Talent Exists And Practice Is Overrated

GuyClinch

Legend
He actually Started tennis at 6. Playing some of the other sports actually helps a lot at younger age. It helps then develop movement and they don't get bored of one sport. He never quit tennis. http://www.atpworldtour.com/en/players/nick-kyrgios/ke17/bio


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As I explained Krygios didn't FOCUS on tennis till his was 14. I never said he never held a racquet or didn't hit around some.. But he went 1 sport pretty late and is now on the tour.. Like I said if you want to cop out and go with the first time he held a racquet fine. But plenty of kids hit around but don't 'serious' about a sport to much later. When it comes to kids the question is when do they start spending 20, 30, 40 hours a week on just tennis. Not hey that kid started young... Kids who are athletic tend to play a lot of sports.

Now if we are talking about rec level - acquired skill is fairly important.. But at the pro level - talent is key because all the guys have had time to acquire a great deal of skill.. It's like any other subject. Yes to be a doctor you need to go to med school - train a ton - do residencies - study tons. But the very smartest doctors - they stand out from the pack. They go into research or whatever - become great surgeons - rise to the top of their profession over all the other doctors..

Once the playing field has been leveled then talent/intelligence starts to win out. That being said EVEN at the rec level talent matters. Because if we acknowledge talent to be 'acquiring more skill with less practice' then among rec players who all have limited time the talented guy can rise up a bit more. If we define talent more broadly to encompass physical traits like speed, height, strength and hand-eye - then again talent can aid the rec player.. It's just because the playing field is not level - that this is less apparent..

That is rich kid can afford tennis lessons 3x a week from Rick Macci - and little Nick 2.0 can't - so in the short run rich kid might be ahead. However if you give both kids lesson the better athlete surges ahead..

This phenomenon just gives people the ILLUSION that talent is not real. As soon as someone suggests it is - people write it off. My dad had some wooden racquets when I was a kid - I am pretty sure had I gone on to become some amazing tennis player people would be like oh and he played tennis with his dad from the time he was 5 or whatever..

People just looking for reasons so they don't have to admit someone else is more talented then they are. I don't get it - but hey it happens..

Krygios - for example is more athlete then tennis player. Pretty decent tennis player but good athlete.. It's pretty much the same with Monfils.. This pretty common in other sports like hoops or say football where athleticism can overwhelm skill - but its happening more and more in tennis on the men's side..

As I mentioned before It might be worse on the women's side.. Take Serena's brain and stick it in peak Henin body - and poor Henin doesn't win match. Serena is mostly athlete - and technique wise is merely good - not great..
 
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GuyClinch

Legend
@Coolio, of course talent matters. Has anyone disputed that, ever? What's less obvious is that talent AND hard work is not enough. There are thousands of talented and naturally athletic guys who have worked hard since they were 8 years old (and many started much earlier), to be the best they can be, and only a small fraction of them will ever get into top 200. You need a lot more than talent and hard work to get there: the right kind of parents, a great coach, access to good players to practice with, money, the right kind of nerves (so you can get fired up enough to fight, but still keep your cool under pressure), and plenty of luck. When you have all that, you will probably get into top 200. I don't even know what's needed to get higher than that, tennis at that level is like GM level chess.

Yes people have disputed that talent matters - that's why Coolio started this thread. The entire book outliers was just an attack on talent. Wake up man.. The study indicates that when you adjust for other variables that talent is the major factor. But you have to adjust the other variables. That is if BOTH kids have rich parents, both start young, both work hard. When you do this talent is the major factor.

It's not complicated - you can disagree with the conclusions if you want - but let's be clear what the study says..
 

michaelk

New User
It's not complicated - you can disagree with the conclusions if you want - but let's be clear what the study says..

I didn't read the study, but anyone who says that talent is not important is delusional. By talent I mean a superior genetic ability to perform some task. The talent is always a major factor, regardless of any other factors. Of course, it's not the only major factor, but I've never seen anyone saying that either.

Is there anyone here who thinks either that talent is all you need, or that you don't need talent, in order to become a successful pro player (someone who actually makes money competing)? I mean, anyone other than Taiss? :)
 

Coolio

Professional
I didn't read the study, but anyone who says that talent is not important is delusional. By talent I mean a superior genetic ability to perform some task. The talent is always a major factor, regardless of any other factors. Of course, it's not the only major factor, but I've never seen anyone saying that either.

Is there anyone here who thinks either that talent is all you need, or that you don't need talent, in order to become a successful pro player (someone who actually makes money competing)? I mean, anyone other than Taiss? :)
I could be wrong but I think @Ash_Smith is a very big believer in that almost everything can be taught to a player. In that no kid is talented or untalented, it is simply his experiences in life and environment that have made him the player he is.
 

digidoc15

New User
As I explained Krygios didn't FOCUS on tennis till his was 14. I never said he never held a racquet or didn't hit around some.. But he went 1 sport pretty late and is now on the tour.. Like I said if you want to cop out and go with the first time he held a racquet fine. But plenty of kids hit around but don't 'serious' about a sport to much later. When it comes to kids the question is when do they start spending 20, 30, 40 hours a week on just tennis. Not hey that kid started young... Kids who are athletic tend to play a lot of sports.

Now if we are talking about rec level - acquired skill is fairly important.. But at the pro level - talent is key because all the guys have had time to acquire a great deal of skill.. It's like any other subject. Yes to be a doctor you need to go to med school - train a ton - do residencies - study tons. But the very smartest doctors - they stand out from the pack. They go into research or whatever - become great surgeons - rise to the top of their profession over all the other doctors..

Once the playing field has been leveled then talent/intelligence starts to win out. That being said EVEN at the rec level talent matters. Because if we acknowledge talent to be 'acquiring more skill with less practice' then among rec players who all have limited time the talented guy can rise up a bit more. If we define talent more broadly to encompass physical traits like speed, height, strength and hand-eye - then again talent can aid the rec player.. It's just because the playing field is not level - that this is less apparent..

That is rich kid can afford tennis lessons 3x a week from Rick Macci - and little Nick 2.0 can't - so in the short run rich kid might be ahead. However if you give both kids lesson the better athlete surges ahead..

This phenomenon just gives people the ILLUSION that talent is not real. As soon as someone suggests it is - people write it off. My dad had some wooden racquets when I was a kid - I am pretty sure had I gone on to become some amazing tennis player people would be like oh and he played tennis with his dad from the time he was 5 or whatever..

People just looking for reasons so they don't have to admit someone else is more talented then they are. I don't get it - but hey it happens..

Krygios - for example is more athlete then tennis player. Pretty decent tennis player but good athlete.. It's pretty much the same with Monfils.. This pretty common in other sports like hoops or say football where athleticism can overwhelm skill - but its happening more and more in tennis on the men's side..

As I mentioned before It might be worse on the women's side.. Take Serena's brain and stick it in peak Henin body - and poor Henin doesn't win match. Serena is mostly athlete - and technique wise is merely good - not great..
I agree with most of what you say.. The confusion stands between talent and acquired skill. It's like the analogy you mentioned.. I belong to a family of doctors, including myself..surrounded by them... The ones on top are the ones because they seem smart.. But generally they are the ones who were very focused and started early (basically studied consistent).. Of course basic intelligence was required.. But what was required the most was the right drive and the study direction.. The ones with highest iq sometimes are not that successful..Most of the times the ones who looked like bookworms in school are perceived smart now because they are more successful.. It's hard to categorize.. But I think its not the right analogy because the top pool is bigger and accommodates both kinds..

Ok look at this way Both serena and Venus have been successful..They received same parents, same environment and similar coaching.. Coaches use to say Venus was more talented as a kid (see their biography on you tube)..Serena had the drive and motivation to overcome that..which is still so evident in the game.. And she has been more successful..

It's a confusing topic. I agree with the importance of what you are saying.. I just have a hard time defining talent in a field which is so highly skilled. And even after talent/skill, athleticism, hard work there are other factors which matter..

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5263

G.O.A.T.
Li Na started late as well. I heard on TV (Australian Open) that she started at 10, but Wiki says she started at 8. She played badminton before that, though.
and she took longer to get good too didn't she? And she didn't really hit stride until she got an outstanding coach.
 

scotus

G.O.A.T.
and she took longer to get good too didn't she? And she didn't really hit stride until she got an outstanding coach.

Depends on what you mean by "good." Top 3? Slam champ? Yes, it took a while.

But it didn't take her long to get better than most kids who started at 4.
 
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shindemac

Hall of Fame
I could be wrong but I think @Ash_Smith is a very big believer in that almost everything can be taught to a player. In that no kid is talented or untalented, it is simply his experiences in life and environment that have made him the player he is.

Genetic factors do matter if you include it as part of talent. Height matters, so a 5'2" player most likely won't make it in sports like bball and tennis. But she would be good at gymnastics, and he could be a horse-rider.

But outside of the pro ranks, those factors don't matter as much. What that means is most people should be able to become world class if they put in enough time. The only difference is that some will take 10K hours to reach it, but some could take way more or less (3K vs 20K). There's a big difference with taking 30K hours to reach it, and not having the ability to reach it at all. If someone is on the growth path of taking 30K hours to reach it, they might quit before they put in the requisite hours.

To me, it is much more interesting to look at the growth rate of improvement. And to try and remove anything that will block development further down the road. If you're continuously improving, then there's no need to worry where you are going to top out.
 

navigator

Hall of Fame
What that means is most people should be able to become world class if they put in enough time. The only difference is that some will take 10K hours to reach it, but some could take way more or less (3K vs 20K). There's a big difference with taking 30K hours to reach it, and not having the ability to reach it at all. If someone is on the growth path of taking 30K hours to reach it, they might quit before they put in the requisite hours.

I disagree. Most people, even if they put in enough time, will not be world class. Think of all of the 5-6 year old tennis players from the years 1995 or so. The thousands and thousands around the world that started early and worked really hard... and look at how many are world class today. A tiny percentage of the original vintage. Do we really think that "most people" could play in the NBA if they just worked hard enough? Or hit a home run off of a MLB pitcher if they just worked hard enough? Maybe it's just me, but that seems completely crazy. Although perhaps my view is colored by my anecdotal experience of watching a few folks mature from kids into world class athletes. These kids were obviously different from the get-go - the talent was obvious to everyone early on. What percentage of today's professional soccer players were not identified by the age of 13 as prodigies? Practically zero. I could go on...
 

michaelk

New User
I could be wrong but I think @Ash_Smith is a very big believer in that almost everything can be taught to a player. In that no kid is talented or untalented, it is simply his experiences in life and environment that have made him the player he is.

With all due respect to @Ash_Smith, how many of his students have been ranked in ATP top 200?
 

boramiNYC

Hall of Fame
Talent encompasses both physical and psychological/emotional make up of a person that contribute to learning and mastering a skill in a limited amount of time. Physical attributes are important part but not all of the talent. Physical attributes are more directly related to the genetic makeup and psychological attributes are influenced greatly by the environment and upbringing. The talent must be defined to have any argument but I doubt there will be a clear definition all can agree. How you define the talent is how you want to believe what the talent is. A more useful question to ask is, is the talent going to help you or is it going to hold you back? I say define it so it can help you instead of trying to find out what talent actually is (which can't be done anyway, it's just a belief after all), which can possibly just keep you from doing your best for the peace of mind/justification.
 

GuyClinch

Legend
I disagree. Most people, even if they put in enough time, will not be world class. Think of all of the 5-6 year old tennis players from the years 1995 or so. The thousands and thousands around the world that started early and worked really hard... and look at how many are world class today. A tiny percentage of the original vintage. Do we really think that "most people" could play in the NBA if they just worked hard enough? Or hit a home run off of a MLB pitcher if they just worked hard enough? Maybe it's just me, but that seems completely crazy. Although perhaps my view is colored by my anecdotal experience of watching a few folks mature from kids into world class athletes. These kids were obviously different from the get-go - the talent was obvious to everyone early on. What percentage of today's professional soccer players were not identified by the age of 13 as prodigies? Practically zero. I could go on...

Agree. What happens is a bit of a statistical quirk which causes this attribution kind of error. Most people are around 'average' talent wise - because tennis is a multi-variable sport. That is you need a lot of qualities to be truly talented - and so most people are just average. They have mix of talent and it works out such that they have say better then average speed but slight below average height and so on and so forth.

Now add practice to this great large group of average guys and roughly they all get better. So seeing this - people make the jump that the only thing separating them is this practice and opportunity. In reality there is a very small subset of talented individuals who will start at a higher level - seemingly a 3.5 level player when they first start playing at 10 - and will more quickly advance with the same amount of practice.

This is similar to other sports. Some guys start higher and advance quicker then other guys given the same training and practice. You might not believe it to you see it but talent is real in tennis. Other sports like sprinting or distance running just have more obvious signs of talent.. You can go to Africa - go to Kenya - make guys run and grab several guys who run under a 4.00 minute mile. They are just talented at running. And the most talented ones - they can progress further and faster then their competition. Its the same with powerlifting, sprinting.. etc. It's how sports are and tennis is not an exception. Just because most peope are of average talent and most can progress with practice - this does not mean the super talented just practiced more..or had better training..
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Depends on what you mean by "good." Top 3? Slam champ? Yes, it took a while.

But it didn't take her long to get better than most kids who started at 4.
I think the issue of getting real good is about living up or getting closer to your potential. She was basically a late bloomer on tour if I remember right.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Agree. What happens is a bit of a statistical quirk which causes this attribution kind of error. Most people are around 'average' talent wise - because tennis is a multi-variable sport. That is you need a lot of qualities to be truly talented - and so most people are just average. .
Avg based on what? Avg is defined relative to the group. Is the guy who gets the avg number rebounds or points in the NBA avg? Of course not. They are all quite special and some more special than others, but even that can vary due to the coach, teammates, and system. Tennis is just so weird because of how the points systems really stratifies and separates players that are really quite even in many if not most ways. But to see how even they really are, a GOAT type player like Nadal can get bumped from Majors by newcomers while playing at a level where he dominates another GOAT prospect Fed, in head to head.

Of coarse most folks are Avg because the math will always say that, but most don't start a 5 and stay with it and very few get coaching that even gives them much of a long range chance. In the end, there are just too many variables to say. We all feel we see talent, but we don't know the cause and rarely does it pan out. For that reason, talent Imo is just a broad stroke term that doesn't have much value. Despite folks with so called talent getting the lions share of resources, they have way less than an avg chance of making it big. Time, effort and energy are things we can control. Just makes more sense to prize those factors, since very few can make a case they can spot talent and get it to pay off.
 

scotus

G.O.A.T.
I think the issue of getting real good is about living up or getting closer to your potential. She was basically a late bloomer on tour if I remember right.

Well, if Wikipedia is accurate, she reportedly starts learning tennis at the age of 8 in 1990 and becomes good enough to turn pro in 1999 at the age of 17. Then she wins the 3 of the first 4 pro tournaments she enters and skyrockets her ranking to No. 136 by mid 2000.

Definitely a fast learner.

From 2002, there is a long period in which she struggles with the system and bureaucracy involved in Chinese national tennis association and her taking time off to get university education.

But once that had been taken care of and she found her freedom to train outside the Chinese system, her career took off, and we all know what happened.
 

digidoc15

New User
As I explained Krygios didn't FOCUS on tennis till his was 14. I never said he never held a racquet or didn't hit around some.. But he went 1 sport pretty late and is now on the tour.. Like I said if you want to cop out and go with the first time he held a racquet fine. But plenty of kids hit around but don't 'serious' about a sport to much later. When it comes to kids the question is when do they start spending 20, 30, 40 hours a week on just tennis. Not hey that kid started young... Kids who are athletic tend to play a lot of sports.

Krygios - for example is more athlete then tennis player. Pretty decent tennis player but good athlete.. It's pretty much the same with Monfils.. This pretty common in other sports like hoops or say football where athleticism can overwhelm skill - but its happening more and more in tennis on the men's side..
.

http://m.smh.com.au/sport/tennis/pu...coach-todd-larkhams-eyes-20150126-12yfv9.html

Nick was winning local tournaments at 9.. Guess he did more than just pick a racket at 6. The coach says he wanted to be the best then.. He wasn't that athletic then.. Infact was slow and chubby..

Again I do think they have to be athletic, tall, passionate and talented/skilled. All I am saying is what seems all talent now. A lot of it could have been skills the kid worked on..
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GuyClinch

Legend
Again I do think they have to be athletic, tall, passionate and talented/skilled. All I am saying is what seems all talent now. A lot of it could have been skills the kid worked on..

I don't know about a lot - a small amount of variance is because of practice. That is what the OP is claiming science says..

Let me try to explain the thinking behind the study in terms of tennis (IMHO)

Think of it like this.

Player X - bad genes / bad prenatal environment + world class training/perfect parenting = 5.0 tennis player.
Player Y - average genes/prenatal environment + world class training/perfect parenting = 6.0 tennis player.
Player Z - great genes/prenatal environment + world class training/perfect parenting = top 10 player..

So the variance here from being just very good at tennis to be best in the world comes from elements that you can't really control for..

The "Malcolm Gladwell/Ash theory' is basically that..

Player Y + world class training/upbringing = world class player..

What the 'talent is real' people are saying is that what seperates the very good player from the world class player isn't that the was lazy or stupid - he just wasn't as talented. Just like Einstein didn't get to be Einstein because he was more hardworking then every other scientist. He was SMARTER he had more INTELLECTUAL TALENT. You can take all the people in the world and not find another true genius.

Thinking you can manufacture world class players via environment is straight up stupid and most coaches know this.. If they don't have the talent their progress is capped. What's ironic is that sports is the most obvious example of the value of talent. You been around sports enough you find kids who are just better - they are more athletic - they go further with less practice - they achieve more success right of the bat. And their success is very quantifiable. Sorry if this makes your athlete not the greatest person..

The good news is some of the athletes know this. Federer has stated that he was always good at sports - he believes he would have been exceptional at a number of sports. It wasn't that he worked harder etc. The human body has limits. Once you go pro all the guys can spend all their time developing their tennis - and many of them do. So talent becomes the factor that seperates them.

At the rec level sure.. I can beat up on some east coast person who plays tennis 50 times a year - I can play 200 times. No one is disputing the value of practice if you don't control the variables.

Talented guy who doesn't play tennis will lose to untalented guy who plays a lot.. Yes talent is not everything. But its the a huge factor for the most skilled - 86% they estimate.
 

5263

G.O.A.T.
Well I guess if we define talent as someone who seems pretty good right out of the gates, then sure, they have a big edge on 99% of everyone else not good out of the gates, because most of that group of slower starters will never spend the time or get the right coaching to get the traction they need to catch up with those who seem to be naturals. Far and away that is going to be an edge that is rarely overtaken, just like in a sprint, the guys best out of the gates are rarely beaten. Problem is tennis is more like cross country than a sprint and the start is really not as important as it seems.....but most folks don't realize this and it becomes a self fulfilling deal.
 

onehandbh

G.O.A.T.
I think we sometimes mistakenly view talent in terms of physical attributes like size, strength, speed, quickness, explosiveness, etc.

There is also the mental aspect. One thing Serena Williams doesn't get enough credit for is her ability to play well in grand slam finals and against the other top 10 players.

There are also many intangibles and learned skills. Larry Bird was, IMO, one of the most phenomenal NBA players. On paper, he is tall, slow, not super strong, can't jump high. Put him in a game and his teams win, he understands the game in deeper ways than many ever will, and he was a clutch and fierce competitor. He even practiced shooting backwards jumpshots while facing away from the basket.
 
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