Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091767
  • Editorial

Training history, deliberate practise and elite sports performance: an analysis in response to Tucker and Collins review—what makes champions?

  1. K Anders Ericsson
  1. Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr K Anders Ericsson, Department of Psychology, Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL 32306-1270, USA; ERICSSON{at}PSY.FSU.EDU

With the recent advances in genome-wide mapping studies and the emerging findings on the relation between athletes’ training histories and their performance, this should be a time for integrating these two bodies of knowledge for a more complete understanding of the complex development of elite performance.1 In their recent article, Tucker and Collins2 criticised a popularised but simplistic view of our work circulated on the internet, which suggests that anyone who has accumulated sufficient number of hours of practise in a given domain will automatically become an expert and a champion. Unfortunately they incorrectly attributed this view to me and my colleagues and criticised our research on deliberate practise.


I agree with Tucker's and Collins’ claim about the current failure ‘to discover a candidate gene that can be conclusively linked to performance’.2 However, they incorrectly state that I described this failure ‘as evidence that genetics play only a minimal, or even no role, in the attainment of elite performance’.2 There is a fundamental difference between claiming that there is evidence for the complete absence of genetic influences on elite performance in sport and claiming that no current evidence exists for such genetic influences. From the beginning of my research on expert performance I have made a point of distinguishing between empirical evidence collected on expert performers from beliefs or inferences from research on the general population. In one of my first publications3 on expert performance I reviewed the compelling evidence for the absence of training effects on height and body size. I concluded that in many sports elite athletes are either systematically taller or shorter than the general population and these differences in height were virtually completely determined by genetic factors. In most of my subsequent publications I have simply referred to this review, and …

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