Talent Transfer: ‘n’ = 1

In November of 2013 it was not my intention to be competitive in archery. It was only suppose to be a backyard pastime. Then, I read, “Faster, Higher, Stronger: The New Science of Creating Superathletes, and How You Can Train Like Them” by Mark McClusky.

In his book McClusky writes there are two sports where an athlete over 50 can be an elite: shooting and archery. He further writes about talent transfer and the 10,000 rule. Looking into this with more depth archery became a sport wherein I decided to become competitive.

At that point, I was 58 years old and looking to extend my competitive life. Honestly, I cannot not tell you how many running races, cycling races, duathlons and triathlons I’ve completed. I do know that I was not interested in being that old guy in Lycra hanging onto the back of a pack of cyclists. Certainly, I still run nearly every day and ride a bike 3-5 times per week. I may enter an occasional race for fun, but that’s probably the limit. It is too late for me to be an elite in endurance sports even if I could be an elite age grouper*. So, I picked a new sport – archery.

The first order of business, aside from getting a bow, some arrows, and such, was to determine if that 10,000 hour rule could be broken by a 58 year old cyclist/triathlete turned archer. There also needed to be a measure of where that might be properly evaluated.

The measure I selected as a goal was equivalency in cycling. At my best, as a cyclist I won State Road, time trial and sprint Championships in the same year. In 2017 in archery I won State Indoor, Outdoor and 3D Championships. I also won at the USA National Indoor Championship held in Snellville, GA in 2017 – I got second in 2018 (in my age group)

It took less than 48 months to achieve those objectives in archery. It did not take 10,000 hours. I competed in my age group so it is a loose measure of equivalency.

The 10,000 hour rule is based on what judges might say is a summary of the time it take anyone to became an elite performer. I do not have 10,000 hours of archery practice under my belt. Because I’ve some championships does that mean I’ve broken the 10,000 rule to become an elite performer in archer? Simply, no.

Look at three archers considered elite: Brandon Gillenthien, Jesse Broadwater, and Reo Wilde. Some of their recent (2018) published scores for 120 arrows at 18-meters comes to an average score of 1183 or 1190, 1190 and 1170, respectively. My best score for 120 arrows at 18-meters in 1158 or 2.1% lower than the elites’ average over one event where they competed. While 2.1% doesn’t look like a lot it is a huge difference – 25 points. It is this variance that separates me from an elite based strictly on score.

The next question is how long will it take to close that 25-point gap? As a rule, I generally know how many arrows I shoot per year. I have not kept hours of practice logged but do have a rough estimate of 1250 hours per year. Along with the 10,000 rule this matches the eight-year rule. The eight-year rule says it takes eight years of deliberate practice to become an elite. At my current rate of practice I should reach the elite level in 2020. However, my improvement percentage change year on year has me reaching the scoring level for elite status late 2018 or early 2019.

What I have learned is that Talent Transfer from endurance sports to archery has only minor advantage. The main benefit is focus on training. In endurance sports there are a lot of long hours of training – much of it alone. In archery there are a lot of long hours on the range. Beyond that, the sports are so dissimilar that there is little crossover. It certainly isn’t like being a mountain bike rider that crosses over to road racing as in the case of Cadel Evans winner of the Tour de France (2011) and Olympic Mountain Bike racer (9th place Atlanta 1996).

But, there is some advantage to adjusting from endurance sports to archery. The mental edge and ability to focus on a sport is the primary transferred edge. In any event, I’ll continue to plug away at shooting and see where it leads.

*As an age grouper I did earn a spot on the USA Team to the 2007 World Championship Long Course Duathlon.  I repeated that in 2012 but declined the spot on the Team due to other commitments. My spot then rolled down to the next fastest duathlete. (Duathlon is Run – Bike – Run, long course distance is similar or longer than: 10K run, 100K bike and 15K run).  But, nothing in sports I have done compares to the 2008 Ironman World Championship on the Big Island if Hawaii where I raced in 2008.