The 10,000 hour rule is an interesting concept. Malcolm Gladwell raised the idea a number of times in the book Outliers, and the theory basically states than any “master” of a particular discipline has put in at least 10,000 hours of dedicated work to learn and perfect their skill set within that discipline. While the exact number of hours is still up for debate, and further statistical analysis is needed, I am confident that the overall point stands: The truly great put in the hours and the effort in order to be truly great.
Photo Credit: Gary Woodburn
In the sport of lacrosse, guys like Casey Powell, Steele Stanwick, John Grant Jr., Rob Pannell, Cody Jamieson, and many members of the Thompson family all come to mind immediately as guys who have put in the work, and are now at the top of the game. We all know about Powell’s back yard family lacrosse games, we know about Steele’s wall ball sessions in his garage. We know Grant Jr has been absorbing the game since he was born. Pannell has stated how hard he needed to work to get to where he is today. Jamieson probably has a stick in his hands for 50% of any given day. The Thompsons finish practice, go home, and play family games until the sun goes down. Then they keep playing.
These guys all put in massive amounts of work.
In fact, it is highly likely that the players above have all put more than 10,000 hours into their craft, as they are some of the best ever, but when you look at their styles of play, you begin to notice some interesting things, and some of them even hint at dispelling some long-held lacrosse beliefs.
For our first example, we will look at John Grant Jr and Cody Jamieson. Their training was primarily focused on the box game growing up. They both amassed certain skill sets and abilities, and those abilities transferred very nicely to the field game later in life. I don’t know that either man has put in 10,000 hours on field lacrosse alone, but the time they spent playing box lacrosse clearly prepared them for the field game. I am willing to be that both JR and Jamieson have played less field lacrosse in their lives than some D3 or MCLA players of the same era, and yet those two are still on a totally different level. These two guys show that the work doesn’t have to be put in to field lacrosse specifically, to be good at that version of the game.
Now, you may say that the above is obvious, and that it is a one-way street, meaning that box players make great field players, but not the other way around. Please, allow me to retort.
Casey Powell is probably the best US Box player of all-time. He grew up playing field lacrosse. His brother, Ryan, also saw success in box lacrosse after a lengthy field career. Their elevated play on the field transferred to the box, and as they learned (and continue to learn in Casey’s case) the game, they continued to improve and elevated their game even further. Need a couple more field studs who have made the transition to box in order to be convinced? Try Brendan Mundorf, Ryan Boyle, Brian Langtry, Randy Fraser, Greg Rogowski, Ethan Farrell, and Brandon Dube on for size. All grew up field players, and all have made, or are making, successful transitions into the box game, at some of the highest levels. All put in the work for field first, saw success, and then picked up box lacrosse as offensive players. Even a guy like Connor Martin, who grew up in a non-hotbed area and played in the MCLA can make the transition, and he had NO box experience. Myth dispelled!
So now that we’ve looked at two examples of how the 10,000 hour rule crosses over from field to box and vice versa, let’s talk about being a one-handed vs. two-handed player. It’s only just starting to get interesting…
If you are 8 years old, and you want to be a “master” by the time you are an 18 year old college freshman, that means you need to put in 10,000 hours over the next 10 years. That seems easy at first, but then you do some simple math, and it equals out to exactly 1,000 hours per year, and a little under 3 hours per day. If you’re 15 and want to be a “master” by the time you are 20, you’re doing even more work per day. It’s 2,000 hours per year in that case, and that means about 5.5 hours of work per day.
Assuming you are doing the basics, like going to school (8 hours a day with travel), doing homework (2 hours a day), eating (1 hour), sleeping (8 hours), it doesn’t leave much time for practice. In fact, the above time requirements add up to 19 hours of your weekdays, and that only leaves 5 hours left to get better. If you spend two hours playing video games, or talking online, or watching TV, you’re down to three precious hours of work. If you have anything else in your life, the time disappears very quickly. Putting in 5.5 hours a day is, according to the above numbers, approaching impossible.
So this lack of available time brings me to my next point… Is it better to spend 10,000 hours on ONLY your strong hand, or should you spend 5,000 hours on each hand? This is where to 10,000 hour rules gets really murky. 5,000 hours left and 5,000 hours right is the same number of overall hours as 10,000 with your strong hand. I think we can all agree on that. But which one will serve you better in the long-run? Obviously, 10,000 hours on both the left and right would be ideal, but as I showed above, who has 20,000 hours to spare? People who barely sleep, or don’t do homework.
Both one-hand, and two-hand training will increase your lacrosse IQ. Both will help you improve greatly. But will either one give you an advantage over the other? I honestly can’t say. We always hear about how players need to be two-handed to see success here in the States. It is preached by coaches at every level. But is it true? Is Jordan MacIntosh less effective because he doesn’t have a left? Not in college, not in the pros, and not in the NLL. Did Kyle Wharton ride the bench because he was all left? No, he played more because of his lefty shot, and that was at conservative Hopkins!
It is harder to distinguish which is better at the highest levels, but after watching developing players, I would argue that one really good strong hand is better than the ability to use both hands decently, and fits better within the 10,000 hour framework, but I don’t know that my posit is provable in any way, shape, or form. For now, it’s just a anecdotal theory.
When a kid really puts in the work, they stand out, especially here in NYC. It’s rare to see, and because of that, it doesn’t seem to matter if they have two good hands or one strong hand, and all that matters is how much extra practice they put in. They are simply outworking their counterparts, and that alone separates them from the pack. They don’t always put the work into lacrosse either! Good habits and lessons learned from other sports often come into play, and can count towards the 10,000 hours. If you can play defense in basketball, you can play defense in lacrosse. Add in some stick skill development and you have a decent player.
When I look at high school and youth players of today in a more geographically spread out perspective, I see a lot more kids with two decent hands. They aren’t super confident with either hand, but they can do the basics pretty well. The rare kid is still the one with a highly developed strong hand and a disastrous weak hand. In my opinion, the latter are often the better players on the field, even though everyone knows they only have one hand. I am going to assume both types of players are putting in the same amounts of work, which is usually to say, not all that much.
The point I’m making here is that diversification of skills is great. Playing other sports is great. Box or Field? Both are great, it’s all good. But if you really want to leap to the next level, should you put all your eggs in your strong hand basket, or spread the wealth to both hands equally? Should you put 10,000 hours in to becoming the most dangerous righty shooter in the world, or should you spend 5,000 hours on each hand, making sure your fundamentals are strong? Should you split your time from box to field? Should you concentrate on one game over the other?
When I look at the list of players above, I’m not really compelled to think that box is better than field, or vice versa. I am also not compelled to think two hands are better than one, or vice versa. The only thing I can tell from the 10,000 hour rule is that you have to put in the time to be great. Play YOUR game, whatever it may be, put in the work, use your time wisely, and then learn new things as you go. You don’t need to play box, you don’t need to play field. You don’t need two hands, and you don’t need to be all right or left. You simply need to make the effort to play and practice a lot.
Find your hours, play your game, find YOUR way, and become the best.