Inner Game Tennis Drills

References:
"Inner Game of Tennis" - Timothy Gallwey, 1972
"Inner Tennis – Playing the Game" - Timothy Gallwey, 1976
"Instinctive Tennis" - Happy Bhaala, 2003
Vjeran Friscic – Bajo – Coaching conference of Slovenia, Otocec 2005
My personal experience ;)
References:
"Inner Game of Tennis" - Timothy Gallwey, 1972
"Inner Tennis – Playing the Game" - Timothy Gallwey, 1976
"Instinctive Tennis" - Happy Bhaala, 2003
Vjeran Friscic – Bajo – Coaching conference of Slovenia, Otocec 2005
My personal experience ;)
One of the main principles of Inner Game approach is to focus our attention on the ball, so that Self 2 can work its magic uninterfered. We can think only one thought at a time. It may seem sometimes that we are thinking many thoughts at the same time but if you become really aware you'll notice that they only follow one after another very rapidly.

Seeing the ball will also greatly improve. Tennis players and coaches often repeat the time-honored dictum "Watch the ball" but the ball is rarely seen for what it is in reality. It is one thing to look at the ball and another thing to see it. Usually when we look at the ball approaching us, we see our thoughts projected onto it instead of the ball itself. We see "difficult shots, booming serves and tough slices."

But the ball is simply a ball, a furry sphere moving at a certain speed and direction. There are no forehands or booming serves flying over the net – only balls. To really see well the the speed, direction, height and spin of an oncoming ball, we must subtract the concepts we project onto it; only then can we see and respond to each ball as it really is. When we achieve this, Self 2, which is about 800-1000 times faster than Self 1, will be able to perceive the ball flight very clearly and send accurate instructions to the muscles which move us toward the ball and control the stroke.

Drills to quiet the mind

Bounce – Hit

The legendary drill from Gallwey. The goal is to say "bounce" when the ball bounces on your side and "hit" when you hit it. This requires you to focus really well on the ball and the moments of impact. Hence no other disturbing thoughts enter your consciousness.

It's also one of the best drills for beginners since their biggest problem is not technique but judging the ball. When they focus on bounce-hit their brain gets the fullest and clearest information about ball flight which they store and accumulate.

An advanced version of this drill is to listen to the sound of the ball hitting the ground and the player's racquet. He can then compare the timing of the sound of his own voice with that of the ball.

Up-top-down

The player attempts to discern whether the ball is rising (up), is at the top (top) of the bounce, or is falling (down) at the moment of contact.

Spin

The goal here is that the player looks for the axis around which the ball is spinning after the bounce. Most players see the ball spinning but when you try and deterrmine the axis you become really absorbed in the ball. Advanced version requires the player to see the axis of the spin before the ball bounces.

Shadow

In most cases the lighting comes from above – sun, lights. So the ball is a little darker on the bottom part. The playes tries to notice this shadow in the bottom part.

Sound and feel

The player focuses on the sound of hitting the ball and "looks" for the sound which happens when the ball hits the middle of the racquet. With the exception of total beginners, players usually know how this sounds. And they also know the feel.

When a player decides that he wants the sound and feel of the sweet spot hit, the body automatically starts to adjust. It's hard to describe how this happens, but it works extremely well, especially when you practice serves.

This drill also shows the player that he can trust his body (Self 2) and that learning and improvement happen without his conscious activity (Self 1).

Mark the spot

Players are often so overburdened with correct technique and proper form that they are not really aware of what happened with the shot. They do notice whether the ball was in or out but not how much they missed. But technique is not worth any extra points in tennis. It is important when you watch figure skating, but not when you watch tennis. Only shots in the court count. Obviously there needs to be some technique introduction, but the fine automatization happens when players try to hit targets.

The goal of the drill is to see where the ball landed. If it landed 4 feet short, that's -4. If the ball landed 10 feet long, that's +10. So the player calls out the numbers and the coach helps him with feedback. Most players are not very good at the beginning of this drill precisely because they don't pay attention to these margins. But this is crucial information for Self 2 to be able to adapt even better.

This drill is also very good for beginners. They are very concerned with correct technique too (maybe the coaches have something to do with it?) and they believe that if they produce the correct movement, the ball will go in. But that's far from the truth. Tennis is based on feel, not correct strokes. And so marking the spot immediately gives them feedback on their feel and how they can adjust it.

This drill works on the same principle as the demonstration with the ball throw in the Inner Game introduction section. The player just needs to see what happened and trust his body to make the adjustment.

Height

This is very similar to the previous drill and here the player calls out the number of feet for each ball that passes over the net. Many players are aware only of direction when they play. They know that they want to hit right but they are not aware that they need to play above the net. Funny as it may sound, it's true. They just hit the ball in a straight line to the other side and most of the times the ball lands in the net. Tennis is played in arcs!

The advanced version of this drill is my favourite inner game drill. The goal of the player is to match the height of each shot that comes towards him. Since every shot has a different height albeit with only small differences, this becomes very interesting to the mind (Self 1). Even beginners become totally absorbed in this drill and quickly realize that there is another part of the brain (Self 2) doing the corrections. They gain trust into the body's abilities.

There are of course many more Inner Game Tennis Drills which are more suited for specific situations. Their goal is to increase body awareness, letting go of overtightness, letting go of self-image and strengthening the will to win.

I'd be happy to publish any of your drills that you may have discovered during your tennis journey. Feel free to contact me and share your "inner game" drill.

One of the main principles of Inner Game approach is to focus our attention on the ball, so that Self 2 can work its magic uninterfered. We can think only one thought at a time. It may seem sometimes that we are thinking many thoughts at the same time but if you become really aware you'll notice that they only follow one after another very rapidly.

Seeing the ball will also greatly improve. Tennis players and coaches often repeat the time-honored dictum "Watch the ball" but the ball is rarely seen for what it is in reality. It is one thing to look at the ball and another thing to see it. Usually when we look at the ball approaching us, we see our thoughts projected onto it instead of the ball itself. We see "difficult shots, booming serves and tough slices."

But the ball is simply a ball, a furry sphere moving at a certain speed and direction. There are no forehands or booming serves flying over the net – only balls. To really see well the the speed, direction, height and spin of an oncoming ball, we must subtract the concepts we project onto it; only then can we see and respond to each ball as it really is. When we achieve this, Self 2, which is about 800-1000 times faster than Self 1, will be able to perceive the ball flight very clearly and send accurate instructions to the muscles which move us toward the ball and control the stroke.

Drills to quiet the mind

Bounce – Hit

The legendary drill from Gallwey. The goal is to say "bounce" when the ball bounces on your side and "hit" when you hit it. This requires you to focus really well on the ball and the moments of impact. Hence no other disturbing thoughts enter your consciousness.

It's also one of the best drills for beginners since their biggest problem is not technique but judging the ball. When they focus on bounce-hit their brain gets the fullest and clearest information about ball flight which they store and accumulate.

An advanced version of this drill is to listen to the sound of the ball hitting the ground and the player's racquet. He can then compare the timing of the sound of his own voice with that of the ball.

Up-top-down

The player attempts to discern whether the ball is rising (up), is at the top (top) of the bounce, or is falling (down) at the moment of contact.

Spin

The goal here is that the player looks for the axis around which the ball is spinning after the bounce. Most players see the ball spinning but when you try and deterrmine the axis you become really absorbed in the ball. Advanced version requires the player to see the axis of the spin before the ball bounces.


Shadow

In most cases the lighting comes from above – sun, lights. So the ball is a little darker on the bottom part. The playes tries to notice this shadow in the bottom part.


Sound and feel

The player focuses on the sound of hitting the ball and "looks" for the sound which happens when the ball hits the middle of the racquet. With the exception of total beginners, players usually know how this sounds. And they also know the feel.

When a player decides that he wants the sound and feel of the sweet spot hit, the body automatically starts to adjust. It's hard to describe how this happens, but it works extremely well, especially when you practice serves.

This drill also shows the player that he can trust his body (Self 2) and that learning and improvement happen without his conscious activity (Self 1).

Mark the spot

Players are often so overburdened with correct technique and proper form that they are not really aware of what happened with the shot. They do notice whether the ball was in or out but not how much they missed. But technique is not worth any extra points in tennis. It is important when you watch figure skating, but not when you watch tennis. Only shots in the court count. Obviously there needs to be some technique introduction, but the fine automatization happens when players try to hit targets.

The goal of the drill is to see where the ball landed. If it landed 4 feet short, that's -4. If the ball landed 10 feet long, that's +10. So the player calls out the numbers and the coach helps him with feedback. Most players are not very good at the beginning of this drill precisely because they don't pay attention to these margins. But this is crucial information for Self 2 to be able to adapt even better.

This drill is also very good for beginners. They are very concerned with correct technique too (maybe the coaches have something to do with it?) and they believe that if they produce the correct movement, the ball will go in. But that's far from the truth. Tennis is based on feel, not correct strokes. And so marking the spot immediately gives them feedback on their feel and how they can adjust it.

This drill works on the same principle as the demonstration with the ball throw in the Inner Game introduction section. The player just needs to see what happened and trust his body to make the adjustment.

Height

This is very similar to the previous drill and here the player calls out the number of feet for each ball that passes over the net. Many players are aware only of direction when they play. They know that they want to hit right but they are not aware that they need to play above the net. Funny as it may sound, it's true. They just hit the ball in a straight line to the other side and most of the times the ball lands in the net. Tennis is played in arcs!

The advanced version of this drill is my favourite inner game drill. The goal of the player is to match the height of each shot that comes towards him. Since every shot has a different height albeit with only small differences, this becomes very interesting to the mind (Self 1). Even beginners become totally absorbed in this drill and quickly realize that there is another part of the brain (Self 2) doing the corrections. They gain trust into the body's abilities.

There are of course many more Inner Game Tennis Drills which are more suited for specific situations. Their goal is to increase body awareness, letting go of overtightness, letting go of self-image and strengthening the will to win.

I'd be happy to publish any of your drills that you may have discovered during your tennis journey. Feel free to contact me and share your "inner game" drill.




 

 



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