Focus, Rhythm, and Pickleball

In 1974, nearly 50 years ago, a man named Timothy Gallwey first published “The Inner Game of Tennis.” Am sure if pickleball had been enjoying its current popularity, there would have also been a book titled “The Inner Game of Pickleball.” What would that book have contained to help your game improve? Here are a few of the highlights of his celebratory book and how they can help you play better pickleball.

HIGHLIGHT #1 SELF-TALK: Pickleball (and life) always has an inner and outer conversation that we can have with ourselves. Externally, we become concerned about our appearance, our performance, and the results of play; namely, whether we win or lose. Paradoxically to the tension of competition, tapping into our inner selves is intrinsically peaceful and calming, and yields better external results.

HIGHLIGHT #2 TRUST: The best performers in sports and in life trust themselves. Timothy Gallwey identified what appears to be a Buddhist or Hindu sourced concept of Self 1 AND Self 2, with Self 1 being the external material ego-driven self who is concerned with winning and losing (result driven). Self 2, he explained, is the internal observer who alone is capable of being fully present to enjoy the free and relaxed process driven experience of living and performing more optimally, as opposed to being primarily concerned with results and recognition. It is important to know that how our two selves interact decides how we perform externally. In order words, for our performance to flow effortlessly, we must calm Self 1 and have faith in Self 2.

HIGHLIGHT #3 FOCUS: We know that the mind averages about 6,000 thoughts a day. This fact causes innumerable distractions for us, regardless of whether we are speaking with a loved one, driving a car, or playing an important pickleball match! The “Inner Game” system offers rhythm-based exercises to help us focus. Here’s the classic exercise from Timothy Gallwey’s Inner Game. Just call out “BOUNCE” when the ball bounces on each side of the net and “HIT” each time the ball is struck by the paddle (yours and your opponent’s). Remember that you are calling this out quietly to yourself, but loud enough for you to hear. Do it in practice to start and observe if you are hitting the ball more cleanly, effortlessly, and proficiently. And, remember to allow yourself to let this exercise put a smile on your face for the fastest success!