You Can't Teach Speed: Sprinters Falsify the Deliberate Practice Model of Expertise

69 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2013 Last revised: 9 Jan 2014

Michael P. Lombardo

Grand Valley State University - Department of Biology

Robert O. Deaner

Grand Valley State University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: June 11, 2013

Abstract

Most scientists agree that expertise requires both innate talent and proper training. Nevertheless, the highly influential deliberate practice model (DPM) of expertise holds that either talent does not exist, or that its contribution to performance differences is negligible. It predicts that initial performance will be unrelated to achieving expertise and that a long period of deliberate practice — at least 10 years or 10,000 hours — is necessary and sufficient for achieving expertise. We tested these predictions in the domain of sprinting. Study 1 reviewed the biographies of 15 Olympic sprint champions. Study 2 reviewed the biographies of the 20 fastest male sprinters in U.S. history. In all documented cases, sprinters were exceptional prior to or coincident with their initiation of formal training. Furthermore, most reached world class status rapidly (Study 1 median = 3 years; Study 2 median = 7.5). Study 3 surveyed U.S. national collegiate championships qualifiers in sprints and throws. Sprinters recalled being faster as youths than did throwers, whereas throwers recalled greater strength and overhand throwing ability. Sprinters’ best performances in their first season of high school, generally the onset of formal training, were consistently faster than 95-99% of their peers. Collectively, these results falsify the DPM for sprinting. Because speed is foundational for many sports, they challenge the DPM generally.

Keywords: evolutionary psychology, display, talent, running, sports, training

Suggested Citation

Lombardo, Michael P. and Deaner, Robert O., You Can't Teach Speed: Sprinters Falsify the Deliberate Practice Model of Expertise (June 11, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2277977 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2277977

Michael P. Lombardo (Contact Author)

Grand Valley State University - Department of Biology ( email )

1 Campus Dr.
Allendale, MI 49401-9403
United States
616-331-2501 (Phone)

Robert O. Deaner

Grand Valley State University - Department of Psychology ( email )

1 Campus Dr.
Allendale, MI 49401-9403
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.gvsu.edu/psychology/robert-deaner-16.htm

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