The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

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Overview

Master your game from the inside out!

With more than 800,000 copies sold since it was first published thirty years ago, this phenomenally successful guide has become a touchstone for hundreds of thousands of people. Not just for tennis players, or even just for athletes in general, this handbook works for anybody who wants to improve his or her performance in any activity, from playing music to getting ahead at work. W. Timothy Gallwey, a leading innovator in sports psychology, reveals how to

• focus your mind to overcome nervousness, self-doubt, and distractions
• find the state of “relaxed concentration” that allows you to play at your best
• build skills by smart practice, then put it all together in match play

Whether you're a beginner or a pro, Gallwey's engaging voice, clear examples, and illuminating anecdotes will give you the tools you need to succeed.

“Introduced to The Inner Game of Tennis as a graduate student years ago, I recognized the obvious benefits of [W. Timothy] Gallwey's teachings. . . . Whether we are preparing for an inter-squad scrimmage or the National Championship Game, these principles lie at the foundation of our program.”—from the Foreword by Pete Carroll

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307758859
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/30/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 79,597
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

W. Timothy Gallwey has produced a series of bestselling Inner Game books, which set forth a new methodology for the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields. For many years, Gallwey has been introducing the Inner Game approach to corporations looking for better ways to manage change.

Read an Excerpt

chapter one

Reflections on the  Mental Side of Tennis

The problems which most perplex tennis players are not those dealing with the proper way to swing a racket. Books and professionals giving this information abound. Nor do most players complain excessively about physical limitations. The most common complaint of sportsmen ringing down the corridors of the ages is, “It’s not that I don’t know what to do, it’s that I don’t do what I know!” Other common complaints that come constantly to the attention of the tennis pro:

I play better in practice than during the match.

I know exactly what I’m doing wrong on my forehand, I just can’t seem to break the habit.

When I’m really trying hard to do the stroke the way it says to in the book, I flub the shot every time. When I concentrate on one thing I’m supposed to be doing, I forget something else.

Every time I get near match point against a good player, I get so nervous I lose my concentration.
I’m my own worst enemy; I usually beat myself.

Most players of any sport run into these or similar difficulties frequently, but it is not so easy to gain practical insight into how to deal with them. The player is often left with such warmed-over aphorisms as “Well, tennis is a very psychological game, and you have to develop the proper mental attitudes” or “You have to be confident and possess the will to win or else you’ll always be a loser.” But how can one “be confident” or develop the “proper mental attitudes”? These questions are usually left unanswered.

So there seems to be room for comment on the improvement of the mental processes which translate technical information about how to hit a ball into effective action. How to develop the inner skills, without which high performance is impossible, is the subject of The Inner Game of Tennis.

The Typical Tennis Lesson

Imagine what goes on inside the head of an eager student taking a lesson from an equally eager new tennis pro. Suppose that the student is a middle-aged businessman bent on improving his position on the club ladder. The pro is standing at the net with a large basket of balls, and being a bit uncertain whether his student is considering him worth the lesson fee, he is carefully evaluating every shot. “That’s good, but you’re rolling your racket face over a little on your follow-through, Mr. Weil. Now shift your weight onto your front foot as you step into the ball . . . Now you’re taking your racket back too late . . . Your backswing should be a little lower than on that last shot . . . That’s it, much better.” Before long, Mr. Weil’s mind is churning with six thoughts about what he should be doing and sixteen thoughts about what he shouldn’t be doing. Improvement seems dubious and very complex, but both he and the pro are impressed by the careful analysis of each stroke and the fee is gladly paid upon receipt of the advice to “practice all this, and eventually you’ll see a big improvement.”

I too admit to overteaching as a new pro, but one day when I was in a relaxed mood, I began saying less and noticing more. To my surprise, errors that I saw but didn’t mention were correcting themselves without the student ever knowing he had made them. How were the changes happening? Though I found this interesting, it was a little hard on my ego, which didn’t quite see how it was going to get its due credit for the improvements being made. It was an even greater blow when I realized that sometimes my verbal instructions seemed to decrease the probability of the desired correction occurring.

All teaching pros know what I’m talking about. They all have students like one of mine named Dorothy. I would give Dorothy a gentle, low-pressured instruction like, “Why don’t you try lifting the follow-through up from your waist to the level of your shoulder? The topspin will keep the ball in the court.” Sure enough, Dorothy would try hard to follow my instructions. The muscles would tense around her mouth; her eyebrows would set in a determined frown; the muscles in her forearm would tighten, making fluidity impossible; and the follow-through would end only a few inches higher. At this point, the stock response of the patient pro is, “That’s better, Dorothy, but relax, don’t try so hard!” The advice is good as far as it goes, but Dorothy does not understand how to “relax” while also trying hard to hit the ball correctly.

Why should Dorothy—or you or I—experience an awkward tightening when performing a desired action which is not physically difficult? What happens inside the head between the time the instruction is given and the swing is complete? The first glimmer of an answer to this key question came to me at a moment of rare insight after a lesson with Dorothy: “Whatever’s going on in her head, it’s too damn much! She’s trying so hard to swing the racket the way I told her that she can’t focus on the ball.” Then and there, I promised myself I would cut down on the quantity of verbal instructions.

My next lesson that day was with a beginner named Paul who had never held a racket. I was determined to show him how to play using as few instructions as possible; I’d try to keep his mind uncluttered and see if it made a difference. So I started by telling Paul I was trying something new: I was going to skip entirely my usual explanations to beginning players about the proper grip, stroke and footwork for the basic forehand. Instead, I was going to hit ten forehands myself, and I wanted him to watch carefully, not thinking about what I was doing, but simply trying to grasp a visual image of the forehand. He was to repeat the image in his mind several times and then just let his body imitate. After I had hit ten forehands, Paul imagined himself doing the same. Then, as I put the racket into his hand, sliding it into the correct grip, he said to me, “I noticed that the first thing you did was to move your feet.” I replied with a noncommittal grunt and asked him to let his body imitate the forehand as well as it could. He dropped the ball, took a perfect backswing, swung forward, racket level, and with natural fluidity ended the swing at shoulder height, perfect for his first attempt! But wait, his feet; they hadn’t moved an inch from the perfect ready position he had assumed before taking his racket back. They were nailed to the court. I pointed to them, and Paul said, “Oh yeah, I forgot about them!” The one element of the stroke Paul had tried to remember was the one thing he didn’t do! Everything else had been absorbed and reproduced without a word being uttered or an instruction being given!

I was beginning to learn what all good pros and students of tennis must learn: that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results. One question perplexed me: What’s wrong with trying? What does it mean to try too hard?

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The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As most people can guess by the title, the "inner game" of tennis is the game that takes place iin the mind of the player and is played against barriers such as nervousness, self-doubt, etc.

To gain clarity on the mental problems in tennis, the book looks at the concepts of "Self 1" and "Self 2". Self 1 is the name that is given to the conscious ego-mind which likes the tell Self 2, you and your potential, how to hit the ball and play the game. Or, to put it another way, Self 1 is the "teller" and Self 2 the "doer". I found this to be an interesting idea, as we have all caught ourselves talking to ourselves or have seen others talking to themselves during a game. If you ask someone who they are talking to, they will usually say "I'm talking to myself." This, of course, implies that there are 2 "selves", "I" and "myself"- and so is born the idea of Self 1 and Self 2. Pretty astutue observation in my opinion.

Now according to the book, to achieve peak performance, the key is to resolve any lack of harmony between the two selves, as it is the contrary thinking of Self 1 which causes interference with the natural abilities of Self 2. This requires the learning of several inner skills, such as the art of letting go of self-judgements, letting Self 2 do the hitting, recognizing and trusting the natural learning process, and so on- which is what much of the books spends discussing.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who plays tennis (or any other sport for that matter) as it does a great job in dealing with the fact that many of our difficulties in tennis are indeed mental in origin. Other helpful books for tennis players I've come across include Treat Your Own Rotator Cuff.
David_Mc51 More than 1 year ago
As a new tennis player at 53, this book did more to improve my game than anything. It really puts the inner mind game to rest. The author makes the process very uncomplicted and it makes the reader wonder why no one has ever explained this game in this perspective before. I recommend it to other players who are just starting and to those who keep repeating the same mistakes over and over and then are frustrated that they know what the fix is but, they don't do it. I have now gone through several league games and practice sessions after reading the book over a few times and I have enjoyed my time on the court far more without beating myself up with, "Why can't I hit that shot? I know how to do that." I think every tennis player regardless of skill level should add this to their library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't play tennis, but I do enjoy sports, and I find the process of learning new skills fascinating. This book greatly influenced my own understanding of how I learn, and it has helped me improve my aid to others who are learning a new skill. The relevance of the book goes far beyond tennis... anyone who teaches young children, who is learning or teaching any type of physical skill, or who simply wants a user-friendly insight into physical learning would benefit from this book.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Self #2, please let self #1 play.
mkstansbery on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Though I read it many, many, many years ago, its premise has applied well in tennis, in learning dance choreography, basketball, Tae Kwon Do and even interviewing! It's true, our subconscious sometimes doesn't know the difference between actually doing something and rehearsing in our minds. This is an effective tool and technique applicable in many areas of life. I'm rating from memory, of course, as it has been probably 20 or more years since my first reading of this book, but its premise remains within my arsenal of life techniques and winning strategies.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great learning experience and has helped my tennis game as well as general life experiences tremendously!
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K_C_K More than 1 year ago
The best sports psychology book that can be applied to all sports, business, artwork, horse training and any other competetive situations. It's great to have it read to you on an audiobook!
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Bowling-QueenKW More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that this book was recommended to me to help with my bowling even though it says tennis on the cover. This book really explains how your mind can take control of what your body already knew how to do and ruin a perfectly good game. Excellent!
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