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Plenty of effort needed for teens looking to become elite athletes

Some swear by 10,000-hour rule, while others say it hurts chances of success

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SAN ANTONIO – What does it take to make it in sports?

Some swear by the 10,000-hour rule, meaning it literally takes 10,000 hours of practice. Others say too much play will actually hurt your chances of success.

No matter how much work you put in, it will take a lot of effort for teens striving to be elite athletes.

Lily Truong is one step closer to her Olympic dreams.

"I started when I was six and then started club when I was about 12," said Truong.

Teammate Ashley Thomas is right there with Truong. Along with weekly practices and games, she also does private training.

"The more you put in to it, the more you get out of it," said Thomas.

Broken bones, muscle cramps and fractures haven't stopped the girls. They are serious about their sport.

Coach Erin Morse said they have to be. 

"If you are not putting in the work, someone else is and they're probably, you know, getting better than what you are," Morse said.

The 10,000-hour rule of sports isn't a long shot for Truong and Thomas.

"I think 10,000 hours would be easy if you really, really love the game," Morse said.

But Sports Illustrated's David Epstein said the 10,000-hour rule could damage performance and health.

"We're sort of pushing athletes to, first of all, to pick one sport, to specialize in one sport and then to train in a way that's more appropriate for adults and professionals said Epstein."

Epstein's research showed youth are experiencing adult-style injuries. These injuries are 36 percent more likely in wealthy kids. Also, playing the same sport for eight months can increase the risk.

Experts say "sports sampling" until at least age 12 produces the best athletes.

"If you are learning in too professional a style, being sort of explicitly told what to do in doing just the same thing, you are going to inhibit your ultimate athletic development," said Epstein.

Still, Truong and the rest of the girls are passionate about putting in the time. They hope their hard work pays off.


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