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10,000 Hours is NOT the Whole Answer

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Recently I had the opportunity to attend and watch an extremely well organized tournament made up of 140 club teams of various ages and skill levels.

The tournament was advertised as a final tune up so teams and players could get some bugs worked out before the official summer evaluation period began and all the NCAA Div. I coaches could attend.

As a result the stands were filled with mostly parents but there were still several DII, DIII, NAIA, and Juco coaches in attendance.

The championship game featured two well known teams from neighboring states and the gym was packed long before the two teams even started to warm up.

There was definitely a state championship type energy in the gym and I was glad I got there early and grabbed a good seat.

While sitting there waiting for the game to begin I couldn't help but hear a few nearby sets of parents discuss the work out habits and routines of their children/players. It seemed obvious to me that at least one father had read either "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle or "Talent is Overrated" by Geoffrey Colvin because there were constant references to the "10,000 hour rule."

The player being discussed had devised a systematic shooting routine that would eventually get him to the magical 10,000 hour milestone at which point he could then be considered a shooting master. The more I listened the more anxious I was to watch this kid in action!

Shortly after the opening tip the ball was driven and then kicked out to this shooter on the weak side wing. He calmly caught the pass, sized up the basket, took a one bounce dribble and began his shooting motion. However, by the time the shot was ready to be released; his defender had closed out and literally swatted the ball into the third row of the bleachers! A few minutes later and nearly the exact same thing happened again only this time on the other side of the court.

The player was soon subbed out and sat a few minutes and then after a brief discussion with his coach went back into the game and even though he caught the ball several times during the flow of the offense, never had enough time to actually get his shot off. When half time came I watched this same player walk out to the wing, size up the basket, take a one bounce dribble and drain jump shot after jump shot following the exact same routine each time.

It didn't take me long to figure out the problem: the player had obviously spent many hours shooting the basketball but it was immediately apparent that those practice shots that he had taken were not at game speed or under competitive circumstances.

Standing by himself without the pressure of a frantic defender rushing right at him the player could take as much time as he liked and in that situation he was money. But unfortunately that situation never presented itself in that championship game and the player who had routinely logged hour after hour shooting went scoreless the entire game.

I guess the message here is to forget the clock if you want to be a great player. Sure, those two books mentioned earlier are well written and contain lots of useful information, and putting in 10,000 hours will definitely improve your skills. However, being skilled is not enough. Those skills that you master alone in the driveway have to be executed at game speed in competitive situations in order to be truly effective.

While quantity is great, quality is even better. Whether you are working on your shooting, ball handling, passing, post moves, etc. you must get some quality reps in that are as game like as possible if you really want to effectively master that skill.

If you find yourself in a slump it's okay to go back and slow the skill down while working out the kinks but as soon as that skill is back in the groove then you must get back up to game speed. If not you'll be deadly during warm-ups but won't be able to help either yourself or your teammates!

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