The Athletically Gifted

Reading the article the “Effort Effect” about the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck in the latest Stanford Alumni magazine http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2007/marapr/features/dweck.html got me thinking. She has been doing research to determine why some people achieve their potential and others fall by the wayside. This certainly hit home with me. It caused me to reflect on those I have seen who did not make it and those who did. In the course of my 38 year coaching career I have been fortunate to see two athletes start at the developmental level and progress to be the best in the world. I have been reflecting quite a bit on this lately as I see the inordinate amount of emphasis put on finding and identifying the athletically gifted. I realize that the circumstances that nurtured these youngsters was in a different era and under a different set of circumstances. The two individuals I am referring to are Terry Schroeder who went onto to be acknowledged as the best water polo player in the world and is considered one of the all time greats in the sport. He is now a chiropractor and the Water Polo coach at Pepperdine University. I was fortunate to have Terry in an eighth grade PE class in 1970-71. The other is Karch Kiraly, who is considered one of the greatest volleyball players ever both indoors and on the beach. He was student at Santa Barbara high school when I coached there. I did have much direct contact with him but was able to observe and follow his development. These two men developed into the best in their respective sports and among the best ever, why? I have often thought about that and what is different today. I often wonder would have happened if they were growing up today would they have achieved the status they achieved. They were not anointed at a young age, although Karch did receive some attention for his prowess on the beach playing against older players. Both were humble and worked hard to achieve their success. Schroeder did not even start playing water polo until he was in a sophomore in high school. He was good age group swimmer, a good football player, a good basketball player and a good baseball player, certainly not a prodigy in any of those sports. He did not mature early, but because of his multi sport background he was very coordinated and learned skills rapidly. He was very intelligent. Karch was a prodigy. His dad had been a good volleyball player in Hungary and started him playing very young. I remember seeing him as a five year old on the beach and being taken aback by his skills. He never let that go to his head. To my knowledge he did not play other sports, although I did try to persuade him to go out for track. He worked hard and smart. He was also very intelligent, he was a pre med major at UCLA. I do know that both of them had Physical Education daily through their school years. I do not know if that made a huge difference, but it had to have some benefit. As I reflect on this there are many lessons to be learned from these two athletes ultimate success on the world stage. They seemed to be able to maintain a perspective as the spotlight began to shine on them. They had good fundamental movement skills that served as a base for their specific sport skills. They played a lot, I emphasize play! They were very intelligent. They had parents who cared, but did not seem overbearing. They were goal achievement oriented. I am not sure their path can be replicated in today’s world of early specialization and media hype.


At 3/19/07, 12:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was fortunate enough to meet Karch once in a training room on the tour. An exceptional person and athlete.

I have never had the opportunity to meet Terry but he has been great for the profession.



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