It is often claimed that it takes around 10,000 hours of dedicated, quality practice to master a skill (The 10,000 hours rule). I first came across it in Matthew Syed's book 'Bouce'. Obviously, this is not an exact science to the nearest second but whether you believe it to be true or not, it is a rule that is worth bearing in mind.
Broken down over a reasonable time frame, 10,000 hours works out at about 3 hours per day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year for about 9 years. Sounds a lot but, i guess, worth the effort if you have the desire to achieve mastery.
Now, if we make that a little more practical and work that out in terms of school PE time based on 2 hours of PE per week: Children take part in approximately 78 hours of PE per school year and 858 hours during their school lives. As a percentage, 8.5% of the way toward mastery may sound encouraging but remember the PE curriculum is broken down into around 9 or more sports/activities per year. This means you may spend as little as 6 hours per year on a particular sport. So, you may in fact have completed just 0.66% of those 10,000 hours.
Anyone involved in primary PE will know that when you also factor in things like changing time, which generally cuts in to about 15-20 minutes of a PE lesson we may leave school with just 55 hours of practice in a given sport under our belts. To put this in perspective, you'd be ready to line up against Lionel Messi by the time you're approximately 2,500 years old.
Fortunately, we can look at it from a more positive angle. 10,000 hours works out at just under 417 days. This means that if you dedicate just 1.4% of your life (using 2012 UK life expectancy) to achieving mastery, it could be possible to become a master, an all time great and fulfill your lifetime dreams and ambitions. Simple.
The reality is, whether you are a 10,000 hour rule skeptic or not, nobody is really counting the hours and nobody can really say for sure what constitutes quality practice. Individuals are all different, training methods change, science and technology keep getting better so how can anybody be sure that what they are doing to practice is of a higher quality than anyone else, it is all part of the journey.
In terms of school PE hours, we know that school PE - primary age in particular - is about much, much more than just practice hours. For many, these will be the first chances that they get to take part in certain sports and activities. The impression that they take away from those experiences will shape their future reaction and engagement with those sports, possibly forever. It is our responsibility to take that fact extremely seriously, it is essential that each lesson gives everyone a chance to learn and enjoy each sport properly.
Beyond that, what we must do is encourage more people to play sports outside of the curriculum hours, increase the number of opportunities available for people to take part in sport and ensure that we are encouraging people to work as hard as possible to improve during each training session. We must also make sure that we, as coaches, are learning all the time. Keep expanding knowledge, trying new ways of teaching and creating new experiences for learning. We are.