Talent Transfer

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.

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 59 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. It took less than 48 months to achieve those objectives in archery. It did not take 10,000 hours.

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. Their last 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.

Cadel Evans, mountain biker (photo from:http://www.treadmtb.co.za/cape-epic-2017-day-6-tread-notes-observations/)

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.

Cadel Evans, Tour de France Champions (photo:http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/cadel-evans-the-legacy-of-australias-greatest-rider/)

What I have learned is that Talent Transfer from cycling, for example, to archery has only minor advantage. The main benefit is focus on training. In cycling there are a lot of long hours on the bike. 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).

2 thoughts on “Talent Transfer”

  1. The 10,000 hour theory is intriguing, I have pondered it since reading about it in Malcolm McDowell’s book. Surely different complex skills have different thresholds for mastery/elite performance. What if someone could discover a test to estimate how much less or more time is needed (than 10K hr) to master the skills not yet benchmarked? Pretty useful!

    1. This is exactly what McCluskey is trying to describe in his book. However, in his book each sport where 10,000 hours was not needed (individual sports) there seemed to be physiological cross overs. For example, a basketball player, someone that jumps a lot, discovering he has an ability to high jump. Team sports, because of the complex patterns of play, are somewhat dependent on an athletes ability to seen patterns unfold. That takes time. Heck, even the “Beatles” had about 8 years of practice together before they achieved musical success. Take out field of expertise, health care, where either of us might be considered experts. That took a good eight years of training. There are outliers, but I think for the most part there are logical explanations. Both the British and Australians have developed ‘tests’ that do suggest which athletes will perform better, reaching elite, in less than 10,000. They’ve seen success at the Olympics based on their screening and training of athletes.

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