My daughter G plays football to a very high level. She trains four sessions a week, and has been doing so since Year Six. All in all, she must have clocked in her 10,000 hours.

This year, she begins her International Baccalaureate Diploma, which involves mastering seven subjects to a very high level, and with medical school in her ambition, she needs good grades in all subjects, which are as diverse as Spanish and Theory of Knowledge alongside conventional Science subjects.

But G also plays basketball at an international level. Though basketball is very much her second sport, she still has to find the time to put in the practice hours.

So why basketball too, given that her primary focus is football and her studies (and she moans about the lack of time)?

Because basketball helps with her football.


Malcolm Gladwell wrote in his famous book, Outliers, that 10,000 hours of deliberate practice makes something perfect. Gladwell used the examples of Bill Gates (who had been messing around with computers since his teens) and the Beatles (who played a lot of hours in Hamburg), who put in hours upon hours pushing their skills to the max to get to the top of the tree.

However, a new Princeton study showed that that practice accounted for just a 12% difference in performance in various domains.

• In games, practice made for a 26% difference

• In music, it was a 21% difference

• In sports, an 18% difference

• In education, a 4% difference

• In professions, just a 1% difference

Whilst no study had ever been done about the correlation between football excellence and basketball practice, I think it helped G greatly to stretch other aspects of her physicality.  And here’s the big piece: sports helps her to study better because she learns the importance of discipline, working hard and managing her commitments in life. Good luck, G, for the international Breakers Cup tournament this week!


Note: Gladwell wrote ” There is a lot of confusion about the 10,000 rule that I talk about in Outliers. It doesn’t apply to sports. And practice isn’t a SUFFICIENT condition for success. I could play chess for 100 years and I’ll never be a grandmaster. The point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest. Unfortunately, sometimes complex ideas get oversimplified in translation.”