I have been musing about this topic for years.
Are the elite athletes smarter than the rest of us? More focused? More athletically talented? Or just more willing to believe that making that play right now is the most important thing in the universe?
When I think of the idiots I’ve seen interviewed in some sports, I can’t help but think, Gee, he seems so dumb that he would believe anyone who told him running around on the field like that is the most valuable thing he can do in life…
On the other hand, maybe the elite athletes are just so supremely focused that they are totally in mental control and able to suppress that oh fer cryin out loud, it’s just a game and my knee hurts and I’m never going to catch him anyway feeling we all get sometimes–the mental power to eliminate all other thoughts but those of winning.
Are they dumb jocks or ubermenchen?
I’m intrigued by Malcolm Gladwell and his ideas of “outliers,” not least of which is the 10,000-Hour Rule (his belief that, anyone who does anything for 10,000 hours, becomes a success at that task… it’s just that not many of us have the motivation to do something for 10,000 hours).
For those intrigued by Gladwell, he has a very interesting article from 1999 about “The Physical Genius.” And yes, he mentions Wayne Gretzky.
And I’ve long been interested by the writings of clever Ken Dryden, an NHL Hall of Famer who went on to become an attorney and Member of Parliament.
So which is it? Like always, the real answer is probably a combination of the above: someone talented at something does it more often, and success makes that person more likely to practice more, which in itself yields more success, and thus more willingness to practice more hours, et cetera.
What do you think?