Be better than the ball

It all starts with one basic skill… The human bodies ability to adapt and evolve.

It is this natural ability that is harnessed and exposed in the world of sport. For a lot of people this starts at a young age. We are like sponges absorbing the workings of the world around us. Our brain is constantly making calculations and assumptions about our immediate environment as we live our lives. It is within this space that our abilities to be great at certain things evolve and grow. It is within this space we learn to react and respond…

As a young boy I spent countless hours outdoors, playing games with friends and engaging in all sorts of activities that unknowingly tought me valuable skills. We were constantly occupied with rolling marbles, riding skateboards, throwing tennis balls at each other and playing back yard cricket. Only years later did I realise what this has taught me.

In the same way that a person can become fit by exercising, every time pushing a little bit further so that your body gets stronger and that little bit better than it was before, we can train our brain when it comes to ball skills and coordination. If you do something long enough or enough times it becomes easy, just like everything else.

If you have thrown enough balls at a target you start to get the feeling that the ball becomes an extension of your own physical being. You pick up a ball and immediately notice its weight, its texture, size, its ability to hold its momentum and the possible way it will behave in the air. After this split second summary of brain calculations you start to focus on the target. How far is it, how big is it, what is it made of and will it move. If it moves, what is its possible next move, direction and speed. Then you become aware of your surroundings, is there a wind blowing or some external factor that will influence the trajectory of the path between the ball and the target. Hundreds of calculations that your brain runs through in a split second. Then, you throw… Immediately you start to learn as you see the ball move. You observe its path towards the target and you focus on where it is going to hit. You see it miss the target and immediately know how to correct it the next time you throw the ball. Aim a little more left, the wind took it a little bit off course and the texture of the ball made it slip in your fingers.

It is amazing how we adapt and evolve each time we throw a ball. By doing this over and over again we start te become better. We get to a point where we seemingly do not think about our action anymore but merely focus on the target. You have learnt to trust your muscles and your calculations. This is where you enter a world of coordination, ball skill and confidence. This is where you start to fine tune your abilities. This is where you start to become consistently good…

Getting to this point is easier than you think. If you want to play tennis, take a tennis ball with you wherever you go. Feel the texture, bounce it off a surface and observe how it responds and move. By doing this you already calculate how the ball will react in certain situations. By the time you get to the tennis court, your brain has the information it needs to calculate what the ball will do and how it will most likely move. In this case the ball is the target when you swing at it with a racquet. You will find that you will hit the ball more often than not.

These principles apply to a lot of sport activities. Playing golf? Bounce a golf ball off a surface and observe how bouncy and hard it is. Do this a lot of times repeatedly. Try and spin the ball with your hand, try different surfaces, try different angles. catch it everytime you throw it. This will enable you to better understand how the ball will react when it comes in to contact with the club face of your driver. You help your brain to pre calculate a lot of the physics without hitting a single golf ball. Because of this you will not be overloaded with information when swinging the club. You can focus on your swing. You already know enough about the ball to know what it will do.

The same principle applies to many different sporting activities. If you spend enough time observing how things move and interact with the elements around it, you will soon see that you become better and better at interacting with these object as well.

It builds confidence and without realizing it prepares your reactions and coordination by familiarizing your decision-making process with the task at hand.

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