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Life Lessons

Finding Hidden Talent

Some visitors — relatives of one of our players — walked into practice yesterday.

Afterward, they remarked on the sense of spirit they felt. This is always nice to hear about your team, and we want to keep up that feeling.

Part of our success (after only two days) comes from what some people call “training the team from the bottom up.” This means coaching everyone in the gym, not only the stars and those who are perceived to have “potential.”

Too many coaches — and I certainly have been guilty of this — spend most of their time coaching those who would seem to offer the most help to the team. Let’s leave aside for a moment the question of whether this is educational or teaches life lessons.

On a practical level, it’s wrong. In the book “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that many young athletes are considered to be talented, when in fact they are merely older than their peers.

Look at the Little League World Series. How many of the players who have won the championship have wound up in the major leagues? If these players are so talented, why do they not wind up at the top of their field. One player comes to mind. Chris Drury played on the team that won the Little League World Series, and he made it to the big leagues — in ice hockey.

For an interesting experiment, tell the athletes on your team to line up in order of birthdate. Those born closest to Jan. 1 go the left, and those born closest to Dec. 31 go to the right.

When you examine the line, it’s quite possible that you will find your “talented” athletes in a cluster. Here is what happens: At a young age, certain athletes are bigger and stronger than their peers. So they are perceived to be talented. They get lots of attention, lots of repetitions. The more repetitions and feedback they get, the more they improve. Soon the perception becomes the reality. Anyone who was bigger and stronger suddenly looks like a prize athlete. But those people weren’t necessarily more talented. It’s quite likely that they were merely OLDER.

So be very careful in evaluating the players in your gym. Give them as much time as possible to show what they can do. Here’s a prediction: If you train your team from the bottom up, you not only will have lots of spirit in your gym, but you will find that by giving everyone repetitions, you will discover a hidden “talent.”


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