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Sprinters Are Born Not Made

Kimberly Love

Recent studies conducted research on sprinting to determine whether sprinting is a learned activity or if you are just born that way. Turns out the talent involved in being a sprinter is something that you are born with and it’s not something that can be taught.

The biology and psychology departments at Grand Valley State University did a study that was run by Dr. Micheal Lombardo and Dr. Robert Deaner who determined that world class sprinters were talented long before they entered formal training. They tested 26 sprinters including 15 Olympic gold medalists during their study.

Everyone of them was tested based off of whether they had talent before formal training. They were also tested to determine how many of them became big shots and how long it took them to get there. They determined that on average it was less than five years.

The researchers were surprised to find that innate talent had everything to do with whether these sprinters were at the top of their game or not.

“Rob and I both ran track in college, and we follow the sport pretty closely. So we expected that most sprint champions’ biographies would indicate that they were always the fastest kid in their neighborhood, even before they did any formal training or received any coaching. But the consistency of the pattern was surprising. From Helen Stephens, a 1936 Olympian, to Usain Bolt, there were no exceptions.”

The study completely contradicts the book The Genius in All of Us written by David Shenk that argues the idea of innate talent existing at all. David Shenk believes that individuals can become great through “deliberate practice.” David states that the idea that being born great is nonsense and rarely ever turns out to be true.

David believes that anyone can be great at anything through deliberate practice. He believes that deliberate practice of around 10,000 hours or 10 years is going to make you great at anything.

The study by Dr. Lombardo and Dr. Deaner isn’t meant to discourage people from following their dreams. They aren’t saying that talent trumps everything and that it is just as important to training properly to be the best that you can be.

However listening to the study may also suggest whether or not you should follow a pipe dream or stick to your day job.

If you are looking to make it to the big leagues there is no harm in trying David’s theory of practice makes perfect. It’s important to work on your talents if you expect to seek greatness on any level.

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