What if…

What if 80-90% of children dropped out of the education system by grade 10 or 11? Would anyone notice? Would anyone care? I would think so. If 80-90% of children dropped out of school, it wouldn’t be long before our society would begin to devolve due to an unskilled workforce, a society that would lack the education and experience to continue as it is would slowly start to devolve with the standard of living rolling over into a marked decline. The economy would slow, then regress into an unimaginable recession or depression from which a return to riches would seem impossible.

Long story short….if 80-90% of children were dropping out of school, something would be done about it.

Yet this is exactly what is happening in sport and no one seems to notice, no once seems to care.  Yet the consequences of this devolution in physical ability, skill and capacity are already all around us, and pronounced. Look around…do you see anyone truly healthy? Overweight, obese, leaning, limping or in need of an assistive device to simply get around is the standard. In fact, our society has declined to such a severe degree that it’s now ‘average’ to have at least one medical condition, it’s now average to be on medication and unhealthy.  The healthy are now outnumbered by the dysfunctional and by the diseased but no one seems to notice, no one seems to care.  There is loads of talk about physical and mental dysfunction and disease as if we care, but there is nothing really being done into slowing or stopping this societal decline.

Dysfunction and disease that was once reserved for old age is now more and more commonly seen in younger and younger individuals, with even children being diagnosed with diseases that were once only associated with a lifetime of complacency.

I believe the source of this societal decay in well being, in health, in the standard of living starts with the reason children drop out of sport, the reason why children give up on becoming winners, on becoming champions, on becoming successful individuals leading healthy lives which contribute to community development and societal evolution. There is a chasm that stands in the way of all champions, there is a mountain ridge that all who want to succeed must cross over in order to be victorious, in order to become a consistent champion. Instead of children being coached, mentored and led to take on this rite of passage, we abort their development into mature individuals encouraging them to do what everyone else in the herd ahead of them is doing even if that means following the herd directly over the edge of a cliff.

We know what it takes to be a champion: those who succeed put in a minimum of 7,000 hrs of studying or training and in the cases of those who become legendary in a discipline, the commitment to becoming is easily in the range of 15,000-20,000+ hrs of work.

If this is consistently the case, then why do more not chase the opportunity to become a consistent champion in life?

The first 2,000-3,000 hrs are typically easier if not outright easy: basically showing up yields immediate results. The learning curve for children is short at the outset, tack on the natural development of their bodies and their brains and their ability to upload information, integrate it and apply it, be it in school or sport is astounding and it’s no surprise that children develop at incredible rates simply by going to school and going out to play and going out to be part in training for sport. Add on the turbo charging effect of puberty which brings an entire host of hormones that provide their bodies with a level of performance that they have never experienced and children explode in their tweens, and then it all comes to a screeching halt. The easy gains are made and that’s where the decision is made by the majority that there potential is identified by what comes easily to them in sport, in school, in life.  Children remain in school because it’s normal. Children drop out of sport because it’s also been normalized to do so, but I believe it is this normalization of quitting once the easy gains are achieved that have yielded the society we now live: one overwhelmed with dysfunction and disease.

The link….being healthy, regaining health, preventing dysfunction and disease doesn’t come ‘naturally’, we have to work at it but because we have normalized and indoctrinated into ourselves and our children that quitting when the easy gains are made, by default we equally quit on our health believing it’s something that should come naturally, easily or simply be readily there…and if not, then it’s not something you are to have and enjoy. In the same way that if winning in sport doesn’t continue to come easily then it’s not something that you are meant to be or have or enjoy.

Which brings us to the chasm of champions.  In studying consistent peak performers there is definitely one obstacle that they all overcome on their path to peak performance…. the 4,000-6,000 hr period of training that separates those who quit and those who continue to pursue their potential and become peak performers.

Considering that we know what it takes to be a champion, the fact that no coach, no sport organizational body, no one in my research even mentions this period seems to suggest that not only do children quit, the majority of those in leadership positions in sport quit on children by failing to alert them to this period of stagnation, to this plateau in progress.

Everyone stops growing at some point, so everyone at some point deals with the reality that the easy gains of simply waking up with longer arms, longer legs, and more muscle are over. Beyond this point the real work, hence the real gains are made….the gains that lead to success in simply in sport, but equally in health and in life overall.

Having studied and documented the challenges that this period brings, its clear that believing in the fairytale of magic and luck bringing success to a select few with the masses simply being relegated to the explanation of being unlucky or failing to be born to the right parents or right circumstances is a cope out and by continuing to turn to the easy out of quitting when easy gains (i.e. low hanging fruit) are made, we are failing our children. We are failing to mentor them, coach them, parent them into the champions that they are supposed to be irrespective of what parents they were born to, irrespective of what circumstances they were born into and raised in.

It’s time that we end the voodoo and witchcraft beliefs of supernatural forces deciding who amongst us will become winners and who will not. The purpose of sport is to provide a systematic method of training that provides all who want to win in life the understanding of the process of how to do so and the guidance and the encouragement to pursue the path even when it takes a turn making progress difficult. But sport has not evolved to this point… it still relies on the voodoo and witchcraft beliefs of ‘willing it’, ‘who wants it more’, and ‘who are the chosen ones meant to be champions’ (at least that is how coaches today coach athletes).

So what is this plateau period between 4,000 & 6,000 hrs of training entail? This time block requires every narrative of doubt, disbelief and failure to be challenged and defeated, every physical asymmetry to be eliminated through deliberate repetitive consistent training and every emotional weakness confronted and eliminated. It’s a block that requires expertise in order to navigate which is why so few children are encouraged to persevere and press on.

It’s a period of stagnation, it’s a place where you work and work and work for what seems minimal results or no results at all. It’s comparable to the task given to the waves of the ocean which are asked to break apart rocky shores into tiny and tiny fragments eventually turning boulders into sand. That’s the metaphor for what aspiring champions have to do and have to learn to do with consistency, perseverance, determination and deliberate daily intent….attack your challenges like waves pounding the shore. Day after day with consistent effort that seems to prove pointless until one day the rocky shoreline has been turned into a beautiful white sand beach without any remnants of boulder, stone, rock or even pebble. Every champion at some points hits a period of pounding at their challenges without any immediate evidence of success or sometimes even progress. Its a period where not stopping and not quitting are the goals until that day when not a challenge remains as they have all been pounded into dust. That is when the champion arises from their work and is ready to walk into their fullest potential.

Want to achieve your fullest potential as an athlete? You need to find a coach who doesn’t quit when the ‘easy gains’ of coaching have been obtained. Athletes who will successfully climb the mountain pass of 4,000-6,000hrs of training need an educated and experienced individual who has the endurance, the skill set, the patience and the understanding of what it takes to navigate the climb, the storms and the rock slides that will occur on the journey, and know how to proceed when the air becomes rarefied at the top of the mountain range.

Its easy to coach athletes up to 3,000hrs or so of accumulated training.

Its easy to peak athletes with 7,000hrs or more of accumulated training for a peak performance.

Its the greatest challenge of coaching to mentor an athlete through the desolation, the emptiness, the loneliness and the darkness of the 4,000-6,000hr range. Few have made this climb, fewer have successfully made it to the other side, and even fewer are willing to look back and lend a hand to those who want to conquer this climb themselves.

A quick note… the 4,000-6,000hr barrier doesn’t always occur for all athletes in this position in their training, it just seems to be the pattern for the majority. There will definitely be athletes who come against their mountains earlier in their training, while others will find them waiting for them after they have already achieved some success. The point is that all athletes who become consistent peak performers – champions – encountered and conquered this barrier hence those seeking to become champions need to anticipate that they too will come across this barrier and therefore can interpret it for what it is: a period of intense internal growth where there will be little external evidence of progress and its not an indicator to stop, quit or that their goals and dreams are not meant to be.