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Race to the Finish: Thinking Like an Olympian

In light of the 2012 Summer Olympics, journalists are exploring what goes into becoming a talented athlete.  A recent article called “Michael Phelps’ Mom: ‘Don’t Push’ Kids Into Sports” discusses parenting talented children.  The star athlete’s mom has been there for him from the beginning, but not in a way that some would expect. In contrast to other parents, Phelps’s mom has never pushed her son into doing anything he wasn’t enjoying -- in her son’s case, swimming.  Even when Phelps’s swim coach charted his potential for the years to come, his mom laughed and responded, “If [Michael still] doesn’t enjoy it, this isn’t going to happen!”  Her perspective is that kids need to enjoy what they are doing above all else. In the end, talent and training drive athletes, artists and academics to perform or score their personal best.  Observing achievement across fields may lead to essential insights. Along with two leading experts in the field of gifted education, CTD director Paula Olszewski-Kubilius co-authored a paper calling for recognition and support like that used to nurture athletic and musical talent be applied to academics: "The science of optimal performance, applied to traditional academic disciplines as well as sports, music, and other domains, can help educators to meet the specific needs of high-ability students in every field." In what ways do you think practice and performance in sports and the arts differ or relate to academic talent development?

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