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May 20, 2010
Ronnie McFarland
Director of Athletics
Remarks delivered at the Annual Athletic Awards


This morning I’d like to take a couple of minutes to speak about the length of the road to success.

There is much written in the popular press that we live in an era of “instant gratification.”  We go on line, point, click, and the perfect new shoes arrive by FedEx the next  afternoon.

Truth is that there is no instant gratification in the matter of your athletic development. As athletes, we know there are hours of practice that precede every contest. We know that many times there are years of player development that precede a championship. So this morning I’m going to reveal to you how many hours you’ll need to travel the road toward athletic success before you arrive at your goal.

Malcolm Gladwell authored a book entitled Outliers, an investigation and analysis of why seemingly inconceivable events occur with unexpected frequency. Among the author’s investigations was the discussion of prodigies. We have all heard the anecdotes of a young athlete who becomes a phenomenon - and the story of how Mia Hamm overcame a severe foot deformity to become at 15-years old the youngest player to join the US national Soccer team.

The constant among all of them was their dedication to their sport as evidenced by the hours spent in the practice of their personal passion. Mr. Gladwell concluded that the demarcation between acceptable skills and superior skills came at 10,000 hours of practice. And, interestingly enough, taking advantage of extraordinary opportunities seemed to be more important than being blessed with extraordinary talent.

The conclusion is that you will practice and perform 10,000 hours before you will have optimized your personal performance. It is a very simple formula - if you practice your chosen endeavor for 10,000 hours, you will be a great. If you practice 8,000 hours, you will be good. If you practice 4,000 hours, you’ll probably be pretty good.

I’ll answer the question that I know some of you are thinking:  “what about the people who are natural athletes - can they be good with less practice?” Yes they can. But no natural athlete who neglects the regimen of practice can prevail over a 10,000 hour athlete. Practice isn’t something you do when you’re good, practice is what makes you good.

My message to you girls this morning is that you have seen and experienced, first hand, that the roads to success are paved with work and practice. Whether at a afternoon at Faxon Farm, an erg workout in the Leeds Fitness Center, or standing in your family driveway shooting baskets at 8:30 on a Sunday night while others are watching a movie or chatting with a friend on Facebook, good players are always finding a way on trying to accomplish their 10,000 hours of practice.  

While some of you will continue your athletic pursuits in college, all of you will take your athletic experience into a life beyond Lincoln with the knowledge that success follows determination and practice.

On behalf of the entire coaching staff we congratulate and thank you for your hard work, dedication, and most important, how well you have represented the standards of Lincoln School.


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