Talent vs Hard Work

You’ve most likely heard this quote. I am a big fan of it, because for the field of sport psychology, hard work is in your control, while talent is out of your control.  In any given competition, instead of focusing on which team is more talented, just focus on working as hard as you can in that game.  Instead of thinking too much about your opponent being higher ranked than you, just focus on out-working that opponent.

But what about talent – what is it?  Is it the ability you are born with, or ability that you build over time with training, focus, and (yes, again), hard work?  Dictionary.com kind of gives us both answers:

Definition 1 makes it sound like you are born with talent.
Definition 2 includes “capacity,” which makes it sounds like you can grow into talent
So, going back to the controllables, let’s stick to #2 – that we have a capacity of talent to be able to reach.  So here’s where “hard work” comes in.  You have to put the work in.  Even the most naturally gifted athletes (LeBron James, Lionel Messi, Simone Blies, to name a few) are ALSO hard workers.
In his 2008 book, Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell popularized the “10,000 hour rule,” from researcher Anders Ericson’s work involving high level musicians.  Basically it says that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a task.
This is a very memorable “rule,” and makes sense when you read it.  But, research since then has de-bunked 10,000 hours as a scientific measurement, that’s just a nice round number.   But for argument’s sake, let’s say 10,000 hours is the number to shoot for.
The biggest issue with it, is that it just says 10,000 hours of practice.  The quantity of time it takes.  But it doesn’t make any note of the QUALITY of that time.  This is where the idea of “deliberate practice” comes in.  Deliberate practice is when you practice learning from an expert, when you are motivated and passionate about that practice, and when that practice is tied into a meaningful long term goal.
Think about it this way.  If I spent 10,000 hours practicing shooting baskets in my driveway, would that necessarily make me a better basketball player?  What if my technique was all wrong, or if I never did conditioning, or played against live competition.  I may have done all that work to never be able to get a shot off without it getting blocked.   
Deliberate practice would involve me practicing for multiple facets of the game, at a high level of intensity, learning from great coaches, watching game film, hitting the gym, and much more – but more importantly, loving doing all of it!  If I put in 5,000 hours of this type of practice, that might be more effective than just chucking up shots in my driveway for twice that amount of time.
So, how can YOU make your practice more deliberate?
How can you focus in on the details of your sport?
How can you bring more motivation and passion into your practice?
In other words, how do you more quickly improve the capacity of your talent?  
It’s like the quote from the beginning:
Time for a session!   If you are booking with Brian:
If you are booking with Mike:  email wilson.miket@gmail.com
If you are booking with Jimmy:  email Jimmy@amplifysportpsychology.com

The Mental Game? It’s Simple!

As a high school athlete, I was a pretty good soccer player. My confidence went through it’s ups and downs during those 4 years, but it was generally pretty good.  I worked hard, was in shape, had great coaches, loved my team, and loved playing.  Before my junior year, my health class teacher, who was also the football coach, watched me play soccer and promptly asked me to be the kicker on his football team.  I had never played organized football. But, being a huge fan of the game, I wanted to give it a try, and after somehow convincing my mom to let me do it, I tried out and made it.

It took a bit to transition from the skills of kicking a soccer ball to the skills of kicking a football.  I remember distinctly hitting the center in the butt twice in a row, and getting the “hey man, wtf?!” look from him. As a striker, I was used to staying over the ball, keeping it low to get it in a soccer goal.  Now I had to re-train myself to get the proper (American) football technique.

 In one practice, the coach declared that practice would be over once I hit 3 kicks in a row.  Everyone was pulling for me, but also they were watching me. It was the first time I had all eyes on me, and what I did impacted the whole team. I wasn’t super confident in my abilities.  I missed one, then another, then a third until my teammates went from understanding, to annoyed, then to frustrated (like, hey this is Florida and it’s hot out here and we wanna go home, come on kicker!).

This is 1989. Bonus points if you can figure out which one is me

I remember overthinking things like:  “Am I good enough? I don’t know what I’m doing? Can I do this? I don’t think I can. What am I doing wrong?  I’m going to fail and they will think I’m terrible and I’ll have to quit and feel like a loser the rest of my high school career.”  I was making things way too complicated.  Should I kick harder? Not as hard?  Since I’m missing wide, should I aim for the other side and hope it goes in?  I was panicking a little, a feeling I never had in soccer.

My coach, sensing that he had put me in a situation that I couldn’t handle, puts his head down and slowly walks out toward me.  I’m thinking  “oh man I’m really in for it now.”  He puts his arm around me and says, in his slow southern drawl, where only I can hear: “Brian, now I don’t know the first thing about kicking. But (points at the uprights), you see those two white poles?  Kick the ball through there.”  And slowly walks off.  

At first I was confused, then kinda laughed at myself, and promptly made 3 kicks in a row. Practice over, my teammates happy, for me, complete relief.  If I remember correctly, Coach Adams smiled and patted himself on the back for his spot-on coaching technique:


Coach Adams may not have known about kicking, but he did know what needed to happen.  He made the game simple for me.  He pointed my focus to the one thing that I needed to focus on.   Not technique, not emotion, not pressure.  Just made it simple.

Coach Adams may not have known about kicking, but he did know what needed to happen.  He made the game simple for me.  He pointed my focus to the one thing that I needed to focus on.   Not technique, not emotion, not pressure.  Just made it simple.

The Mental Game is Simple.  Think less about the past and the future. Focus on the present moment.  Focus less on the things going on around you, and focus on yourself.  Focus on one thing at a time.  Re-focus when you get distracted. Simple.

The Mental Game is Simple.  But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  It takes practice

What situations do you tend to over-think?

What are the biggest distractions you face in your sport?

And how can you make them more simple?

Back from Qatar – by the numbers

Here’s a numerical representation of my time in Qatar at the 2022 World Cup:

3,000,000  Population of Qatar

315,000  Qatari citizens (that’s correct – Less than 15% of people living in Qatar are citizens. The rest are immigrants from Indian, Pakistan, Nepal, Philippines, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and many African countries

200,793 steps taken over 14 days spent in Qatar

68,463 – Most attended game I saw:  England vs UK at Al Bayt Stadium

14,343 steps per day on average

40+  photos requested (and taken) with Iranian fans before the USA-Iran match.  This may have been my favorite part of the trip.  So much positivity and joy!

35  goals witnessed – actually 33, as I missed Alphonso Davies’ 2nd minute goal vs Croatia, because security made me take my bag to the restricted items tent, and Vincent Aboubakar’s 90+ minute goal because I was stupidly checking my phone for directions back to the hotel after the game – smh)

32  nations represented in the tournament

20  total days of the trip – 3 days traveling, 3 days in Manila, 14 days in Doha

14  matches attended

8 stadiums – attended at least one match in each stadium

Most goals scored by a team (Spain 7 Costa Rica 0)

6 total flights – PDX -> SFO -> Seoul -> Manila -> Doha -> SFO -> PDX

4 scarves collected

3.6 Conversion rate from Qatari Rial to American Dollars
3  minutes during which Spain and Germany were out, and Costa Rica and Japan were in.  In the exciting day 3 of group play, this group was one of the wilder ones.  Costa Rica took a  2-1 lead over Germany, when I grabbed this screenshot.  Germany scored 3 minutes later to knock Costa Rica off, but were eliminated anyway.  Japan beat Spain to win the group.

2 people told me I look like Thomas Tuchel – click the link for photos – are the right?

1  Camel ridden


Thanks for following my journey.  I’ll probably write a few more posts as the tournament goes on!   – Brian