How long does it take for athletes to reach the top of their game? About 10,000 hours of training and competing. For most athletes, that translates into about 10 years. Other evidence indicates that elite athletes require 8 to 12 years of practice to reach levels of excellence. The essential lesson is the same: there are no shortcuts to achieving excellence.
This translates into an average of 3 hours of daily training, applied practice and competition over 10 years. Again, this is an average over the span of 10 years. It is not desirable to see children formally “training” in one sport for three hours every day when they are 7 years old. Training hours increase during adolescence, and this rounds out the average.
Lately, the validity of the 10 000 hours has been questioned. It has been suggested that when athletes specialize in certain sports, they can achieve excellence in a much shorter period. However, the three or four other sports the athletes participated in before they specialized has usually not been taken into account. Long-Term Athlete Development emphasizes a multi-sport approach: all former activities should be included as they are an integral part of the 10 000 hours. Whether it is 10 000 hours, more, or less, excellence always takes time.