The 80-20 Rule in Sports

By Ryan.

In a nutshell, the 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort, which means if you apply the principles of these rules smartly then you’ll know which 20% to focus on in order to produce that 80% of results. There have been so many variations of the rule applied to various scenarios, technically incorrectly, although fundamentally the gist of what is communicated has worked out. For instance, when entering into a new relationship, some advice references an incorrect application of the 80/20 rule in stating that as long as 80% of the comparative factors match up then the other 20% which don’t match are those which you can live with and therefore forge a thriving relationship.

So we’ll enter into the sporting arena in order to clarify the true application of the 80/20 rule, which as mentioned is that 80% of the results attained come from 20% of the effort.


It’s a rather broad definition, that of what constitutes a star player, but in team sports a player who distinguishes themselves from the rest as a star player won’t raise too many arguments in disagreement. Where the 80/20 rule comes into effect however is in the distribution of star players. Internationally recognised star players usually play for about the same 20% of the teams in a popular professional sports league, which often creates a knock-on effect in which the 80/20 can be applied to the results.

About 20% of the teams often share the championship between them, which means 20% of the teams take it in unordered turns to realise the success that about 80% of the teams competing in the same league cannot even realistically dream of realising.

Player performance

Professional sportspersons normally gain their super-star status as a result of the consistency in the good performances they put in, so usually it comes back down to 20% of the players being consistent in their good performances. When we look beyond the super-stars however, whose stars often shine over predictable periods of time when they’re at peak-form, the 80/20 rule comes back into play as can be witnessed in overall player performance. So the 20% of players who put in consistently good performances is then not necessarily comprised out of those classed as star-players, but 20% of the players in a team often put in consistently good performances to carry the team to success, 80% of the time.

Beyond the arena

Beyond the actual sporting arena where the live action takes place, we have various industries around the sporting activity itself, such as the medical field, administration, management, accounting, etc. The 80/20 rule can be seen throughout each of the industries individually and as a whole, such as how a health services company servicing the sporting industry might be kept in business by around 20% of a customer base comprised out of EEOICPA claims beneficiaries in addition to the sports injury clients they have. That 20% accounts for about 80% of their business.

May 21, 2019