Inner Game Drills: Developing Trust
To reach high-level performance, athletes spend the majority of their time in practice/training related activities. Yet quantity alone is not a guarantee of success or even improvement. The quality and relevance of practice regimens to the specific needs of competition is the defining criteria of preparation for athletes and teams. Full performance preparation must include conditioning athletes to quiet their judging minds, utilize total awareness, and trust their games.
An unbalanced reliance on external feedback from the coach can stall the learning process when athletes lose connection to their own internal feedback systems. This is not to say that proper technique and coaching are not important, rather there must be balanced attention towards practicing trust and accessing the athlete’s internal feedback system. These two categories, (technique and instruction) and (trust and self-awareness) represent both the outer and inner game of an athlete’s practice.
In today’s age of technology with high-speed video, 3D analysis, launch monitors, etc., we are able to detect the minutest flaws and suggest a fix—and in a short amount of time. Even with all this, the player frequently finds it difficult to put the club on the ball squarely and consistently. Somehow, there seems to be a block or disconnect in the system, interrupting the free flowing movement that is apparent when things are going well. A player could be doing their drills, working on the right stuff, and even thinking well and yet…(David Leadbetter)
Through the inner-game drills you’ll learn to trust your swing, play more fully in your imaginative mind, and swing automatically. You will feel your inner game strengthening almost immediately.
If you’re overly concerned with adhering to the structure of what a good swing should look like, you’ll rob yourself of the freedom and creativity that allow you to relax and make a free-flowing, rhythmic swing.
For you to hit your best shots with total trust, the club head must flow smoothly, nonstop, from the start of the forward swing to the top of the finish, without the slightest hesitation, interruption, surge, jerk, or pull.
By focusing on swinging tension-free you eliminate the mechanical-swing thoughts that rob players of trust and rhythm.
You’ll get to know, kinesthetically, where the club head is at all times, and you’ll become more accustomed to the feel of the shot.
Inner Game Drills
Inner game drills are designed to develop internal feedback That’s the information golfers receive from what they see and feel during their swings. External feedback from the coach is withheld as internal feedback strengthens.
The Tension-free Drill
The tension-free drill is best done with a partner, but you can easily do it on your own. One golfer hits five shots from the practice tee. After each shot, the golfer who hit the ball tells his partner, who is acting as the coach, how much tension he felt in his swing. Choosing a number from a scale of one to ten does this — with the number one indicating a tension-filled swing and the number ten, a tension-free one
If this is a two-player drill, the golfer who is watching should be careful not to judge – by compliment or criticism – any shot made by the hitting partner
This drill works even if you don’t have a partner. It’s a matter of disciplining yourself not to judge your shot or think about mechanics. No matter how you hit your previous shot, you should strive to remain in the present, concentrating on allowing a tension-free swing on your next shot
Low Energy and Full Release
Take a club – let’s say a five iron – and aim at a target that is about 75 percent of your normal five-iron distance. Take a full swing, making sure you finish the swing completely. It should appear as though you have just made a full swing in slow motion.
The drill is designed to allow the player to experiment with gauging the correct rhythm and tempo that allow the swing to come in on the beat and keep the ball on line. Even higher-handicap players eventually discover the swing synchronization that will send the ball on target.
Try, for example, hitting a driver only 100 yards with a full swing. Most players think they’ve throttled it down, and they still hit it 200 yards or more. Some higher handicappers are amazed at how far the ball goes with such little apparent effort.
Take your stance with your eyes open, then just before taking the club away from the ball, close your eyes. This routine is structured to generate internal feedback that will link you directly to the feel of your swing as well as an imagined target. By shutting your eyes only at impact, it still forces you to trust your swing, and you’ll get clearer and more precise internal feedback about how the club head feels as it passes through the impact zone. Try both version of the drill.
Target Retention and the Imaginative Eye
The idea is for you to picture a target – let’s say, a yellow flag 150 yards away and/or the shape of the shot — and hit whatever club gets you there. You should focus on the target and imagine exactly where you want the ball to land.
Throughout the swing – from the takeaway to the top of the backswing and down through the impact zone — the image of your ball landing on an exact spot should remain foremost in your imaginative mind. When you finish your swing, look up and focus on the spot you have chosen. This method of target-focus practice is an initial step toward inclusion of target retention in your pre-shot routine and during your swing.
Let it Go!
Arrange five balls in a row so you can hit them in quick succession. The idea is to hit one shot, then immediately set up and hit the next one. You should come to a stop and address each shot before taking the next swing.
Because the swings are in rapid succession, there is little time to judge your previous shot or to allow conscious-swing thoughts to intrude. It’s great fun with a driver, although it usually works well with any club.
Breathe and swing!
Assume your address position with your abbreviated routine, and as you take your last look at the target, inhale and then exhale as your eyes come back to the ball. Then swing! The breath does two things: it brings you back to the present and relieves stress. Make sure the breath inhale/exhale takes about 6 seconds. It’s a significant breath. Experiment with the timing of the breath and eventually it will become automatic.