Why 10,000 hours for Skill Development?

By Mark V. Lonsdale, Shaft Shooters Archery

It is a common wisdom that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, but have you ever given thought to just how much training is required to hit that 10,000-hour mark?

Looking at a skilled trade such as a carpenter or welder, the average apprenticeship is about four years which breaks down to 40 hours per week, times 50 weeks, equaling 2,000 hours per year, and 8,000 hours in four years. But a competent journeyman, fresh out of his or her apprenticeship, still needs a few years of experience to be considered a master at his or her chosen profession.   

Now to the field of sports, and using Judo as an example, it usually takes an individual 5 years to make 1st degree black belt, depending on how often they train and how successful they have been in competition. Training three times a week for 2 hours in each session, adds up to 6 hours per week, times 50 weeks and you have 300 hours per year. So five years would equal 1,500 hours total training time, well short of the proposed 10,000 hours. The logic here is that a black belt is not the end of the road, but merely the beginning of a much longer journey. The real mastery of Judo comes many years later and at about the rank of 5th Dan.

Again, using Judo as an example, the road to mastery can be accelerated by dedicated judoka and elite athletes. By simply training more often and training with a national training squad, the athlete could be training 30+ hours per week and 1,500 hours per year.  This is equal to 5 years training for the average recreational judoka, resulting in accelerated skills development, competition performance, and national rankings.

So how does this equate to target archery? An individual practicing at a club twice a week for 2 hours is racking up 4 hours per week, 16 hours per month, and 192 hours per year. Definitely not enough to advance quickly. For individuals who have made the decision to get serious about archery, and have access to a range in their backyard or nearby, then they may begin training every evening for 2 hours. This would generate 10-12 hours per week, 40 hours per month, and 480 hours per year. So at that rate, 10,000 hours would take 20+ years. This may be why we see older seniors and masters shooting very respectable scores because they have accumulated over 20 years recreational experience.

Backyard range with 40cm targets at 20 yards and 122cm target at 50 meters for Barebow training

Once an archer steps up to elite level training and national training squads, now he or she is training three to four times per day, six days a week, which is 18-24 hours per week just shooting arrows. This would be augmented by time in the weight gym and building aerobic endurance. This is where sports development becomes a fulltime endeavor and elite athletes are putting in 1,000 to 1,500 hours training time each year. Most are also shooting 240+ arrows per day in three sessions of 84 or four sessions of 60 arrows.     

My personal Barebow training program at 50 meters is 60-72 arrows three to four times a day with an average of 1,000+ per week and 4,000+ per month. It takes 30 minutes to shoot 6 ends of 6 arrows at 50 meters for a 360 round, and an hour to shoot that twice for 72 arrows. I usually shoot at 9.00 AM, Noon, 5.00 PM and 7.00 PM in summer. But in some sessions, if I’m working on something in particular, I may shoot 120+ arrows knowing that I’m also developing better endurance.    

On the subject of arrow count, you will also hear people say that an individual skill needs to be repeated 10,000 times to master it. Not so for target archery! So let’s see how this breaks down. If you are a serious recreational archer shooting 150 arrows a day, 3 days a week, that equates to 450 per week, 1,800 per month and 10,000 in five and a half months. Be assured that you will not have mastered target archery by shooting all 9s and 10s at that point in time. It usually takes at least a year or two for a serious archer to develop good form, a consistent shot process, and an 8.5 to 9  average in Barebow archery. So mastery of something as seemingly simple as archery is a  process of years not weeks or months, but we all know that precision archery is actually quite a complex process.  

Six in the gold at 50 meters with a score of 57 is very good for Barebow training. Anyone shooting a 9 average (54/60) is a contender for the Nationals

Warning – the quality of training is always preferable to mere quantity. Repeating a poor technique or having a poor shot process thousands of times only reinforces bad habits. While demonstrating good form, correct skeletal alignment, and a clean shot process hundreds of times per day serves to build the required neuro-muscle memory to execute the perfect shot repeatedly.

Finally – if you aspire to great things you must be willing to do great things, and this means many more hours of structured training.


Author: Mark V

Dedicated shooter, seeker, traveler, teacher, trainer, educator

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