Expertise, Deliberate practice model of expertise, Athletic performance, Sprinting, Evolutionary psychology, Display, Talent, Running, Sports, Training




Many scientists agree that expertise requires both innate talent and proper training. Nevertheless, the highly influential deliberate practice model (DPM) of expertise holds that talent does not exist or makes a negligible contribution to performance. It predicts that initial performance will be unrelated to achieving expertise and that 10 years of deliberate practice is necessary.We tested these predictions in the domain of sprinting. In Studies 1 and 2 we reviewed biographies of 15 Olympic champions and the 20 fastest American men in U.S. history. In all documented cases, sprinters were exceptional prior to initiating training, and most reached world class status rapidly (Study 1 median = 3 years; Study 2 = 7.5). In Study 3 we surveyed U.S. national collegiate championships qualifiers in sprinters (n = 20) and throwers (n = 44). Sprinters recalled being faster as youths than did throwers, whereas throwers recalled greater strength and throwing ability. Sprinters’ best performances in their first season of high school, generally the onset of formal training, were consistently faster than 95–99% of their peers. Collectively, these results falsify the DPM for sprinting. Because speed is foundational for many sports, they challenge the DPM generally.

Original Citation

Lombardo MP, Deaner RO. 2014. You can’t teach speed: sprinters falsify the deliberate practice model of expertise. PeerJ 2:e445

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