posted on May 17, 2013 03:30
For years, leaders of educational athletics have been critical of sports specialization, citing the physical, emotional and financial price that is often paid by young people and their families as young athletes (or their parents) chase unrealistic dreams. The weight of evidence I’ve seen has made me conclude that sports specialization is good for some, but a multi-sport experience is better for most young people.
Recently I’ve read about a new challenge to the sports specialization myth. It’s called “interleaving.” It posits that “mixing things up” is a better way to train; that brains and muscles get a better workout by mixing tasks.
This is getting national attention at thedanplan.com which chronicles a 30-something commercial photographer, Dan McLaughlin, who quit his job in Oregon with the goal of becoming a top-level professional golfer. He had read in Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers that 10,000 hours of practice would gain him international expertise.
Along the way on this quixotic journey, Dan McLaughlin not only has been testing the 10,000-hour theory, he’s been testing interleaving – mixing lengths of putts during putting practice, mixing different types of shots on the driving range, etc.
Time magazine reported in April that this has the attention of UCLA’s Learning and Forgetting Lab which is testing the Florida State University theory popularized by Gladwell, and is searching for “the biological sweet spot.”
FYI: McLaughlin has not yet qualified for the PGA tour. But on the other hand, he still has about 4,000 practice hours to go.