The prodigy myth

in Sport · 26-06-2020 01:00:00 · 0 Comments
The prodigy myth

So I’ve just started reading (second attempt) a book called, “Bounce” by Matthew Syed. From what I’ve gathered so far, the whole point of the book is that child prodigies don’t exist, they are actually a product of thousands of hours of intense practise at a very early age.

Not only are they the product of huge amounts of practise hours at an early age, but when you add in the quality of coaching and the intensity of the practise, you then have a very powerful example of how important practise is within the development of a player.
Apparently Mozart’s father was an accomplished composer in his own right and Mozart spent the majority of his childhood being taught music and how to compose it by his father. The book suggests that it is purely down to this early work as to why he was regarded as a child prodigy. It is only because he was so far advanced of anybody else his age that he appeared to have a God given talent which made him stand so far out from the crowd.
The examples in this book are many and of course include Tiger. It is well documented that his father Earl, wanted to put a club in his hand as early as possible. Then with Earl’s green beret training coupled with some excellent coaching, Tiger started showing signs of being a champion at a scarily young age. His mental game was very strong due to his father’s training, his swing was excellent due to the technical coaching he was receiving, and his performances were down to the quality and amount of practise he was putting in daily.
It is generally understood within coaching that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated purposeful practise (normally equating to 10 years of hard work) to become an elite performer. That being the case, it is hardly surprising by the time Tiger was 13, he had the mind of a green beret, the golf swing of a great player and because he had clocked up so many hours before the competition had even picked up a club, is it any wonder that winning became natural to him.

If you move your attention from golf to tennis and look at the Williams sisters, you will see the same story occur again. Richard Williams introduces the girls to tennis as soon as he possibly could, made sure that the game was fun for the girls and then let nature run its course. He knew already that there was a fierce sibling rivalry between the two sisters and by igniting the flame and giving them a common sport, they would compete against each other until there was no light available.
Of course, the key here is that the practise is not one of attrition but one of enjoyment, so the player is loving what they’re doing and never realising that they’re working. If you are a member at a golf course in the UK you will see something close to this every summer holiday; the junior golfer will be dropped off as early as possible in the day and be picked up, through their own choice, as late as possible so they rack up the numbers regarding practise hours every day and every week. Over the period of five years, they have achieved a level of competency which will never leave them.
That’s why when a player over the age of 40 takes up the game with no real experience in playing, they find it difficult to really develop or they become frustrated with the progress they are making.
On average a junior, if they are playing six days a week and have 8 hours practising golf per day, that’s 48 hours of golf per week. That’s a lot of experience and a lot of learned skill very early on in a player’s career.
If that’s what it takes for a junior to get to a scratch handicap by the time they’re 16, imagine what kind of work you have to put in to get to a 20 handicap?
I would 100 percent recommend you read “Bounce” and then apply it to your golf game so that you can practise whilst having some fun.



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