Two posts ago, I remarked that it was a bit shocking that not many coaches actively scoop-up post-college athletes. In other words, we, in the US, tend to be hyper focused on discovering the next Suleymonglu at the age of 12; to the point, that taking on an athlete over the age of 17 or even 20 seemed to be a waste of time.
So, interestingly, I was on a business trip to Canada (not shoes, my real job), and upon watching some CBC, I came across a review of the book “Outliers”, fascinated by its propositions on successful athletes, I started reading it.
In a nutshell…
In order to be an extraordinarily successful athlete, you need opportunity and 10,000 hours–or 10 years- of serious practice. In other words, no one is a success on their own. Not even the most physically gifted people can wake-up, one day, and just clean and jerk triple their bodyweight.
Even more importantly, factual case studies show that one only needs a minimal level of talent to become, say, Olympic Champion. What makes one greater than competitors is the amount of additional work and practice you have had. In sports, music, business, or academia, their are thousands, millions of talented people; the difference between mediocre, good, and great is the great people had unique opportunities that allowed them to put in the 10,000 hours to be the best.
How this relates to lifting
When it comes to “talent identification” it is more important that our lifters are able to put in the thousands of hours of work to be successful. Per Popov’s comments in Bulgaria — all you need to be a good lifter is (1) the ability to do a full squat, (2) rack a bar in a clean, (3) ability to do an overhead squat— the rest is a function of who has the opportunity and desire to put in the 10000 hours or roughly ten years of hard training.
Playing Devils advocate
Every once in while, there is a track athlete, that seemingly comes out of no where and wins a National weightlifting meet.
Is it because they are so much more talented and gifted than any lifter currently in the system ? No. It’s probably because they are already elite athlete’s in an explosive sport, having incorporated Olympic lifting movements as part of their normal training.
Samething with Junior lifters: Why are some early or late bloomers? Adolescents hit puberty at different points, and some children have been doing other sports since they were toddlers. Some have very sport-focused, supportive parents.
Overall, its accumulative advantage or disadvantage that adds-up overtime. It might not seem like such a big deal, but it is over an athlete’s lifetime.
If we want to be a power, again, in weightlifting, the most important step is to set-up infrastructure where athletes can train consistently, and support athletes who, after given the opportunity to train, continue to put in the hour. Consistent, hard training is paramount above all other factors– age, perceived talent, etc.
Hmmm, the above is exactly how the Colombian selection system works. Lifters who train hard and meet minimal qualifiers are rewarded, supported, and incentivized to keep training.
Horatio Alger, go home!
Gladwell, Malcom. Outliers. 2008. Hatchette Book Group: New York, NY.