For the longest time I wanted to play in the NBA, or at least college, and I would watch these sports movies and see these guys putting in some pretty heroic efforts. But you know how movies are, they make everything look much, much easier than it really is. But sufficiently fooled, I would try to replicate some of that. During the long, boring summer breaks, I would go with my dad to the church (he was employed as a custodian there), and I would shoot baskets at the hoop for 8 solid hours. But I would never do this consistently. And when I joined pick-up games at the park, I always played a bit timid. I matured late, and I was always the smallest guy out on the court. And I never really had proper coaching. All in all, maybe I accumulated 1000 hours of practice? Maybe.
I talked to my wife about her history of music playing. She started piano when she was 3 I think. She played consistently through high school, peaked in college, eventually getting two music degrees. A rough estimate, based on the numbers she gave me, I'm guessing around 5000 to 6000 hours of practice.
Well, with these numbers in my head, this morning I gathered my two kids and here's the dialogue:
Me: "Do you want to master something?"
Kids: "Yes!" - with enthusiasm.
Me to oldest daughter: "Ok, you have to pick one thing because there's not time enough for two, how about violin?" - she already has a good start on that.
Oldest daughter: "Yes!"
Me to son: "Ok, how about you pick piano?"
So, maybe I need to write up a contract and have them sign their names obligating them to what they agreed to. Something tells me they really have no idea.
Well, kids, here's your life for the next almost 20 years, don't worry, someday you'll thank me for it:
A Sample Practice Schedule
|Hours Per Day||Days Per Week||Weeks Per Year||Years||Hours of Practice||Cumulative Hours So Far||Age Range|
|0.5||5||45||2||225||225||5 to 6|
|1.5||5||45||2||675||1293.75||9 to 10|
|1.75||5||45||2||787.5||2081.25||11 to 12|
|2||5||45||3||1350||3431.25||13 to 15|
|3||5||45||2||1350||4781.25||16 to 17|
|4||5||45||6||5400||10181.25||18 to 24|
So, according to the book, Mozart mastered piano composing (and playing?) by his teens, Lang Lang also mastered piano playing in his teens, Michael Jordan and other NBA players mastered their sport by the time they entered college, Bill Gates mastered programming by 18. These are examples of folks who accumulated 10,000 hours of practice much faster than the above table.
In my opinion, this table is the absolute maximum I could expect out of my kids without totally crossing the lines of abuse. But if they really catch the drive its conceivable they could obsess themselves into 4 to 5 hours a day of practice completely on their own accord. I think that's what happened with Bill Gates. With Mozart and Lang Lang their parents were borderline abusive.
Practicing 2-3 hours a day through high school is incredibly aggressive as it is, and I think by 16 they would have to decide they really want to pursue this long term to put this kind of effort in. From ages 18-24, they'll basically be committing to a degree in this area and 4 or even 5 hours a day of practice seems pretty reasonable to me.
Some final points, I think its pretty important that kids do not work while in high school or even college. I think its much more important to devote themselves to their craft, especially in college, and they will have the opportunity to more than pay pack their loans once they graduate...
The weird thing about all of this, is that they have to start so young if they want to master their field by the time they finish college. But, this is ideal. If they decide that in high school, they really have different interests, they can stop and restart the process in another field. While they didn't really master violin (or piano), they've gotten pretty good.
Anyway, just some rambling thoughts.