Have lots of experience as a benchwarmer? Feel like an uncoordinated mess anytime you do something remotely physical? Well, it doesn’t matter how much time you spent playing catch or swinging in the batting cages. For most of us, practice won’t turn us into star athletes. A new study found deliberate practice only accounted for an 18 percent improvement in sports performance. In other words, it’s less Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000-hour rule and more hitting the genetic lottery.
This also means starting a sport as a kid and playing it for years doesn’t give you much of an advantage. We assume all-star athletes were playing youth soccer and Little League while the rest of us were learning to walk, but the research suggests that starting sports at a younger age ultimately has little effect on skill level.
So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not hitting it out the park. Just focus on the activities you enjoy, and if there’s a sport you’ve been dying to try, don’t let age hold you back.