Do smaller towns produce more athletic stars? The article, “How to Raise a Superstar,” reports on research  suggesting that they do.

In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers the article considers the possible effect of Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule which is based on the research of K. Anders Ericsson. Pointing toward a core presupposition of this approach, the article quotes Ericsson as saying, “The differences between expert performers and normal adults are not immutable, that is, due to genetically prescribed talent. Instead, these differences reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance.”

An additional area that Gladwell considered was the impact of January birthdays on athletic success (especially for hockey players). This article, however, suggests that a more powerful influence is importance of birthplace. Researchers found:

the percent of professional athletes who came from cities of fewer than a half million people was far higher than expected. While approximately 52 percent of the United States population resides in metropolitan areas with more than 500,000 people, such cities only produce 13% of the players in the NHL, 29% of the players in the NBA, 15% of the players in MLB, and 13% of players in the PGA.

This suggests that the chances of going on to success in those sports is enhanced if the athlete comes from a smaller community rather than a large city.  The article goes on to suggest possible explanatory factors for this correlation. It would be interesting to break this down even further to see if this trend holds for those who come from communities of less than 50,000 or even less than 10,000.

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