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Expertise is a word you should understand!

I was looking through the blog and stumbled across this from last year... it's well worth the read if you didn't catch it the first time... and "connects the dots" with regards to many conversations we have during squads.


As I do most days, I was skimming through the New York Times and came across an enjoyable article in their Sport section entitled Why the Worst N.B.A. Player Is (Probably) Still Better Than You.  As always, it provoked thought as it told the tale of regular adults, even quite athletic individuals, thinking they could compete with some of the top male and female basketball players in the world… or even the retired ones. My experience as a professional squash player, then coach, spread over a million years makes me agree with the author’s perspective, which was essentially to explain that they were foolish, foolish, foolish.

I should declare early in the blog, expertise is one of my favorite words in the english language, and certainly my favorite in the world of psychology.  Expertise colloquially refers to “expert skill or knowledge in a particular field” and it cuts to the very heart of what makes WINNERS!

Popularized by Malcolm Gladwell , notions of expertise and how to create world leading performers through principles such as deliberate practice has been a popular topic for everyone from coaches to parents to sport commentators for the past twenty years.  Gladwell has written eloquently in many different fields, the first of which came to my attention in his neat dissection of Ericsson’s research into deliberate practice for the “common man”.

The headlines from Gladwell were most often, “do 10,000 hours of practice over ten years, spread into about two hours a day and you’re world class”.  And, as always, the headlines let everyone down, but did give one a flavor of the truth.  Fundamentally the take home should look more like, talent isn’t enough, we have to practice repetitively.  Practice must be focussed, include goal setting and appropriate feedback… which is why these notions form the foundations for much of our Squash Tigers curriculum.  However stripped back to its bare bones, no-one gets better without work!

We’ll break this down a little more in future blogs, but read through the links above it you’re curious.  Additionally, do me a favor, and realize that as you watch PSA TV or YouTube matches from bygone eras, they’re not just good, they’re better than you think, and candidly, no, you can’t play them, let alone beat them!  It took them thousands of hours of work to be at that level, and, as they say in the classics(?), if a turtle is on a fencepost, it didn’t get there by accident!


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