ISSA Street Soccer Training – The Inner Game
‘In the flow… your potential revealed’
Can you think of a time when you did a combination of tricks so well you dazzled yourself and your street soccer mates? Hopefully you managed to get it onto the ISSA YouTube channel too. As you remember this experience of playing to your potential –
- Where was your attention?
- Were you thinking much?
- How hard were you trying?
- What emotions were you feeling?
- How relaxed were you?
The chances are that your attention was very focussed in the moment, to the point where you became unaware of much of the external environment. You probably weren’t thinking too much and if you were it was simple task-based thinking, no further than necessary into the future and probably not in the past at all. The voice in your head had taken a time out. Trying? What trying? Odds-on you were enjoying the moment and at ease mentally and physically – just enough dynamic tension to dazzle and no more. And feeling quite detached and unconcerned yet confident in your ability.
‘In the way… Interference’
Now remember a time when things didn’t go so well. Have a look at what got in the way. Maybe someone turned up to watch and you noticed them out of the corner or your eye. Perhaps you started trying too hard. Did your internal dialogue kick off in a big way? Did you feel tense and uncoordinated? Were you feeling anxious about being judged? Were you thinking about what people might say if you pull this move off really well? Or were you wondering how they might rip you to pieces if you screw up?
‘Where there’s an outer game, there’s an inner game…’
So there’s an outer game played against the other team or the Panna opponent and there’s an inner game played against the things that get in the way inside our minds. Tim Gallwey, the originator of the Inner Game concept, put it really simply this way:
p (your performance) = P (your potential) – i (your interference)
Tim wrote The Inner Game of Tennis back in the 1970’s which rapidly became an international best seller. Because the Inner Game is played in our minds, it follows that it doesn’t matter what outer endeavour we might be involved in, there’s always going to be an inner game going on. Hence the stream of Inner Game books that followed – Golf, Skiing, Music, Work and, most recently, The Inner Game of Stress which brings together a handful of the most useful generic Inner Game tools for readers to carry with them 24/7 and help steer a smoother path through any challenging situation that they might encounter in their lives.
‘Who’s talking to who?’
Interference can get in the way when we’re learning as well as when we’re performing. Tim first developed the Inner Game principles when he noticed the interference in his tennis students, especially the internal dialogue which sometimes broke through the surface as audible self-criticism or less than helpful self-instruction. To his horror, he realised that at least some of this interference was caused by a coaching comment he had made himself.
To help explain what he was seeing, he coined the terms Self 1 (the voice doing the talking) and Self 2 (the part of the mind-body system responsible for performance – the one with all the potential and the one who is being talked to inside our heads). It became obvious that when Self 1 got out of control, Self 2 was not able to learn or perform easily and invariably a downward spiral of interference and lowering self-esteem went hand-in-hand with a growing number of mistakes.
‘If interference is the problem, what’s the solution?’
So Tim began experimenting with his teaching style. His genius insight was to able to put his discoveries into a simple framework from which all the subsequent Inner Game tools would be derived. A common denominator of effective learning and performance.
The solution consisted of just three major ingredients:
When Tim was able to help his students to focus their attention in a non-judgemental way, learning happened naturally and easily as Self 2 got on with the job unimpeded. Often simple directing of awareness would solve technical problems without any specific technical instruction. Tim found that the more he could convey trust in his student’s ability and the more they began to trust their own potential, the less interference there was. Allowing the student to choose the direction of learning helped them to focus better, because focus naturally follows interest. Increasing choice also had a positive effect on their self-esteem because they were responsible for the learning.
Each of the three ingredients resulted in a quieter Self 1. Working together, the results sometimes seemed magical as the interference gave way to the innate and awesome ability of Self 2.
‘So is Panna really one-on-one?’
When you become aware of the opponent inside your head, you can see that there’s invariably more than one opponent to deal with, even when there’s only two of you playing the outer game of Panna. The question is, how are you going to play your Inner Game? Play it well and there’s no doubt there will be more dazzling tricks to post on YouTube.
Teach it well and you’ll be allowing your students’ innate genius to grow in fertile soil.