Thanks to the Malcolm Gladwell book Outliers, the so-called 10,000 hour rule came into broad use in the areas of achievement and talent. If you’re not familiar with the rule, here’s the gist. Basically, it suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery of something. Tagged on to discussion of the rule is the question of the quality of those hours. There is a body of writing and research related to “deliberate practice”.

Well, according to this article, Gladwell misportrayed the research findings that were the basis for his book. Presenting academic and scientific papers in a mass-market friendly fashion can lead to this. The article goes on to explain the different ways there really is no such thing as a 10,000 rule (see also Peak).

Then there’s the question as to whether lots and lots of deliberate practice is sufficient to be a truly top performer. We as coaches know that’s not the only determining factor. In sports you need the physical attributes. I’m sorry, but if you’re 5’6″ you’re not going to be a hitter on the national team no matter how technically proficient you become at attacking.

The authors of the article do say Gladwell was spot on with one thing:

“…becoming accomplished in any field in which there is a well-established history of people working to become experts requires a tremendous amount of effort exerted over many years. It may not require exactly ten thousand hours, but it will take a lot.”

Do you think coaching falls into that category?

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John Forman
John Forman

John is currently the Talent Strategy Manager (oversees the national teams) and Indoor Performance Director for Volleyball England, as well as Global Director for Volleyball for Nation Academy. His volleyball coaching experience includes all three NCAA divisions, plus Junior College, in the US; university and club teams in the UK; professional coaching in Sweden; and both coaching and club management at the Juniors level. He's also been a visiting coach at national team, professional club, and juniors programs in several countries. Learn more on his bio page.

    1 Response to "Revisiting the 10,000 hour rule"

    • Filipe Soares

      Hello John.

      Expertise is the subject for my PhD thesis so i will try to shed light on the subject a litlle bit.

      It’s known for a long time in the academic world that the 10.000 rule can hardly be applied to acyclical sports. There are a number of factor that determine expertise, being one of them deliberate practice (which is not necessarily related with the 10.000 hour rule).
      Still, several studies have shown that the quality of the practice and, most recently, the quality of the competition, have a bigger influence in “obtaining” expertise than the number of hours in practice.
      Now, there is no clear explaination on how to become an expert. It’s a sum of physical, physcological and competitive factors that lead to the development of expertise in Athletes.

      I’m actually surprised that the 10.000 hour law is being given so much importance now….

      In coaches, before we determine how to be an expert coach, first we need to know how to evaluate the performance of the coach. What are the parameters? Results? Formation of players? Academical and coaching formation? How do they process information? How is their decision making?

      There’s a lot of questions regarding coaches…it’s a good field of study.

Please share your own ideas and opinions.