Predicting Long-Term Athletic Success

As you likely know by now, I think the athletic development model that most youth programs follow is entirely backwards. It drives early specialization without even a loose consideration of psychological and physical readiness. It forces commitment, instead of letting a developed love and passion for the game naturally reveal it. Working smart is replaced by working harder, longer, and more frequently. Burnout and “overuse” injuries are at all time highs. It’s not a pretty picture, and I commend the parents, coaches, and organizations that have taken a stand against this ludicrousy.

Coinciding with the emphasis on early specialization is an emphasis on early talent identification. After all, you want the kid to specialize in whatever sport they’re best at, right? Again, as a seasoned reader of this newsletter, you now know that early athletic success has ZERO correlation to later athletic success. There is superfluous evidence for long-term athletic development sitting right in front of us. That Tom Brady guy has done pretty well for a 6th round draft pick. Michael Jordan, a multi-sport athlete (baseball, football, and basketball) was cut from his high school varsity basketball team as a sophomore because he was too short. He turned out pretty well too. The reality is that these cases are the norm more than the exception. In the cases where early identification DOES work, it is largely because these athletes are then put in programs with more practices and better coaching, not because of some inherent gift that the individual has.

There is now research in academic settings that has been extended to military settings regarding what truly predicts future success. If you’re familiar with the character of athletes like Tom Brady and Michael Jordan, the trait identified in this research probably won’t surprise you. Is it ability? No.

The quality found to be most predictive of future success is grit. Grit can also be described as “stickwithitness”, or an ability to not let short-term barriers interfere with long-term goals. As you may be thinking, early talent identification undermines the very quality that produces top performers. Check out the short video below from Dr. Angela Duckworth, who is responsible for plowing the path of the influence of grit on performance. This is a message that needs to be heard by every athlete, parent, coach, and organization head. Help pass this along by forwarding this email to your friends, family, coworkers, and teammates!

Angela Duckworth on Grit

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. Special thanks to Brijesh Patel for introducing this video to me!

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!