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Development of Expertise in Elite and Sub-Elite British Rugby League Players: A Comparison of Practice Experiences

Martyn Rothwell, Joseph A. Stone, Keith Davids, and Craig Wright

The Big Idea

In the pursuit of producing “expert” sports men and women, there is a myth worth exploring.  It is common to take for granted that the number of years or hours of practice are predictive of becoming expert.  For example, there is something called the 10,000-hour rule.  The psychologist K. Anders Ericsson studied how people become experts in their field.  He concluded that 10,000 hours of practice was a reasonable rule of thumb.  This rule was popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book Outliers (2008).

More recent research suggests such a rule isn’t a rule at all. Quantity is not necessarily the way to develop quality.  It turns out that expertise is far more a matter of the way one practices than it is the amount of time you devote to practice.  This re-thinking has given rise to the idea of “deliberate practice.”

The research discussed in this paper is consistent with this newer understanding of the pursuit of expertise.  In it these researchers compare the practice experiences...

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