables, playing a new video game, at cricket learning to play a reverse sweep or bowl an off-spinner, or just breast-stroking the length of a 25 metre swimming pool: we have all had experiences of examples (of things we once couldn’t do but now can) that prove this supposed rule.

Taking these beyond items that are everyday milestones in every man’s (or woman’s) process of growing up is a matter of analysis and application.

In his book Bounce – The Science of Success Times journalist Matthew Syed asserted that practically anyone could turn themselves into a competent concert violinist – if not a soloist – if they wanted to and practised hard enough.

However, he went on to point out that perhaps getting as far as, for example, solo violinist stardom might require a genetic inheritance of a certain facility for music which – if also practiced for the aforementioned 10,000 hours threshold – could take you there.

A musical example from history that Syed offered were the Beatles, whose “10,000 hours” rites of passage to their heady Beatlemania days of the 1960s and beyond was represented by their two prolonged stints of playing (up to six or seven different concerts per night) in Hamburg’s red light district.

A sporting one he offered was that of all-time tennis great Roger Federer, describing the legend’s exquisite driving cross-court backhand technique as requiring no active mental application on his part at all – over his years of keenly-honed technical practice it had become a simple matter of muscle-memory.

So what attributes or factors, which studied applications, can go to improve athletic performance?

Depending upon your choice of sport, of course, genetics are a definite component. On the face of it – though there are always exceptions that prove a rule – some, e.g. basketball, high jumping, netball and rowing, would seem to suit those who are born destined to be tall, slim, springy and possessed of “long levers”.

Swimming may favour – e.g. Michael Phelps – those who are also tall, broad-shouldered and have hands and feet the size of garden spades.

Gymnasts of both (or all?) genders tend to be small, strong and supple.

Sports science is always pushing boundaries – theories of sporting nutrition too – as modern ‘recovery drinks’, ice baths or chambers, high-altitude training, protein supplements, aerobic training and ever-newer surgical techniques and theories of injury rehabilitation frequently testify.

And then there are other performance self-improvement developments regularly coming down the track.

Here are three that I spotted on the internet recently:

Kathryn Knight reports upon the latest pre-match preparation routine of the Australian cricket team – as appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL

Emine Saner writes on the latest development regarding female athletes learning to embrace the process of their monthly cycles and smart-training around the issues such as injury proneness that attend it – see here, on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

James Pero pens a piece on the latest in self-motivation, as appears today upon the website of the – DAILY MAIL










About Tom Hollingworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a former deputy sports editor of the Daily Express. For many years he worked in a sports agency, representing mainly football players and motor racing drivers. Tom holds a private pilot’s licence and flying is his principal recreation. More Posts