Have you ever wondered why some players are great during practice, but are not able to perform well at competitions or high-stake moments? Well as you probably have guessed the answer is nerves and tension. Doubts and pressure lead to tension, and tension restricts your organic game flow and results in poor performance. Tension is your worst enemy in petanque and in life.
The good news is that there is an antidote to tension and it is extension. Extension is the key element that leads to maximizing the power potential stored in your body and helps eliminate the detrimental effects of performance anxiety.
Ball on a String
Think of the swing motion of your arm as a ball on a string, a pendulum, anchored solidly in the center by your shoulder. Imagine the ball in a neutral position hanging straight down and with its weight causing the string to be perfectly extended. Compare this to yourself standing in the circle, relaxing your arm, and allowing the weight of the boule to weigh down your arm into a straight line. The extension you feel in your arm is the action potential of the boule. Bending your arm or the string would require extra force, and is to be avoided to harness the full power created by the weight of the boule. Now let’s put that power to use.
Imagine taking the ball (boule) at the bottom of the string (your arm) and pulling it back without causing the string (your arm) to bend. The only way you can do this is by pulling the ball away from the anchored center point (your shoulder) while moving it backwards in a circular path until the string is parallel to the horizon. Think of this process as your backswing.
As the ball travels further up the circular arc against the pull of gravity more and more action potential is added. At the moment the ball is pulled back to the horizon line there is a significant amount of power ready to be unleashed by the sheer power of gravity.
If you were to let go of the ball at the tip of the pull back, the ball would travel back down along the same circular path past the original starting position towards the horizon point at the front spectrum of the swing without requiring any extra power.
If at the moment of the pull back the string (your arm) is bent, or if the anchor point (the shoulder) moves up or down, the swing will not move swiftly and effortlessly along the same circular path by the sheer force of gravity, and that natural momentum will not be fully actualized. So remember to maintain a steady shoulder and allow the pull created by the weight of the boule to completely extend your arm and shoulder muscles throughout the swing motion.
Watch Dylan Rocher in this shooting performance. While Dylan can use a bit more stability, the string quality extension of his arm exemplify a high epitome of the ball on a string concept. He harnesses the power of his height and the length of his arms by extending and letting his arm effortlessly flow along the circular path of the swing. He is exerting minimal effort while achieving excellent results.
Extension is at the core of effortless gameplay. As you begin to let go of the tension in your arm and become the string, you will begin to harness the power of gravity and eliminate all unnecessary force from your swing. So when you are in the circle about to make that game winning shot, first remember to breathe, relax, let go of the tension in your arm, and allow the boule to lead the way.
In Part II of the Effortless Gameplay series we will carry the intention of your shot into reality with the hidden power of the followthrough.