Here is a great guest post from former MBSC coach Brad Stoffers looking at the misconception of the “10 years, 10,000 hour” idea so popular now.
Archive for June, 2012
This is a reprint of one of my first blog posts
At some point a parent decided “why not just fast-track our kids right past Little League and Pop
Warner and right into the Pros”. Parents in all sports felt they could follow the lead of Earl Woods ( Tiger’s dad)
or Richard Williams ( Venus and Serena’s dad) and just concentrate on one sport. I love to tell parent groups
that I speak to that for every Tiger Woods or Venus Williams there are probably 5000 kids who hate
sports and resent their parents for all the pressure. As a parent, ask yourself this question. Have you ever told
anyone “ I don’t push _(insert your child’s name)____ he/she really wants to do this?” The latest one to fuel the
early specialization fire is tennis star Maria Sharapova. The TV folks couldn’t wait to tell us at Wimbledon that
shehad been holed up in Fla since age 7.
Check out this quote from LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson:
“40 million kids play sports, and most of them are between 7 and 12. By the time they are
13 more than 70 percent of them have stopped playing because it’s not fun anymore. All of a sudden when
kids get into junior high, we feel this need to have them become professionals, and the coaches
become professionals… The message I’d like to get out to them is to honor the game. The goal, or the victory
is important, but team sportsmanship, the athletic endeavor itself is just as important.”
One of the problems is that most team sports are what are called late specialization sports.This mean that
early concentration/ specialization has actually been shown to slow development rather than speed it up.
Historically the great players in team sports seem to hone their competitive instincts and develop their athleticism
in a number of sports and then begin to specialize in their teens. In addition early specialization
often leads to dysfunctional parent/ child relationships. The early search for the Holy Grail places undue pressure
on a young athlete who should be learning that sports are actually fun, not just about winning. Believe it or not,
kids play for fun and, will actually attempt to make the teams fair and encourage competition when
left to their own devices. Remember when you were a kid and the teams were uneven. You made trades to create
a competitive game. The thrill was competition, not winning. For many youth sport parents the idea
of fair teams is an anomaly. Stack the team. Get the best players. Annihilate the competition. Get a scholarship.
Make money. Lets look at the following examples:
Nomar Garciaparra ( Boston Red Sox)- played football, soccer and baseball in high school. He actually attempted to play football as a kicker while on a baseball scholarship at Georgia Tech
Mia Hamm ( All Time Leading scorer in US soccer history)-multi-sport star in high school
Kristine Lilly (Leads the World in International Soccer Appearances)-captained three sports at Wilton, Conn HS.
Brendan Shanhan ( Detroit Red Wings) outstanding Box Lacrosse player prior to entering the NHL.
Katie King- ( US Women’s Ice Hockey, two time Olympian, current Boston College Women’s Hockey head Coach) played both Ice Hockey and Softball at Brown University in Providence, R.I..
And the list could go on forever. Early specialization is a phenomenon created by self-interested and financially
motivated adults. It has little basis in fact and, the data seem to support the opposite. This is just
some parental food for thought. There is no evidence to support the theory that early specialization leads to
long-term success. In fact, there is evidence to the contrary as stated above. If you want your
child to be a great athlete, don’t focus on one sport, play a different sport each season. The people who
encourage early specialization are all people with a financial interest in your child playing
one sport year round. Those encouraging early specialization usually run the leagues, camps and skill
sessions and they fill the parents full of ideas that have no basis in fact. None of the
players mentioned above left home at 14 to go to prep school or, just played one sport from
age 6. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting the result to change.
Maybe we should just try the way that worked in the first place?
Travis Heller from my StrengthCoach.com site was nice enough to share this article on Baltimore Oriole Ryan Flaherty and his Dad. Great story and even better the day after Fathers Day.
I got this question on my StrengthCoach.com Forum. I thought the answer might benefit some non-members who read this blog.
Question ( from a member)- I want to put a simple testing battery together to track progress and use as retention tool. This would be for 13 and under.
I was thinking of the following:
Push ups (1min)
Answer – Just FYI. Test if you want to discourage business. Kids don’t want testing, parents do. Kids want to have fun and get better in a nonjudgmental environment.
I am 100% convinced that a huge part of our success at MBSC is that we don’t test. We have continued to grow our business while many of the “improve your 40 time or get your money back” places have closed down. Hate to sound too touchy-feely but this business is much more about building community and self esteem than about test results. The sooner we get that the more successful we will be.
Below is a recent correspondence with a friend. I think you will find it informative.
Hi Mike, I hope all is well. I’m writing because I have a friend who’s son is an up and coming hockey player. He is going into his sophomore year of high school. He played as a freshman on the varsity team. He’s a great young man and is very skilled player. His mom asked me to help them out with what he needs to do to attract colleges. Based on your experience with BU hockey team do you have any suggestions on what colleges are/would be looking for and what if any information we can send to schools on his behalf. If you have any contacts that we could speak with that would be great.
Thanks for your help!
Thanks, a question like yours actually merits a thoughtful answer. The process of being “noticed” by schools is simple. Get better, continue to improve. Many parents are under the impression that exposure to coaches and scouts is the problem. In reality, there are millions of dollars a year being spent on finding the best players. Parents want to believe that if they can simply get the right person to see their son or daughter that the process can in some way be expedited. They take an adult view. Things like connections and introductions come into play. Highlight flims are made, it’s almost like a marketing campaign. However the problem is it is a marketing campaign for an often unfinished and unproven product. The key is to make sure the product ( the player) is solid, not that the marketing is in place.
The point that your friend’s son is at is also the point that the wheels usually fall off. Right now your friends son is a good player on an average team. The question is “what’s the next step”? For many parents the next step is the fatal mistake of the “summer exposure tour”. This usually involves getting sucked into every invitation only, super select camp or tournament they can find. In this case a young kid with potential is taken off the fast track and his development is stalled as he searches for exposure. The truth is the summer is the time to get off the ice and train to get better. The only kids who are getting scholarship offers as sophomores are the few exceptions to the rule. If this kid was one he would already know. The key now is to keep the nose to the grindstone and continue to get better both from a hockey perspective and a physical perspective. The vast majority of players going into college are not 18 year old high school graduates but, twenty year olds with 2 years of junior hockey under their belt. The road to a scholarship is a long slow grind. I wrote an article called
Training is Like Farming
This is an excerpt
I think I remember Stephen Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People making reference to what he called “the law of the farm”. The reference was meant to show that most of the truly good things in life take time and can’t be forced. Covey described the process of farming and alluded to how it requires patience and diligence to grow crops properly. In addition farming requires belief in the system. The farmer must believe that all the hard work will yield an eventual long-term result.
The concept has always stuck with me. The process of developing an athlete at any age is much like farming or, like planting a lawn. There are no immediate results just as there are no immediate results from farming. The process requires even more patience. First, the seeds must be planted. Then fertilizer (nutrition) and water must be applied consistently. Only the correct amounts cause proper growth. Overfeeding can cause problems, as can under-feeding. If I sit and wait for my lawn to sprout, I feel many of the same frustrations of the parent. When will I see results? How come nothing is happening? All this work and nothing. The key is to not quit. Have faith in the process. Continue to add water and wait. Farming and athlete development are eerily similar. Years may pass with no real notice. Suddenly coaches begin to call. Your reaction might be “it’s about time someone noticed”. Much like the first blades of grass poking through the ground, you begin to see success. You begin to experience positive feedback.
When my friends or clients talk to me about their frustration with the process I always bring up the farm analogy. We live in a world obsessed with quick fixes and instant results. This is why the farm analogy can be both informative and comforting. Development must be approached over a period of weeks and months, not days. The reality is that there is no quick fix, no easy way, no magic plan, no secret formula. There is only the law of the farm. You will reap what you sow. In reality you will reap what you sow and care for. If you are consistent and diligent you will eventually see results
The law of the farm.
Plant the seeds
Feed and water properly
Wait for results, they will happen, not in days but in weeks and months.
Bottom line. Get him involved in a good strength program. Avoid the “go to another tournament or camp every weekend of the summer to get seen” thing and work on getting better. Slow and steady wins the race. Most parents lose it right at the wrong time and run of in the wrong direction. Tell them not ask anyone for advice who hasn’t developed 100’s of college players. I have. As I said, slow and steady wins the race.