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The single biggest difference between amateurs and pros, sport by sport?

Discussion in 'General Sports' started by wiffleballhero, Dec 2, 2017.

  1. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    Isolating just one thing, what would it be?

    It seems to me that there are some real differences between what stops people from being pros in different sports, and what sets those professionals apart from the rest of us. But I wonder, if you could isolate just one thing for each sport what would it be?

    To my mind, in baseball, the single biggest difference between professionals and city league dudes is the line-in-the-sand around the ability to pitch/hit a ball with movement above 90 MPH.

    In lots of other sports (soccer, hockey both leap to mind) it seems like it is the speed of the game.

    Whadda think?
     
  2. TFP

    TFP Dope Dope

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    By amateurs do you mean high level college type athletes in that sport? I.e. people skilled at that game but not good enough for the pros? Or just regular old people who still play that sport for fun?
     
  3. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    Good players but no $. So not just regular, old people duffing around at the Y (where there 50 ways to Tuesday to see that they are not going to be pros).
    In hockey, let's say, good A league guys/ out of college players who have never and will never get cash.
     
  4. slamminsammya

    slamminsammya Member SoSH Member

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    Basketball - body and athleticism. Lots of guys are skilled.
     
  5. Old Fart Tree

    Old Fart Tree the maven of meat Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    IMHO in Baseball it’s reaction time response to reading spin. Above about 80mph it is incredibly hard. Above 85 it is so idiosyncratic as to be a parlor trick.
     
  6. PC Drunken Friar

    PC Drunken Friar Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I'd say tennis. If there were a tournament with all the professionals playing... How many would have a realistic shot at winning? 10?

    It's similar to baseball... All about reaction time. But athleticism is also very much needed.
     
  7. IHateDaveKerpen

    IHateDaveKerpen Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    Amateur wrestling is, like, real.

    Very different from professional wrestling.
     
  8. Ale Xander

    Ale Xander Member SoSH Member

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    Football and basketball is having size (large) and speed combination. And for (pocket)quarterbacks, quick release and ability to read defenses.
    Hockey and soccer is technical prowess and speed (on skates)
     
  9. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    In tennis I don't think it is actually speed or power so much as the ability to make precise shots at pace.

    There are lots of duffers who can bang the ball, lots of quick people out there -- quick enough -- and lots of different body types that can make a go of it, but pro tennis players are a whole other kettle of fish when it comes to shot location when the other person can genuine hit as well.
     
  10. kenneycb

    kenneycb Hates Goose Island Beer; Loves Backdoor Play SoSH Member

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    I’ve found hockey it’s more about puck protection and tape to tape passing. It’s why those NHL alumni teams can still destroy a bunch of younger people 15 years after they played. Hard to do anything if you never have the puck.
     
  11. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    In golf I think the answer may be "everything" but if I had to pick one thing it would be consistency. It takes a single bad swing over 4 days of a tourney to go from winning to losing. But, in reality, pro golfers are materially better at every single aspect of the game than even full ride scholarship college players.
     
  12. lars10

    lars10 Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    I think in soccer one aspect is definitely speed.. in a number of different ways. 1) straight out speed... there's just a different gear that most pros/college athletes can get to that is simply faster than anyone you've ever played with. 2) speed on the ball. Ability to make quick decisions to dribble, pass, etc with a defender coming toward you. Or also speed with the ball..ability to dribble at pace, make cuts, body control, ability to stay upright under pressure, etc.

    I think also a huge factor in hockey and soccer is endurance. Having the legs to make similar moves at the end of the game to the beginning is a huge advantage. The motor it takes to keep going a full game can set apart a good player and great player.
     
  13. luckiestman

    luckiestman Son of the Harpy SoSH Member

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    The ability to repeat peak performance. I train BJJ, but I am not a big time competitor, but I used to roll with someone that is doing awesome in mma now and I still train with good sport competitors. When I’m feeling great physically and if I’m sharp mentally, I could hang and give these dudes problems but I could not do it every night.

    I think you see this when you watch other sports. Guys have games of their lives but they can’t repeat it consistently, other dudes just stay up so much so they seem like robots.

    I think this must have a lot to do with discipline and sports psychology.
     
  14. Kliq

    Kliq Member SoSH Member

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    This is a really good point when it comes to separating elite professionals and just regular athletes. In basketball in particular because someone getting hot often defines the outcome of the game. Any decent college player has the capability of going 7/13 from outside in a game; but only a handful of people on earth would be able to repeat that performance more than once in a season.

    Basketball basically disqualifies anyone under six feet tall from playing at the professional level. Almost every other major sport (baseball, soccer, football, hockey, etc.) has room for athletes under six feet. The flip side is that if you are very tall your chances greatly increase. I don’t remember the exact figures but I read a few years ago that the average American male had a 1 and 40,000 chance of playing in the NBA, but if you were seven feet or taller, your chances were like 1 and 17.
     
  15. johnmd20

    johnmd20 literally like ebola Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    It's also a lot of physiology. The bodies of professional athletes can exercise for longer and harder than the average human being. It's such a huge advantage to have a physique that can stretch and bend and avoid injuries. To do more, to do extra, and instead of getting injured, they get stronger.

    And some of that is training and planning but a lot of it is literally just the way you're born.
     
  16. luckiestman

    luckiestman Son of the Harpy SoSH Member

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    Oh definitely, I just mean among people that have the necessary physical attributes.

    Drugs cannot be discounted in what you are talking about. The amount of time you can train while on PEDs goes way up, and you keep many of those skill gains even when off. A lot of guys use sport BJJ* as a feeder to MMA* and almost all of the top competitors are on PEDs and they are using them so they can train more.


    *MMA is fringe and BJJ is a super fringe niche sport. The drug protocols are likely way more developed in big time big money sports.
     
    #16 luckiestman, Dec 3, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2017
  17. santadevil

    santadevil Well-Known Member Silver Supporter SoSH Member

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    3,434
    Agreed, I was buddies with Graham Delaet growing up and he was back a few years ago for a golf school thing he was putting on for junior golfers.
    I took my son and Graham was just hitting on the driving range for part of this. He tell us the shot he was going to hit and then just hit it, not much time in between. High fade, low draw, etc.

    When we see these guys on the TV, they take a lot of time between shots, knowing their options and mentally preparing.
    When you play on the weekends casually, it's so tough to be consistent, time after time. You might string together 3 or 4 good holes, but to do a full 9, then 18 is tough enough, then try and do 72 holes over 4 days, it's next to impossible.

    We have a horse race at our local club each year which goes along with the big Men's tournament.
    The first flight are able to participate if they want. People are allowed to bet, etc. And these are like the top 10-15 guys locally, with a few out of towners mixed in. It's amazing to see these guys who regularly shoot near or even a few strokes under par, fuck up the easiest shots ever when people are watching and there is actually something on the line.
     
  18. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    This is an amazing other quality all of these guys have. I know a lot of very low handicappers who play worse in tourneys because they get nervous. I know some that do not handle it well if there's a group on the 1 tee or 18 green. The pros do it under such crazy scrutiny and with cameras on them with millions on the line. They simply have nerves of steel. Even the guys that are/were considered choke artists, like Sergio, are at such a higher level than just about everyone else. It's nuts. I'm sure this is true for other sports as well, but it seems like you can feed of the crowd in other sports because they're cheering/booing WHILE you're playing so I think the dynamic may be different.
     
  19. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    Field goal kickers.

    There are other elements as well, but there are plenty of people physically capable of kicking a ball long distances. Exactitude in execution under psychologically challenging terms is what sets them apart.
     
  20. johnmd20

    johnmd20 literally like ebola Lifetime Member Gold Supporter SoSH Member

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    No, there are not.
     
  21. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    Maybe it depends on the meaning of the word 'plenty' but we are going to have to agree to disagree.

    I have screwed around with too many soccer players kicking footballs from the 40 with relative ease. I have also played on too many soccer teams with guys who can take goal kicks that seem to go forever. I stand by my basic proposition. That said, as I am willing to observe, wherever anyone would want to engage, that I think kickers in the NFL are pretty amazing.
     
  22. Deathofthebambino

    Deathofthebambino Drive Carefully SoSH Member

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    As most of you already know, I have a buddy on the Tour now, who I've played with in recent years, and these guys aren't just better than amateurs at everything, they are literally not even playing the same game. I mean, we have legitimate scratch and plus handicap golfers in our club, some of whom are very good college players and others that do well in local tournaments, and Rob would have to give them 2-3 shots a side to make it competitive. The club pro a few years back estimated Rob's handicap at our course would be around a +7. He can reach every par 5 in two, he can hit the green on 5 of the par 4's from the tee, and our course record which stood for 70 years was only 64 (until he shot 61 and 62 on back to back days a few years ago), so it's not like it's the easiest course around. He's looking to be within 10 feet on anything inside 200 yards, and inside 5 feet on anything inside 100 yards.

    And Tour players, like him, make like 70% of their putts inside of 10 feet, which feels like they make everything when you're playing against them. I played a quick 9 with him about 5-6 years ago, and he made birdie on 7 holes to make the turn at 29, and we begged him to try to finish it out and try to get the course record and he was like "nahh, I'll do it another time." Sure enough, next time he played a full round was the weekend he broke the record, twice.

    They aren't playing the same game.
     
  23. Average Reds

    Average Reds Dope Staff Member Dope V&N Mod SoSH Member

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    I’m going to go with John McEnroe on this one.

    When he was the top ranked player, he was asked what the difference was between him and the number 100 ranked player in the world. He said that there really was no difference physically between him and the number 2500 ranked player. In fact, there were many amateurs who were physically as good or better than he was.

    The difference was that when they stepped on the court, he knew that he was going to win. More importantly, the other player knew that he was going to win and that he (McEnroe) knew that the other player knew it. Which is why the match was almost always over before they left the locker room.

    Put more bluntly, there is very little physical difference between top amateurs and pros in tennis and golf. The difference is confidence (for both) the ability to maintain focus (both) and will (more for tennis, but also for golf.)
     
  24. wiffleballhero

    wiffleballhero Member SoSH Member

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    Either McEnroe is saying exactly what I am saying, or he is wrong! What I mean is that, I totally agree with him, sort of, but I really think that in tennis those issues of focus are the difference and thus: shot precision.

    If it was just will and confidence there would be more Rudy stories, or just weirdo narcissist in the game. It is something a little different.
     
  25. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    To be fair, he said between him and #2500, not him and you. There's obviously a level of physical skill and talent involved to get to that level. I think what he's saying is that, at that level, the difference is not physical but mental.
     
  26. LoweTek

    LoweTek Well-Known Member Lifetime Member SoSH Member

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    I'll comment based on personal exposure where I have played with or against (or both) pros and high level amateurs: Golf, Baseball and ice hockey.

    In Golf, as Death says and I agree, they really are playing a different game. Most all of them can call up great, precise shots and repeat them time and time again, the likes of which amateurs can only hope for on their best day. However, amongst the best players, I would say there is very little variation in pure shot making skill. E.g. most can hit a 200 yard fairway iron to 10-15 feet or fly 300+ off a tee. The difference at the highest level is the ability to put the occasional bad shot or bad break or opponent miracle behind you and move on. Almost every tournament is won by the guy who is doing this most effectively in a given week: recovering from or ignoring setbacks.

    In baseball, defensively, the separation is about precision repeatability. Pitchers who can freely throw to any spot in or out of the strike zone; infielders who can repeatedly and precisely execute the correct play without mistake; outfielders who run routes so precise and efficient it's like they were told in advance where the ball would land; catchers who get rid of the ball so quickly and manage to throw lasers to the target, all relate to precision.

    Offensively in baseball, hitters, it's timing, count management and pitch judgment. In short, adjustment skill. The cliched 'situational awareness' is also big in advanced hitters. The golf reference to putting failure behind you is huge in hitting too. Lots of athletes can hit 90+ MPH stuff. The question is whether they can do it when there's other spots and speeds mixing in or when a five-run home run isn't the best strategy.

    In hockey it's a bit simpler. The difference in speed of execution and precision is night and day. The ability of pros to make a precise feed to the right part of the ice quickly and/or under duress is remarkable. Without the puck, the ability to know and go to the place the play is going (paraphrasing Gretzky), is a huge differentiation. I'm told football is like this also but I have zero personal experience with high level players in the sport. At the pro level in hockey, everything is so much faster than any other level, including D-1 College, like golf, they are playing a different game.
     
  27. Average Reds

    Average Reds Dope Staff Member Dope V&N Mod SoSH Member

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    The reason I used his quote is that's what I thought we were talking about - the difference between top amateurs and pros.

    If that's not what we're talking about, I'm not sure I get the point of the thread. Because the main difference between pros and the vast majority of amateurs is that amateurs suck.
     
  28. jercra

    jercra Member SoSH Member

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    Sure, but the 2500th ranked person is not a top amateur, it's a lower level pro. It's what we're talking about, but it's not what that quote was talking about. McEnroe was saying the difference between people with similar physical skills was all mental. I'd bet McEnroe would admit he's pretty physically gifted compared to even top amateurs. It's the equivalent of a AA baseball player, not a top A league rec player. It's an interesting conversation in itself, the difference between a good AA and a good MLB player (and the like), but the thread is about the difference between amateurs and pros.

    To your last point, that's just not true. I've played golf with many +1 to +3 indexes who routinely shoot in the mid to high 60s. They most certainly do not "suck" at golf. They are not in the same world as a PGA touring pro. The differences are subtle. I think getting at those subtleties was the intent of the thread.
     
  29. Average Reds

    Average Reds Dope Staff Member Dope V&N Mod SoSH Member

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    I actually went to look at the world rankings for tennis and discovered that they no longer include amateurs. (Which is why there is no one ranked 2500 in the world that I could find.) Back when they did in the 70s and 80s, everyone outside of the top 1000 was an amateur. Which is the reason I though the McEnroe story was applicable.

    You mentioned the difference between a AA or AAA ballplayer and an MLB player, and that really hits what I was trying to say. The reason I used golf and tennis is that that level of player is likely to be an amateur in those sports, while it is professional in baseball.

    Last thing I'll say is that a +3 or +1 handicap golfer is most definitely not representative of the "vast majority of amateurs." As you said, they are basically as physically gifted as touring pros and the differences are subtle. Which is precisely when I was trying to get at.
     
    #29 Average Reds, Dec 13, 2017
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2017

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