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Balance is better (Sport NZ) – review of ‘Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World’ by David Epstein
By Christo Peters - Wed 2 Nov 2022 11:19pm
Many of you will know about Sport New Zealand’s “Balance is Better” campaign that discourages early specialisation in sport, advocating for our tamariki and rangatahi to be exposed to a range of sporting opportunities early in their lives. In this article Hamish Rogers reviews David Epstein’s book “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World“, a book that compares the two of World Sport’s biggest names – Tiger Woods and Roger Federer.

“Conventional wisdom tells us adult experts benefit from being able to get a head start in their chosen field when they were younger – that is, compared to non-experts, they benefited from concentrating at an earlier age on developing their talents. But is this always the case?”

Tiger 
As many of us will know, Tiger’s story starts with his father, Earl. Earl Woods had a vision for his son at an early age and helped to shape him to become one of the best golfers in history by taking him out onto the course almost every day from when he could barely walk. I’m sure many of you will have seen the footage of a two-year-old Tiger woods putting on television. In many ways, Tiger’s talent was the result of deliberate practice and early specialisation. 

Roger 
On the other hand, Roger Federer’s talent was more a product of breadth and generalism. Federer started playing tennis at the age of eight, but unlike Tiger, he didn’t focus exclusively on tennis; he also played soccer, badminton, and basketball. This helped him develop a well-rounded skill set that would serve him later in his career when he decided to specialise. Epstein is often quoted talking about Roger’s parents as being ‘pully-parents’. They didn’t push him too hard in any one area, but rather encouraged his talent and passion for sport (broadly). They also ensured he got a good education so that if things didn’t work out with tennis, he had an alternative career to fall back on.  

So what? 
While many of us are familiar with the Tiger development story, it would be fair to say, not as many know about Roger’s development story.  

It’s worth pausing for a moment and asking why is this?  

The fact that you probably have heard about the Tiger story before but not the Roger story sheds some light on how we as a society think more broadly about talent and talent development. 

Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialised World 
In his latest book, David Epstein unpacks the science (and sorcery) of skill, talent and talent development. Don’t have time to read the book? Well, we’ve summarised the key lessons from Epstein’s book for coaches and parents. 

Continue reading…

Hamish Rogers  |  Sport Digital Communications Consultant at Sport NZ

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