Say it out loud

Using 70s sports psychology to help your learning

Dave Thomas tells a story about inner tennis on Code Newbie podcast appearance. Its at 12:55 if you want to hear him tell the story.

Inner tennis was a system built in 70s by Tim Gallwey to train tennis players. From Tim’s website,

I then began to explore ways to focus the mind of the player on direct and non-judgmental observation of ball, body, and racquet in a way that would heighten learning, performance, and enjoyment of the process.

One of the methods was to put a chair in the middle of the court. Students did not aim for the chair, but instead describe where each shot landed in relation to the chair. This forced the students to pay attention to where their shots went. Their brain connects the movement of their body and racket with the instantaneous feedback. Repeat this hundreds of time and you gain accuracy.

Being aware, and vocalising the results of your actions force you to observe the results. Its easy to go out and hit a 1000 tennis balls, but without feedback you may just end up with sore hands and minor improvements.

Similarly with coding. Its so easy to get into the fail a test fix some code pass a test cycle. You start to mindlessly try solutions and fix things without knowing how or why it worked.

This non-judgemental observation allows us to objectively view that each action produces a certain result without the ego getting in the way. As I’ve talked about before error messages are wonderful, they help us fix it. Error messages are not a judgement of us as developers. Its hard to remember this.

This is why pairing can be so good and why my testing game is something I need to go back to.

Tomorrow its all about saying out loud what you’re doing and why. Giving the brain that immediate feedback each time you do anything so it can learn.

Makers Academy Week4 Day2