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

ISBN: 0679778314
ISBN 13: 9780679778318
By: W. Timothy Gallwey Zach Kleinman Pete Carroll

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The Inner Game of Tennis is a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. Now available in a revised paperback edition, this classic bestseller can change the way the game of tennis is played.

Reader's Thoughts

George Roper

Through observations and personal experience the author concludes that to maximize our potential for learning and consequently performance we need to tame our ego-mind and place more trust in our other self... or our inner child. No scientific data is offered to support the author's conclusion; instead anecdotes and personal testimony are employed to make the case that our ego minds often interfere with our ability to have a clear focused concentration on any task before us (the here and now). Practical tips are provided on how to tame the ego-mind. Altogether a truly "goodread" which has application beyond the realm of tennis.

Paul Darcy

by Timothy Gallwey, published in 1974.As the title of this book suggests it deals with, mainly but not entirely, with the game of tennis and what goes on inside your mind during the tennis game as opposed to the physical aspects of hitting the ball.That is not to say that Timothy Gallwey does not give practical advice on stroke production - one chapter deals specifically with that - but rather he outlines a philosophy taken from the yogi about how to deal with mind and body during the tennis game.He breaks the player into two distinct parts, and with this I must agree. He calls them Self 1 and Self 2 where Self 1 is the controller and Self 2 is the doer. By this Gallwey means that Self 1 tells the body what to do and Self 2 is the body itself - hit it down the line - stop serving like a jerk - lower the racket, etc says Self 1 to Self 2.What he goes on to explain is that, in almost all cases, Self 1 screws up the natural abilities of Self 2 by trying to control the body into making shots. When we try too hard, or let Self 1 tell Self 2 what to do, it usually ends in ruin. He goes to great length to describe why this should be and does a good job of it. One great example he gives is that we did not learn to walk from verbal explanations, being told how to do it - our bodies just learned how to do it. Such a simple idea but so true.And so it should be with tennis as well. I think he has a point, a very good point.Having been playing tennis myself for over thirty years now and once being rated a 6.0 (almost good enough for the pro circuit), I could totally relate to all the things he writes about and how we can sabotage ourselves by giving advice to ourselves about stroke production during a match.He did have one very interesting bit of information which bears repeating. The act of positive thinking is just as devastating as the inner critic doling out negative comments. Neat idea, and pretty accurate. You see, he says that if you tell yourself you are a great player, or that shot was damn amazing, he postulates then that there can be no “good” shots unless there must also be “bad” shots and therefore we are judging ourselves on the court.He also adds that all shots are neither “good” nor “bad” but that they just are and it would do our tennis game a world of good to observe how we hear, feel and see the tennis ball and that the body, our wonderful body, knows through observation and repetition what to do and does not need interference from Self 1.How very true. I know from experience what he writes about and he writes a lot about concentration in the later chapters. Once you are concentrating and not directing your shots, you will find that your body does indeed know what to do, how to hit the volley, or the backhand, or the serve. All Self 1 need do is be an observer and say things like - hit the serve to my opponents backhand - then let Self 2 do it. If you have reached a high enough level of tennis you will find (believe me it works) that this is all you need do and Self 2 then serves where you asked it to. Pretty neat and it really does work.So, what can ultimately be gained from reading this book? The message, and ask any yogi if you like, is just to “let” your body learn and do tennis without a lot of directions.One last interesting bit of information. If you can get hold of some tennis footage (you can buy matches now on DVD) of your favourite pro and just watch him/her hitting the ball, you will find this a great way to learn how to hit those strokes yourself. I kid you not. I spent a lot of time watching McEnroe hit the ball and believe me your body can reproduce, through lots of practice, what it sees.A good short book for tennis players and how to approach the game like a yogi, but you don’t need to only apply this philosophy to the courts for it can come in handy with pretty much any aspect of your life.


I don't play tennis. But now I don't have to because I have locked down the inner game.This book isn't really about tennis, it's about wu wei. Flow. The zone. Being "unconscious." It's about silencing the inner critic, detached observation, and naturalism. I read it from the perspective of a musician, although I am not much of one anymore, and felt like there was some great wisdom there.


It's hard to explain exactly why I love this book - it resonated very strongly with me.It makes a rather simple case for the idea that our conscious thought messes with our subconscious learning regularly and that we should step out of the way. It talks somewhat about tennis, but really it talks about methods for trusting your subconscious and improving both your learning speed and your performance.Maybe the key is that it lines up fantastically well with my experience, and provides a framework to talk about it with others. Some of the tips are nice too, especially regarding non-judgemental observation.


While my tennis skills have long ago waned, I am a classical guitarist who, like many performers, experiences some significant performance anxiety. After reading this book, my playing in general and my on-stage performance in particular has improved immensely. I'm playing better and having a lot more fun doing it. Gallway offers both an honest, probing analysis of the mental games we play with ourselves on stage and a clear vision of the kind of mindset we could learn to have. It's difficult to summarize his analysis, but it focuses on neutral self-observation in combination with a simple trust in the wondrous machine that is the human body. For me, Gallway's book has opened up an incredible new ability to learn and progress, not to mention an ability to have fun! If you're a performer of any kind, check it out.

Jane McGaughey

I'm not a great one for reading non-fiction that doesn't have to do with work: I have countless histories and gender theory texts, but not so many in the sport psychology range. This book might change that (a bit).This is easily the best book I've read about tennis, even if some of its discussions are a bit dated -- it was written in 1974 when Bjorn Borg was just about to become the hot new thing. The thought of metal racquets or the Williams sisters were decades away.That said, almost every page of The Inner Game of Tennis makes sense. It might be repeating things that I've heard before, but they're presented in a compelling way -- almost Yoda-esque. And, I have to say, concentrating on not thinking while playing tennis increased the power of my serve by a good 20 mph the other day. I actually thought the ball was just hanging up in the air after my toss, waiting for me to smack the hell out of it. This non-thinking stuff is great! Concentrate on the seam of the ball, listen for the sound of contact on the racquet, relax the body, trust muscle memory... it's all sound advice.If you play tennis, read this; if you don't play tennis, but you are into head games, it's still worth picking up. I've never loved playing as much as I do this summer -- even if my inner McEnroe is being silenced.

Eddy Allen

cc:The Inner Game of Tennis is a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. Now available in a revised paperback edition, this classic bestseller can change the way the game of tennis is W. Timothy Gallwey


As a classical musican, the lessons that Gallwey has taught me have been invaluable. Although he focuses on the applications of the inner game as it applies to tennis, the metaphor can easily be switched to any number of things. I know there is a book entitled The Inner Game of Music, which is much more specific to my field, but Gallwey's book says much more with fewer words. The state of "relaxed concentration" is the one most desired for any stressful situation in which you have to performed at the height of your skill level. Acheiving it is not easy, and operating within it is even more challenging. I have not managed it yet, but I hope to someday. The Inner Game is a must for anyone wanting to study the mental side to playing a sport, an instrument, or whatever. ((Here's an excerpt from the book jacket:The Inner Game of Tennis will help youL-use the mind/body connection and learn to trust yourself on the court-find the state of "relaxed concentration" that allows you to play at your best-utilize the "inner game" principles to make the most of traditional instruction techniques-focus your mind to overcome nervousness and self-doubt-build skills by smart practice, then put it all together in match play))


Definitely a worthwhile read for the athlete and non-athlete alike (but especially for the athlete). Some amazing insights given that this book preceded all of the empirical work within the field of psychology concerning the dual role of the conscious vs. unconscious mind in shaping behavior. The most difficult part is figuring out how to institute some of the suggestions in specific situations (especially in other sports). Most of the examples are of course heavily dependent on the tennis medium, but there is no reason they couldn’t be adapted for other sports. The focal point to always keep in mind is that the unconscious mind is especially well-suited for processing tremendous amounts of information at once, which is exactly what training muscles to coordinate into complex motions requires. Most of the techniques Gallwey describes are simply ways to get your conscious mind out of the way so you can let the correct motor learning system take over. Not a difficult book to understand, but nearly impossible for many athletes to actually enact. I would recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled to experience the true joy that comes with playing sports.


Exceptional perspective shaping for leaders.


** spoiler alert ** Basically a theory of learning. You have to get the inner monologue to shut up and let the body to what it wants to do. Visualization is key along with a non-judgmental affect. Don't talk to much and demonstrate more than describe. The goal is relaxed concentration. Not trying but still focusing.Quotes:"Images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.""1) learning how to get the clearest possible picture of your desired outcomes; 2) learning how to trust Self 2 to perform at its best and learn from both successes and failures; and 3) learning to see "nonjudgmentally"-that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening.""These self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies. That is, they are communications from Self 1 about Self 2 which after being repeated often enough, become rigidifies into expectations or even convictions about Self 2. Then Self 2 begins to live up to these expectations.""When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as 'rootless and stemless.' We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don't condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.""Instead of seeing what was wrong with my backhand, I just started observing, and improvement seemed to happen on its own.""Letting go of judgments, the are of creating images and 'letting it happen' are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game.""Step 1: Nonjudgmental ObservationStep 2: Picture the Desired OutcomeStep 3: Trust Self 2Step 4: Nonjudgmental Observation of Change and Results""Until subdued, Self 1 is capable of producing fears, doubts and delusions wherever you are and whatever you are doing.""The cause of most stress can be summed up by the word attachment. Self 1 gets so dependent upon things, situations, people and concepts within its experience that when change occurs or seems about to occur, it feels threatened. Freedom from stress does not necessarily involve giving put anything, but rather being able to let go of anything, when necessary, and know that one will still be all right. It comes from being more independent-not necessarily more solitary, but more reliant on one's own inner resources for stability."


Preface: I am not a tennis player. However, I am an ultimate Frisbee player/athlete and a lot of what Timothy talked about (perfecting your "Inner Game" via mental acuity & awareness) can be readily applied to any non-contact/competitive sport- especially ultimate Frisbee which is very much a thinking/mental game after you've mastered the basic skills. My friend, and some would say "coach," gave this to me to read- believing that it would help me get over a few things that I have been struggling with since he read it years ago when he was just getting into the sport himself. The topics of the 2 "self"s, focus, competition, and the pure "getting over yourself" aspect was extremely helpful. I wish I could say that it should be obvious, but he states it as a fact to be learned and not just a priori. There were sections that applied directly to tennis, which I glazed over. I wish he made this just a generic book about how to improve your game- in any sport. Written in the 70's, you can read this short guide in an hour or so and the topics covered in this book are perfect for someone to overcome self-doubt, nervousness & breaks in concentration that really mess up your mental game which is, really, your entire game.


What a great book. As I was reading some of the reviews here on GoodReads, somebody mentioned something like "you should move this one up on your priority to-read list," so I did.As a used-to-be avid tennis player who was constantly frustrated with a relatively weak forehand and somewhat inconsistent serve, this book hit my problems on the head. Furthermore, I suspect it'll help every tennis player diagnose and cure their "problems".In fact, the best part of this book is not its advice on tennis but the implications Gallwey's words have on life in general. I suspect that the other "inner game of ___" books have similar advice but within context of ____. Gallwey's many bottom lines summarize to something like "stop worrying about it, let your body hit the ball and make your self-conscious shut up. You play tennis to play tennis, not make friends, beat your chest, or anything else; get over your ego including past and future, and just swing...what's the worse that can happen?"


Quotes:Images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and… trying often produces negative results.The “hot streak” usually continues until he starts thinking about it and tries to maintain it; as soon as he attempts to exercise control, he loses it.The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.Judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions and then to tightness, trying too hard, self-condemnation, etc. This process can be slowed by using descriptive but nonjudgmental words to describe the events you see.Slumps are part of the process. They are not “bad” events, but they seem to endure endlessly as long as we call them bad and identify with them.The first step is to see your strokes as they are. They must be perceived clearly. This can be done only when personal judgment is absent.Ending judgment means you neither add nor subtract from the facts before your eyes. Things appear as they are—undistorted. In this way, the mind becomes more calm.Acknowledgment of one’s own or another’s strengths, efforts, accomplishments, etc., can facilitate natural learning, whereas judgments interfere.Often when we are rallying we trust our bodies and let it happen because the ego-mind tells itself that it doesn’t really count.To Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match.Having provided yourself with an image and a feeling, you are ready to hit some balls. Now focus your eyes and mind on the seams of the ball and let it happen. Then observe what happened. Once again, don’t analyze; simply see how close Self 2 came to doing what you wanted it to.Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game.Step 1: Nonjudgmental ObservationStep 2: Picture the Desired OutcomeStep 3: Trust Self 2Step 4: Nonjudgmental Observation of Change and ResultsTo still the mind one must learn to put it somewhere. It cannot just be let go; it must be focused.To the extent that the mind is preoccupied with the seams, it tends not to interfere with the natural movements of the body.Say the word bounce out loud the instant you see the ball hit the court and the word hit the instant the ball makes contact with the racket—either racket.Focus is not achieved by staring hard at something. It is not trying to force focus, nor does it mean thinking hard about something. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested. When this occurs, the mind is drawn irresistibly toward the object (or subject) of interest. It is effortless and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled. When watching the tennis ball, allow yourself to fall into focus. If your eyes are squinting or straining, you are trying too hard. If you find yourself chastising yourself for losing focus, then you may be overcontrolling. Let the ball attract your mind, and both it and your muscles will stay appropriately relaxed.Some players find the sound of the ball more mind-absorbing than watching the seams because it is something they’ve never done before.Remember: it is almost impossible to feel or see anything well if you are thinking about how you should be moving. Forget should’s and experience is.So after a point has ended and I’m returning to position or going to pick up a ball, I place my mind on my breathing.Most of our suffering takes place when we allow our minds to imagine the future or mull over the past. Nonetheless, few people are ever satisfied with what is before them at the moment.What I really wanted, I realized, was to overcome the nervousness that was preventing me from playing my best and enjoying myself. I wanted to overcome the inner obstacle that had plagued me for so much of my life. I wanted to win the inner game.Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached. Reaching the goal itself may not be as valuable as the experience that can come in making a supreme effort to overcome the obstacles involved. The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself.In tennis who is it that provides a person with the obstacles he needs in order to experience his highest limits? His opponent, of course! Then is your opponent a friend or an enemy?It isn't the other person we are defeating; it is simply a matter of overcoming the obstacles he presents. In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other.One can control the effort he puts into winning. One can always do the best he can at any given moment. Since it is impossible to feel anxiety about an event that one can control, the mere awareness that you are using maximum effort to win each point will carry you past the problem of anxiety.For the player of the Inner Game, it is the moment-by-moment effort to let go and to stay centered in the here-and-now action which offers the real winning and losing, and this game never ends.As tennis players we tend to think too much before and during our shots; we try too hard to control our movements; and we are too concerned about the results of our actions and how they might reflect on our self-image. In short, we worry too much and don’t concentrate very well.The longer I live, the greater my appreciation of the gift that life itself is. This gift is much greater than I could have imagined, and therefore time spent living it in a state of stress means I am missing a lot — on or off the court.Freedom from stress does not necessarily involve giving up anything, but rather being able to let go of anything, when necessary, and know that one will still be all right. It comes from being more independent—not necessarily more solitary, but more reliant on one’s own inner resources for stability.


Don't be fooled, this book is not about tennis. Backup by science, this book tells fascinating stories about humans that excel in their field, and how that came to be. Almost a book you want to read to your kid before he goes to sleep, but thats just because you wish you knew this a few decennia ago.

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