By Eric Miller
She lasted 90 hours over three seasons. Maggie was not an outlier. Not in soccer.
In “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule,” which claims that the key to success is a matter of practicing a specific task for around 10,000 hours. Consider Bill Gates, Wayne Gretzky, or Mozart…former prodigies that hit 10,000 hours by their late teens. Maggie will never become an outlier soccer player. She quit 9,910 hours short.
I’ve always loved team sports and competition, even though I encountered setbacks. I quit baseball after I got eyeglasses. I missed grounders and fly balls but my batting fared worse. I sank from a .500 average to .005. I had two hits that season, one dribbling single that I outran to first base, and the other a home run. I was lonesome in the dugout.
In high school football, I played receiver but did more blocking because I couldn’t remember routes or catch passes. I had bricks for hands and dropped nearly every ball thrown my way except for one miracle over-the-shoulder grab. But like my home run, it never happened twice. I sat on the bench, a rite of passage for back-up juniors. I quit football and sat in the bleachers next to pretty girls my senior year.
I never quit hockey, though. I tried out for a college team but got cut. Not making a team wasn’t as bad as quitting. At least I pursued a goal even though I didn’t score any.
So when Maggie quit soccer, after playing on teams named the Crickets, Lady Bugs, and Sparrows, I understood how she felt. Maggie wore jersey number 1 because she was the smallest player on her teams. Her teammates were often 20 inches taller and 20 pounds heavier.
I remember Maggie’s second to last game. Her Sparrows, with a record of 0-6, were playing the 1-5 Chickadees. They had a chance to win. The girls swarmed the ball like bees. One Chickadee broke through and fired a shot— into Maggie’s gut. Maggie collapsed, gasping for air. The referees called a time out. I rushed onto the field.
“You did great out there blocking that shot,” I consoled.
“But you stopped a goal, awesome.”
The Sparrows ultimately lost, but Maggie’s teammates, and even the Chickadees, complimented her.
“Don’t worry, that won’t happen again. You have better odds getting struck by lightning. Way to hang in there.”
“Okay…I’ll keep playing.”
The Sparrows practiced hard the following week. Next up were the Vultures, an undefeated team. I prayed the game wouldn’t be a feeding frenzy. When Maggie ran onto the field, a Vulture kicked a header straight to her face. My daughter dropped like a sack of potatoes. The referee crew called time out. I carried her from the turf.
“You did great out there blocking that shot…” She didn’t buy it.
“I’ve heard that before. I QUIT.”
Along with soccer, Maggie has quit ballet, karate, skiing, and acting. She’s now into art, the violin, and snowboarding. She’s discovering what she likes and doesn’t like. I wonder if she’ll stick with an activity more than 90 hours. That 10,000-hour rule sounds huge but it’s all about perspective.
In five years, about 44,000 hours, she’ll leave for college. A third of that time involves sleeping and another 8,000 hours will be spent at school, studying, and activities. Four thousand hours will be spent eating and she’ll probably hang out with friends for 2,000 hours (so long as she does about 1,000 hours of chores). We’re now at around 15,000 hours, of which I’m deducting 5,000 hours for family time. We may have 15 hours together on any given week but that time isn’t guaranteed. We’re now approaching 10,000 hours, the remaining time Maggie has, to master an activity before leaving home. That assumes she picks one and doesn’t quit.
Quite frankly I don’t care if she ever programs code, scores hat-tricks, or writes concertos. I prefer she try and quit whatever she wants. When I consider Maggie moving away in five years, 10,000 hours doesn’t seem like much time at all.