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The “10,000 Hour Rule” in Tennis

Post 34 of 40

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success he talks about the “10,000 Hour Rule.” Basically this rule states that if you want to be successful in any field, you’d need to practice a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours. So, if you want to be a successful guitar player, you’d need to practice for 10,000 hours or more. And, if you want to be a successful tennis player, you’d also need to practice for over 10,000 hours. This may lead one to believe that talent may be overrated. Sure you need to have some athletic ability, but if you practice enough, and with the right coaching, you could be good at tennis—maybe even great.

This premise follows closely what Daniel Coyle discusses in his book The Talent Code – Greatness isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. and what Geoff Colvin discusses in Talent is Overrated. In these two books the authors talk about “deep practice” being a key to success. After having read these books, I’d have to agree with their theories.

But, these books got me thinking. Is it just time spent on the court that counts, or can you figure in time you spend watching the sport, learning strategy, using visualization techniques, reading about the sport, or whatever? I believe it all counts as practice.

I started in the sport way too late to become a great, professional tennis player—I ran out of time if you will—couldn’t get my 10,000 hours in! But, through the years I’ve stuck with this beautiful game. I am somewhat obsessive and practice never was a problem for me. I loved hitting that little fuzzy yellow ball. The one area I didn’t obsess over was the strategy of the game. I learned how to hit every shot in the book and I believed this would make me a good player. Yet, I still lost to people I didn’t think were as good as I was. Why was this?

As I look back, I believe I should have spent more time learning the whys of tennis. Why do you follow the “directionals,” Why do you approach to the same side of the court as your approach shot? Why do you serve out wide to move your opponent off court? Etc, etc, etc.

As a coach, I realize the importance of instilling a knowledge of strategy in my players, but this isn’t always easy when you’re teaching them proper stroke mechanics. You spend so much time drilling and serving, but what good is this if you don’t know where to hit the ball.

Well, what I guess I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t just practice your strokes during your 10,000 hours of practice. Practice strategy and movement patterns. Practice using visualization. Practice staying fit. Practice eating right. I think, or rather, I know this will all help to make you successful as a tennis player.

See you on the courts!



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