Creating a Championship Boxer
All it takes is 10 years and 10000 hours of training and a focus on long term athlete development.
Scientific research has shown that this is the minimum amount of time it takes for someone who is relatively talented to achieve elite status in their chosen sport or activity. For those of you who coach or train boxers - that translates into about 3 hours of boxing training daily for 10 years.
This poses a significant challenge for anyone wanting to either be a championship boxer or train one. While age is not a good indicator of peak athletic development, in broad terms, humans will peak somewhere between 25-35. Before you get discouraged, though, that guideline is rough and there are certainly older athletes who are still at the top of their game.
A study called The Path of Excellence took a look at U.S. Olympians between 1984 and 1998. Key findings that support the 10 year/10000 hour rule include:
- U.S. Olympians began their sport at age of 12 (male) and 11.5 (female)
- It took them 12-13 years of skill development from the time they were introduced to their sport until they made the Olympic team
How Does This Translate Into Boxing Speak
Training Champion Boxers
Photo by familymwr
If all of this is true and there is little reason to question it, then it establishes some firm constraints for coaches, trainers, and athletes hoping to reach the pinnacle of boxing:
- Early Start - The sheer volume of training required means getting kids interested in boxing at a young age so there is simply enough time to meet the 10000 hour training requirement. Starting them out with fundamental movement skills as early as eight or nine would not be a bad idea.
- Ability vs Age - Coaches and trainers should be developing long term programs based on developmental stages and skills and not categorizing kids in age groups. Kids develop at different rates. One thirteen year old may show the maturity of an eight year old while another one could pass for 16. I've seen many clubs offering classes to age groups - 12-15 for instance. I don't think we can create champions grouping kids like that - they all need to be assessed and developed on an individual basis. That, of course, causes extra work to develop personalized training plans and introduces logistical problems with training multiple kids at different levels at the same time.
- Maintaining Motivation - I've got two kids and keeping them focused on one thing for any length of time is nearly impossible, so how do we keep kids motivated and wanting to continually develop their skills over a period of 10 years? Especially when their interests change as their level of maturity, both physically and mentally, increases. The training we provide has to be challenging and stimulating. It has to provide clear objectives and then acknowledge when they achieve them - publicly or privately - but in a manner that means something to the boxer.
What's This Mean for You?
Some of you are already way past the age that you're going to end up in the Olympics or compete for a championship title. I know I am. But, does it mean that you should stop boxing? Not at all.
We can all improve our skills in this sport and aim to achieve that elusive 10000 hours of training that will turn us into elite boxers. But, we need to be realistic about our goals for doing so. At some point, competing at an elite level is going to come second to wanting to become good at boxing, simply to be good at boxing. Some will be able to push the envelope a little further than others - look at George Foreman, Evander Holyfield, or Bernard Hopkins. In each of those cases, they achieved the ranks of the elite long ago and then tried or are still trying to hold onto that status for as long as possible. They will always be exceptional boxers, but they will not always be competitive boxers.
The good news here is that 10000 hours and 10 years is a superb goal for all of us to aim for. If we truly devote ourselves to that much training over that much time and actually follow a progressive, well laid out training plan that builds skill and keeps us injury free - we may not end up as world champions - but we'll be some fine boxing specimens. Boxon.