'Before hard work comes play. Before those who've yet to fix on a passion are ready to spend hours a day diligently honing skills, they must goof around, triggering and re-triggering interest. Of course, developing an interest requires time and energy, and yes, some discipline and sacrifice. But at this earliest stage, novices aren't obsessed with getting better. They're not thinking years and years into the future. They don't know what their top-level, life-orientating goal will be. More than anything, they're having fun.
Encouragement during the early years is crucial because beginners are still figuring out whether they want to commit or cut bait. Accordingly (psychologist Benjamin Bloom) and his research team found that the best mentors at this stage were especially warm and supportive: "Perhaps the major quality of these teachers was that they made the initial learning very pleasant and rewarding. Much of the introduction to the field was as playful activity, and the learning at the beginning of this stage was much like a game."
A degree of autonomy during the early years is important. Longitudinal studies tracking learners confirm that overbearing parents and teachers erode intrinsic motivation. Kids whose parents let them make their own choices about what they like are more likely to develop interests later identified as a passion.
Sport psychologist Jean Cote finds that shortcutting this stage of relaxed, playful interest, discovery, and development has dire consequences. In his research, professional athletes who, as children, sampled a variety of different sports before committing to one, generally fare much better in the long run. The early breadth of experience helps the young athlete figure out which sport fits better than others. Sampling also provides an opportunity to 'cross-train' muscles and skills that will eventually complement more focused training. While athletes who skip this stage often enjoy an early advantage in competition against less specialised peers, Cote finds that they're more likely to become injured physically and to burn out.
(All passages above taken from 'Grit'- Angela Duckworth)