Through the Education Lens

Olympian Apolo Ohno: On-Line Learning Gave Him The "10,000 Hours" To Be A Champion

SMW, February 21, 2010 6:49 PM


Watch Apolo Train For Speed Skating Event
Amazing Video Below

By C.J.

One wonders about all these Olympic athletes who obviously have to put in their 10,000 hours to achieve their level of excellence. Many, if not most, are still in school.   How do they do it?  Do they all have tutors like many young actors?

For Apolo Ohno, it was the opportunity to train and to finish his HS diploma on-line during the same period of time. He could learn when it suited his schedule. Apolo could put in the time to become a champion while receiving the "other" education.

Now, on-line learning is not just for those pursuing their 10,000 hours for something else - but that is another post entirely.

Watch the training Apolo does for the Olympics - Video below (courtesy Time magazine). I knew it was intense but not this intense.

For those of you unfamiliar with concept of 10,000 hours, Malcolm Gladwell dedicates a chapter from his best-selling book, Outliers, to the concept that "ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anything." 

There is also another notable book addressing this concept - best-selling Talent Is Overrated- What Really Separates World-Class Performers From Everyone Else, by Geoff Colvin, who zeroes in such specifics as deliberate practice, the myths of creativity, performing great at innovation, why some see the big picture better and motivation. 

To further understand the 10,000 hours concept, neurologist Daniel Levitin spells it out in Outliers:

"In study after study, of composers, basketball players, fiction writers, ice skaters, concert pianists, chess players, master criminals, and what have you, this number comes up again and again.  Of course, his doesn't address why some people get more out of their practice sessions than others do.  But no one has yet found a case in which true world-class expertise was accomplished in less time.  It seems that it takes the brain this long to assimilate all that it needs to know to achieve true mastery."

Excerpts Below and link to Apolo's background in on-line learning here:

 . . . In high school, Ohno used the Internet to complete his diploma requirements.  He was one of the first full time Internet Academy students to graduate.  Decatur High School issued his diploma in 2000.

The Internet Academy allows students to access the entire curriculum for each of their courses online.  Homework is completed at the student's pace and teachers are available to answer questions via email.  Exams and finals are proctored.  Many Internet Academy students are athletes, musicians or actors who participate in rigorous training and benefit from the flexible study hours the program offers.

Ohno would often complete two weeks of schoolwork in advance so he could take a week off for training, Nevin said. "He was able to be flexible with his school schedule and his racing training to make them both work," she said.  "He used our school in the way it should be used.  He built his classes around his schedule and he completed his work on time. . ."

Video below. Click on Red corner in upper left hand corner or center arrow:

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