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I never thought I would be able to catch a ball with ease and confidence. At school it was always too difficult, there were lots of people better than me and my eye sight didn’t help. I was part of a swimming club but never really managed any sports involving teams or balls.

When Tim Gallwey asked for a volunteer at the recent “Inner Game” workshop I attended in the UK, I was there like a shot.

Tim Gallwey and his seminal work “The Inner Game of Tennis” had been a big influence on my coaching journey. His was one of the recommended books for the ILM coaching qualification we ran for Southern Railway.

We used Tim’s work to teach that it is the job of the coach to ask the coachee what they are noticing (about how they catch the ball, engage with a customer or handle a team meeting etc), not to give advice or say what to do.

Back to the workshop. I climbed over the desks to get to the front. We started playing catch with a tennis ball, to and fro. It’s a strange feeling doing something with someone you have admired from afar for a long time!

It was a real eye opener. This is what I noticed. For me, it wasn’t about catching a ball at all. It was about the quality of connection with the ball thrower. The sense of connection I felt with Tim was almost visceral. It felt “us”. Time slowed down around me. I felt myself moving my whole body to catch the ball, not just reaching out with my hands. My knees bent, I lent forwards and it all went much better than ever before. It worked!

Then, another really surprising thing happened. From deep within my memory banks popped up my recollection of a teacher from primary school. Her name was Miss Da Silva (we used to call her Mr Silver –  we thought we were so funny!).

Miss Da Silva, with I imagine the most positive intention ever for me, did not want me to play netball. Why? I wore glasses. Her own story was that she had become blind in one eye as a result of a ball hitting her in the face and glass entering her eye. She didn’t want the same for me.

Even aged nine, I didn’t think her reasoning quite made sense. My glasses were made of plastic. Things move on, I guess. Her fears for me were real though, and she was very persuasive.

And so, I stopped playing netball. The negative story I told myself about my skills and abilities became complete.

My lesson from my recent experience with Tim is two fold:

  1. I can catch a ball. My insight was I need to feel connected with the other person. What you need may be different, as you know, we are all unique.
  2. We may not always be aware how historic beliefs can hold us back. I was taken by surprise, but really glad to become aware of my history. This gives me choice for my future.

Does my story resonate with you?

Are there things you think you can’t do, which may be true, but also, may not?

It would be great to hear your story too!

You can also find more resources about the Inner Game here:


Gill How has a passion for Leadership Development, is a National Training Award Winner and a Master Executive Coach.  She loves to work with leaders, managers and professionals, to develop their awareness and skills, to enhance their work with their teams, their performance and results. If she can add value to your team, whether you are an L&D Director in an ambitious organisation, or a Leadership Development consultancy needing another high calibre associate in your team, get in touch.


Thank you to for organising the conference – greatly appreciated, and to Paul Z Jackson for bringing it to my attention.


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Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

Gill How

Helping leaders grow, step up and deliver outstanding results

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