Asking for Awareness, NOT Analysis.
In response to being asked an awareness-raising question, children will sometimes answer from analysis – thinking about what they should or shouldn’t have done. For example, they might say, ‘I think I should have got lower before I shot’ or ‘Next time I am going to make sure I keep extend my arm up.’ These responses tell us that the children are trying hard to achieve something they have been told in the past will help them.
This is not awareness. Awareness is about current reality and noticing something in the moment. As a coach or ‘awareness-raiser’, it is important that we are able to notice when this happens and to help the child to answer from awareness by asking them again for their experience.
For example, we might say, ‘What I am really interested in is your experience when you make these next few hoops or run this next 100 metres. I am interested in anything that you become aware of, or notice when you….’
Tim Gallwey, founder of the Inner Game, noticed how these ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ interfered with our ability to learn and change and bought his ideas to the forefront of modern sports psychology. He realised that his well-intentioned instructions and evaluations were being internalised by his students. Typically, they would tell themselves on the inside what they should be doing which led to over-control and tension.
Conversely, he also noticed that when he said less and his players let go and trusted more in their natural capacity to learn, that there were quite often huge increases in their learning and performance.
To encourage natural learning and to reduce these internal interferences, he adopted the process of non-judgemental awareness, which had the effect of diminishing self-doubt, fear and mistrust within his players by helping them to focus on current reality.
In the clip below, a tennis player is describing what she thinks she should do to achieve success on her serve. She talks about using her hips more instead of what she is noticing – her shoulder coming forwards too early in the swing.
‘Awareness is curative and if we can help someone
to focus their attention on what they are noticing,
the body’s innate intelligence has a fantastic way of self-correcting
and producing natural changes that are efficient and sustainable.’ – John Whitmore.
As an ‘awareness-raiser’, my job was to help her to focus her attention on what she was noticing. I did this by asking her, ‘When do you notice your shoulder coming forwards?’
Click on the link below to see this clip.
Sometimes, a question like this, which seems so simple, is all that is needed for someone to make a more natural and permanent change to their technique.
You may also notice in the clip how the player is given more time to allow their moment of self-discovery.
This takes a certain amount of discipline from the coach and some of you will find it easier than others.