As I shared in a recent post, over the summer I read Malcolm Galdwell’s tremendous book “Outliers.” Many of us are familiar with Galdwell’s now famous “10,000 Hour Rule.” Essentially, it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice before a person can become an “expert” in a particular field. Gladwell argues that people aren’t born geniuses, masters, or experts, but instead they get there through tremendous time and effort. One example proffered by Gladwell of the 10,000 Hour Rule is Bill Gates, the iconic founder of Microsoft, who was able to begin coding as a teen due to a fortunate opportunity through his progressive Seattle high school. By the time Gates was a freshman in college, he had reached approximately 10,000 of coding time. A second example in Outliers, were the Beatles. The famous band played long—8 hours at a time—gigs in German clubs before their American invasion, which allowed them to achieve the 10,000 hour threshold on stage performing at a much quicker pace than other bands.

At the time I read Outliers and Gladwell’s 10,000 Hour Rule, I was fascinated. It made complete sense to me. I had always heard the studies that suggested Major League Baseball athletes reach their “peak” between the ages of 27-30, which seems to support the idea that most athletes have not been able to put in the requisite amount of hours to “master” hitting or pitching until their mid to late 20s. Think about it, as youth/teenage athletes, there are only so many hours in a day to commit to training, especially when an athlete is playing other sports and going to school. But once you enter professional baseball, the amount of time that an athlete can work on his craft increases tremendously.

A few weeks ago, I attended a luncheon in which the 10,000 Hour Rule became evident, without any talk of the Rule itself. The keynote speaker at this luncheon was Joe Buck, Fox Sports’ lead play-by-play announcer for the network’s NFL and MLB coverage. I knew very little about Joe Buck before this luncheon, but I learned a lot about him. As many of you may know, Joe Buck is the son of legendary (and Hall of Fame) sportscaster Jack Buck, who was the long-time play-by-play broadcaster for the St. Louis Cardinals. At the ripe young age of 25, Joe Buck became the youngest man ever to announce a regular slate of NFL games on network television. At the age of 27, Buck became the youngest play-by-play announcer to call the World Series since the legendary Vin Scully did so at the age of 25. Joe Buck has called 4 Super Bowls, 16 World Series, and 15 MLB All-Star Games.

Now that’s a pretty impressive resume, isn’t it? But I’ll tell you what I had thought prior to this luncheon—nepotism. Remember who his Dad is? I mean, it must be pretty easy to get a gig as a play-by-play sportscaster when your Dad is a Hall-of-Famer and considered one of the greatest of all time. Just think of the favors Jack Buck could have called in for his son. While I am sure this holds some truth, it is far from the whole story.

Here is what I found out about Joe Buck during the luncheon listening to the story of his childhood. Joe loved sports, but at an early age realized he wasn’t all that good of an athlete, and he decided he didn’t have much of a future playing. He idolized his Dad though, and thought his Dad had the coolest job in the world. He would sit in his Dad’s office at their home and listen to interviews that his Dad did for work, soaking it all in.

Joe would go with his Dad to nearly every Cardinals’ game. During the games, the room next to where Jack Buck was calling the game was empty. Joe would sit in that room, watch the game, and would record himself calling the game. In the car on the way home from the game, Joe would play the tape and Joe and his Dad would listen to little Joe’s play-by-play of the game that was just played.

Joe did this day in and day out as a kid. Year after year. Can you imagine the number of hours that Joe practiced being a play-by-play announcer? Not only this, but Joe lived with a Hall-of-Fame broadcaster (aka Dad) who was able to listen and provide feedback to Joe’s play-by-play. In addition, Joe called play-by-play for the Louisville Redbirds, a minor-league affiliate of the Cardinals, while he was an undergraduate at Indiana University. He was only 20 years old when he began calling these minor league games.

It’s no wonder Joe was given an opportunity to call NFL games at the age of 25 and World Series’ games at age 27. With all of this practice and experience, Joe no doubt accumulated 10,000 hours of deliberate practice as a play-by-play announcer by his early twenties. Joe Buck’s early life and the correlation to his present day success is exactly what Gladwell was writing about in Outliers. Many of us probably believe that Joe Buck got to where he is today because of his father. But that isn’t the whole truth. The real reason behind Joe Buck’s success is due to the countless hours he spent trying to emulate his Dad and the work he put in to becoming a great play-by-play announcer. This is what led him to be a 7 time Emmy Award winner and in his 20th year with Fox Sports.

The majority of the room listening to Joe Buck speak at this luncheon have probably never read Gladwell’s book, nor did they realize that Buck was describing his path to reaching the 10,000 hour mark. But bells were instantly ringing in my mind. This is just another lesson for all of us. Greatness doesn’t just fall into your lap. No matter who you are, or who your parents are, you have to work your butt off to become truly great at something. So if your goal is to become a great pitcher, hitter, or fielder, you have to put in the time, dedication, and hard work.

Oates Specialties has many of the tools that can assist you during your workouts in your march to 10,000 hours and to greatness. Don’t hesitate to contact us if we can help you select the tools that will aid you the most.

Until next time,

Brian Oates