Sunday, January 4, 2009

Attila the Hun and Expert Performance

Lifted yesterday with my weightlifting group in Austin at Hyde Park Gym. Had the chance to lift with a guy named Attila... and he's Hungarian. He's an older lifter, relatively speaking, but is still rock solid. After years and years of motor skill development and physical training (are they one and the same when it comes to performance?) this guy defines expert even if his current performance does not qualify him as such. Every time I think of my own current development, just past 2 years of near full-time training, in weightlifting the 10-years and/or 10,000 hours of practice rule comes to my mind. In case you don't realize what I'm talking about, researchers have suggested that this is the amount of time and energy it takes to reach expert status.

For my development, this means I have a long way to go for everything to "feel" better. For volleyball players it often means that whether it is at the high school or collegiate level their development will be cut short (assuming an average start of 12-14 years old). What it means for both of us: arrogance. It's arrogant to believe that we are capable of putting out consistent, near perfect performance (def. as
having, involving, or demonstrating great skill, dexterity, or knowledge as the result of experience or training.) when we have only been practicing and performing for such a short time. There's a reason why it is not common for collegiate level volleyball players, even those with high potential, to play on the Olympic team. There is a reason why high skill activities with earlier starting ages, such as gymnastics, achieve expert status and performance earlier. It all comes back to how much time and deliberate practice that person has achieved (that process being what drives them to expert status). In a team sport such as volleyball, this does not just point to individual skill development but also the ability to make adjustments based on the make-up of the team.

Honestly ranking yourself based on your level of achievement and not on your level of ambition is a difficult but necessary step if one ever hopes to achieve elite or expert status. I've acknowledged to many that I don't think I will ever get past intermediate status in weightlifting as currently I can't see myself continuing full-time training for more than another year or two. It's hard to define yourself as mediocre but I hope that honesty can help someone.