Tag Archives: athletes

Does Practice Make Perfect?

I’ve spent the last 18 years of my life believing that I was destined to suck at sports for the rest of my life. I’ve tried every sport you can think of, all resulting in failure. Perhaps that was my issue; maybe if I practiced more I would be able to have a real talent. The answers are varied. According to this article, very little of the success stories we hear of athletes or other talented people comes from birth.

Benjamin Bloom studied 120 of these talented people and found that most didn’t show any real talent until their proper training began. He concluded that most people can learn to do something well if given the proper tools to learn.

This article however, claims the opposite. It says that under 90 studies, only 20 to 25% of the differences between the goods and greats of whichever field was the practice they put in. These scientists decided that natural born talent is more important.

In the same article as previously mentioned, other scientists argued that those studies that were published by the New York Times were not done perfectly. It claimed “practice,” but does that mean a couple hours or 70 hours a week of practice? It also varies among specializations. For example, I’m sure anyone can be taught to be a better reader (barring impairment), but not everyone can be taught to be an excellent award-winning artist.

Personally, I think that it’s a mixture of the two–nature and nurture. This is an age old debate that is common among many phenomenas in science. I think that if someone is born into a family of professional athletes, they’re more inclined to be great but if they never picked up a sport, I’m sure they would not be amazing at first try. That’s another thing that leads towards nuture for me. A personal anecdote: I have friends who have parents that were amazing at their respective sports and the children are often good because of the relentless coaching by their parents and the practice they put into it.

Also, there is the whole theory in the book “Outliers” by Malcom Gladwell, that if anyone puts in 10,000 hours of work, they will be masters of their chosen field. There’s a theory in the book about why the most professional ice hockey players are born in January, and it’s not because they’re used to the cold.. But more on that in a later blog!

Maybe if I stuck with one of the sports and truly practiced hard, I would be able to be an Olympian.. Maybe not.