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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About this book

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

David Leavitt

Amazing book. This is one of those I will never regret reading. Not only is it very applicable to my shooting, but also to life in general. It deals with stuff like stress, anxiety, and nerves. I would highly recommend this book.

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.

Urban Sedlar

By reading the title you'd think it's about tennis, but it only touches it. It talks more about the inner game of *everything*. First, it breaks down the Self into Self 1, which is basically your thinking brain (always analyzing and judging), and Self 2, which is your "feeling and doing" brain. The book gives ample evidence (that's also quite easy to relate to) that Self 2 can master almost everything in a short amount of time, while being "in the flow", if only Self 1 doesn't interfere. Thus, the inner game mostly deals with quieting your thinking brain; there seems to be a bunch of strategies, the simplest one simply being "focusing your attention on something, so your thinking brain is occupied and can't interfere".Author also gives an interesting perspective on winning, derived from surfers. Surfers want to ride the biggest wave not to beat it, but to prove to themselves they've done their absolute best. Same should be true of any game, and instead of hoping your opponent will make a mistake, you should be hoping they won't, so you'll be faced with the greatest challenge that will allow you to grow the most. If only this book were as easy to apply as it was to read :)


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.

Gwen Skrzat

This book is a classic -- if you play tennis it's a must read. The author is a renowned sports and life coach who became famous with this book, in a large part because Harry Reasoner thought the principles in it couldn't possible work and challenged to author to prove them. He did, and it changed the reporters mind, and the way many of us look at how we play sports and also how we live.It's primary thrust is to help the reader learn to apply some basic principle of non-judgment and focus to their tennis game, and watch the rest just fall in line. It works!


I am a musician, and this was recommended to me by another musician friend. As it turns out, many of my colleagues have read this book, so it seems as though I am the last! 'The Inner Game' has, without a doubt, been one of the most beneficial books I have ever read. Before I had even finished, some of the insights of the book had already begun to change the way that I practice, audition, and perform! I wont say that the author has come up with any ideas or concepts so revolutionary that they haven't been written in a dozen other books .... but I will say that the way that he has exposed and explained things here have really worked for me. This is a must-read for, well, basically anybody who wants to improve at whatever they do and take pride in!

Edgar Mora-Reyes

En el presente siglo hemos dedicado gran tiempo y recursos a experimentar y explorar nuevos conceptos solo para darnos cuenta que lo nuevo es lo viejo pero con otro nombre.El autor utiliza simple sentido común y conceptos ya explorados y definidos por la pedagogía y la filosofía, en particular por la epistemología, pero comete el gran error, el autor, de creerse "creador" de una nueva teoría que utiliza definiciones de la psicología positiva, aportando sinceramente poco a la realidad de la persona que después es deportista. No me parece una lectura dañina, pero que puede generar ciertas expectativas en deportistas con poco carácter o falto de aptitud para el deporte de alto rendimiento.En todo caso recomiendo libros con mayor fondo "educativo" como "Desde la adversidad" de Santiago Álvarez de Mon.


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.


** 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."


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?"

Austin Outhavong

I read this book more than 10 years ago, and the lessons it taught me are still with me.Some really powerful pieces of advice for focusing and allowing yourself to harness your body's natural abilities to adapt.I read it when I was learning the game of tennis. But was easily able to extend what I learned to many other sports. Even physical motions as simple as throwing a piece of garbage into a trash can across the room. This book literally changed the way my mind interacts with my body.A great read for anyone who coaches or enjoys individual sports or team sports.


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.


Exceptional perspective shaping for leaders.


Great ideas for mental focus and the way we approach coaching anything that involves technical ability. Instead of trying to fix something ("hit higher") you just visualize and feel what your end result is and supposedly your body will adjust to attain it. I wouldn't take this book as gospel, but it's true that observation is the first step to fix any problem.


It's a true three-star for me - I liked it. I'm no athlete - and this book may explain why. I see my own attitude towards physical activity described here, to my embarrassment. I don't participate in competitive sport because of the negative self-talk and frustration it inspires, yet I enjoy playing music because it employs the non-"thinking" side of my brain, which is referred to in the book as Self 2. I could definitely use more Self 2-oriented activities in my life.This book is about tennis, but not only about tennis. It is about learning.

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