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COYLE, Daniel. The sweet spot. In: The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown.

Here's How. New York: Random House, 2009.

A new vision about practice. Or not?


Talent is a quality very well regarded in our society. People commonly refer to it when they are trying to explain how someone can be so good at what they do and this level of expertise is usually attributed to special abilities that one might have since they were born, in other words there would be people that are naturally predisposed to succeed in certain activity that they were meant to do. Coyle seems to disagree with that. In the text The sweet spot, Coyle discusses his ideas about what talent is. To support his studies, Coyle decides to take a trip with his family to collect examples of how achieving expertise works in different parts of the world. The principal claim is the deep practice (p.16), which according to his ideas is what leads someone to become an expert. He describes it as experiences that make you operate at the edge of your ability, until the point you make mistakes and trying to correct these errors would guide you to expertise (p.18). This tends to be a controversial idea because it points out the importance of errors, which have a negative aspect to people so its very interesting that he focus his beliefs in that. This positive vision of committing errors can help people to feel motivated while learning something and not wanting to give up after making mistakes, since theyre a way of improving skills. To achieve expertise, we must find the sweet spot (a term created by Robert Bjork, the chair of psychology at UCLA) that represents the gap between what you already know and what you want to know (p.19). When he shows his idea of what deep practice is about, he gives a very clear example of it: he proposed to the readers to read two columns of words trying to use the same time; the difference between the columns is that in the second one, the words have one missing letter that we must mentally complete. By that, he explains that we probably remember more words from the second column because we practiced deeper not harder (since we took the same time to read both columns). In order to prove his ideas, he tells us two main stories: Edwin Links pilot training device and Brazilians soccer team. In 1934, there was a problem that repeated several times: the pilots from the Air Corps that delivered mail were dying when they tried to do dangers flights. Their lack of ability was due to the way they were trained; at that time, natural talent was the only way someone could become a pilot, so they didnt realize the importance of 1

practicing. Since committing mistakes is important to the learning process, How to practise for something that can actually get you killed? (p. 20). Edwin Links pilot training device created to simulate flights was the answer to that problem. This way, the pilots trained a lot before flying in dangerous conditions. He also tells the story of a soccer coach named Simon Clifford that went to Brazil to find out what made the soccer players so skilled, after researching, he finds out what he believes to be the reason: Futsal, which is a soccer game played in a court instead of a grass field, and because the place is smaller, it has less players. Coyle uses this situation to prove the idea of deep practice but he contradicts himself a few times while doing that. In his words, Teenage players at Brazilian soccer academies log twenty hours per week, compared with five hours per week for their British counterparts(p. 25). That means that young players practice harder, not deeper and just this fact could be enough to explain why the Brazilians soccer team has been having better results. Another technical problem that can be detected in Coyles text is that he doesnt mention where did he get some information from, like in when he says that one of the reasons Brazil is successful in soccer are the 40% of the desperately poor (p.15). This data seems to be wrong; Brazils extreme poverty rate (as he might be suggesting when he says desperately poor) is 4,8%, according to PNUD (United Nations Development Programme). Coyles idea of deep practice is interesting but he makes looks like its some kind of revolutionary theory, which can be noticed in the way he uses exaggerated expressions like Everest-size (p.11). When we think about the main claim, its possible to realize that is kind of obvious that if you have a more intense experience, that well make you learn faster than if you had a more lasting but less deep experience. Thorough this point, at least this first chapter of doesnt show a very new argument, it just has a new terminology.

References
http://www.pnud.org.br/ODM1.aspx http://www.bbc.co.uk/portuguese/noticias/2010/07/100714_pobreza_multidimensional_indic e_rw.shtml http://www.leighbureau.com/speaker.asp?id=465