Teens and sports: The 10,000 hour rule


TAMPA, Fla. – With every kick, with every pass, Lily Truong is one step closer to her Olympic dreams.

"I started when I was six and then started club when I was about 12," said Lily Truong, a Clearwater Chargers soccer player.

Teammate Ashley Thomas is right there with her. Along with weekly practices and games, she also does private training.

"The more you put in to it, the more you get out of it," said Ashley.

Broken bones, muscle cramps and fractures haven't stopped these girls. They are serious about their sport and Coach Erin Morse says they have to be.

"If you are not putting in the work, someone else is and they're probably getting better than what you are," Morse explained.

The "10,000 hour rule" of sports, which requires 10,000 hours to become a success isn't a long shot for these girls.

"I think 10,000 hours would be easy if you really, really love the game," said Morse.

But Sports Illustrated's David Epstein says the "10,000 hour rule" could damage performance and health.

"We're sort of pushing athletes, to first of all to pick one sport, to specialize in one sport and then to train in a way that's more appropriate for adults and professionals," said Epstein, author of "The Sports Gene."

Epstein's research showed youth are experiencing adult-style injuries. These injuries are 36% more likely in wealthy kids. Also, playing the same sport for eight months can increase the risk. Experts say "sports sampling" until at least age 12 produces the best athletes.

Epstein said, "If you are learning in too professional a style, being sort of explicitly told what to do, in doing just the same thing, you are going to inhibit your ultimate athletic development."

Still, Lily and the rest of these girls are passionate about putting in the time, and they hope their hard work pays off!

Epstein says another problem he found was that youth baseball players should be throwing 80 pitches every five days. However, they were actually throwing 80 pitches every two days because they were in multiple leagues and the leagues didn't communicate with each other.

By the way, the "10,000 hour rule" came from author Malcolm Gladwell. He reported that 10,000 hours of practice from violin to basketball can lead to expertise.  The concept was first discussed by Anders Ericsson at the University of Colorado in a 1993 paper.