Practice and Recovery

Altan Ramadan Toffa Leave a Comment

Achieving excellence in the violin is vastly different from mastering a football. Or is it?

The Gold Mine Effect describes how high performance athletes are being developed around the world.

Author Danish sporting anthropologist, Rasmus Ankersen, travels around the globe trying to understand the plethora of talent in various locations.  The focus of his study includes Brazilian footballers, Kenyan distance runners, Jamaican sprinters and South Korean golfers.

Consistent themes emerge – the importance of character, hard work, grit and mindset are paramount.

Andersen is also a big advocate of the 10,000 hours rule.

The concept suggests that through 10,000 hours of quality practice an individual can master a particular skill – be it running, football, golf or, in the case of a German study, classical violin.

In the 1990’s Anders Ericsson, a Professor of Psychology at Florida State University carried out a study of an elite music academy in Berlin.  The academy had the reputation of producing some of the world’s very best violinists.

With the help of the academy, violin students were divided into 3 test groups.

Group One included the best of the best – those students expected to become superstars.

Group Two consisted of those who were also likely to make a living from music but not perhaps at the level of the elite.

Group Three were expected to become teachers of music rather than performers.

The purpose of the study was to understand why some violinists had become better than others.

There were many similarities between the three groups.  The participants had started study at around the same time (age 8), had the same teachers and received the same amount of weekly instruction at the academy.

The students also, during interviews, stated that to improve, self-training was the most effective activity, despite it not necessarily being enjoyable.

By studying the amount of self-training completed by the three groups it became evident that practice was the difference between the three groups.

An eighteen year old, on average, had spent the following amount of time practicing:

  • Group 1 7,410 hours
  • Group 2 5,302 hours
  • Group 3 3,420 hours

This discovery stunned the world of talent development.  The myth that you were “born with talent” was dispelled by this research.  Instead, becoming excellent was an outcome of being prepared to put in the time and effort to practice, even if the process was a challenge.

The research also showed the importance of recovery.

The best violinists slept more which helped to improve concentration.

Simply put, to train as a champion you had to recover like a champion.

Football is fundamentally such a different activity to the violin given the dynamic nature of the sport vs. the more structured process of learning the violin.  However, the principles of the 10,000 hours rule remain the same.

The desire to train but also to spend time with a football alone or in play, are key elements of development.  It is this balance that the Top Flight Football Academy is striving to achieve through it’s training philosophy of thrice weekly mornings sessions plus weekend games. A newly formed relationship with University Mt Wellington AFC will help facilitate this ideal.

Three training sessions a week, along with game-day activity, with a focus on quality rather than quantity, allows plenty of time for individual learning, rest and recovery.  In this manner, players will not become “burnt out” with engagement and enjoyment remaining high.  This approach to player development will result in improved learning outcomes for all of our young athletes.



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