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

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.

Ben Campopiano

The Inner Game... This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance. location 78he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. location 85“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. location 135images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results. location 149The concentrated mind has no room for thinking how well the body is doing, much less of the how-to’s of the doing. When a player is in this state, there is little to interfere with the full expression of his potential to perform, learn and enjoy. location 173During the last set of balls, Self 1 was fully occupied in watching the seams of the ball. As a result, Self 2 was able to do its own thing unimpaired, location 237Getting it together mentally in tennis involves the learning of several internal skills: 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. This overcomes “trying too hard.” All these skills are subsidiary to the master skill, without which nothing of value is ever achieved: the art of relaxed concentration. location 240Harmony between the two selves exists when this mind is quiet and focused. Only then can peak performance be reached. location 248When a tennis player is “in the zone,” he’s not thinking about how, when or even where to hit the ball. He’s not trying to hit the ball, and after the shot he doesn’t think about how badly or how well he made contact. location 249As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes. … The arrow is off the string but does not fly straight to the target, nor does the target stand where it is. Calculation, which is miscalculation, sets in. location 255great works are done when he is not calculating and thinking. “Childlikeness” has to be restored. location 257During such experiences, the mind does not act like a separate entity telling you what you should do or criticizing how you do it. It is quiet; you are “together,” and the action flows as free as a river. location 269focused without trying to concentrate. We feel spontaneous and alert. We have an inner assurance that we can do what needs to be done, without having to “try hard.” We simply know the action will come, and when it does, we don’t feel like taking credit; rather, we feel fortunate, “graced.” As Suzuki says, we become “childlike.” location 271Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. location 286The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad. location 294When we unlearn how to be judgmental, it is possible to achieve spontaneous, focused play. location 296Well, it is the initial act of judgment which provokes a thinking process. First the player’s mind judges one of his shots as bad or good. If he judges it as bad, he begins thinking about what was wrong with it. Then he tells himself how to correct it. Then he tries hard, giving himself instructions as he does so. Finally he evaluates again. Obviously the mind is anything but still and the body is tight with trying. If the shot is evaluated as good, Self 1 starts wondering how he hit such a good shot; then it tries to get his body to repeat the process by giving self-instructions, trying hard and so on. Both mental processes end in further evaluation, which perpetuates the process of thinking and self-conscious performance. As a consequence, the player’s muscles tighten when they need to be loose, strokes become awkward and less fluid, and negative evaluations are likely to continue with growing intensity. location 321Be clear about this: letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them. Nonjudgmental awareness might observe that during a certain match you hit 50 percent of your first serves into the net. It doesn’t ignore the fact. It may accurately describe your serve on that day as erratic and seek to discover the causes. Judgment begins when the serve is labeled “bad” and causes interference with one’s playing when a reaction of anger, frustration or discouragement follows. If the judgment process could be stopped with the naming of the event as bad, and there were no further ego reactions, then the interference would be minimal. But 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. location 352Judgment results in tightness, and tightness interferes with the fluidity required for accurate and quick movement. Relaxation produces smooth strokes and results from accepting your strokes as they are, even if erratic. location 357When 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. location 360The first step is to see your strokes as they are. When the mind is free of any thought or judgment, it is still and acts like a mirror. Then and only then can we know things as they are. location 423I have found that the most beneficial first step is to encourage him to see and feel what he is doing—that is, to increase his awareness of what actually is. For example, suppose that a player complains that the timing on his forehand is off. I wouldn’t give him an analysis of what is wrong and then instruct him, “Take your racket back sooner,” or “Hit the ball farther out in front of you.” Instead I might simply ask him to put his attention on where his racket head is at the moment the ball bounces on his side of the net. Since this is not a common instruction, it is likely that the player will never have been told anything about where his racket should or shouldn’t be at that particular moment. If his judgmental mind is engaged, he is likely to become a little nervous, since Self 1 likes to try to do things “right” and is nervous when he doesn’t know the rightness or wrongness of a particular action. So at once the player may ask where his racket should be when the ball is bouncing. But I decline to say, asking him only to observe where his racket is at that moment. After he hits a few balls, I ask him to tell me where his racket was at the moment in question. The typical reply is, “I’m taking my racket back too late. I know what I’m doing wrong, but I can’t stop. it.” This is a common response of players of all sports, and is the cause of a great deal of frustration. “Forget about right and wrong for now,” I suggest. “Just observe your racket at the moment of bounce.” After five or ten more balls are hit to him, the player is likely to reply, “I’m doing better; I’m getting it back earlier.” “Yes, and where was your racket?” I ask. “I don’t know, but I think I was getting it back on time … wasn’t I?” Uncomfortable without a standard for right and wrong, the judgmental mind makes up standards of its own. Meanwhile, attention is taken off what is and placed on the process of trying to do things right. Even though he may be getting his racket back earlier and is hitting the ball more solidly, he is still in the dark about where his racket is. (If the player is left in this state, thinking that he has found the “secret” to his problem—that is, getting his racket back earlier—he will be momentarily pleased. He will go out eagerly to play and repeat to himself before hitting every forehand, “Get it back early, get it back early, get it back early …” For a while this magic phrase will seem to produce “good” results. But after a while, he will start missing again in spite of his self-reminder, will wonder what’s going “wrong” and will come back to the pro for another tip.) So instead of stopping the process at the point where the player is judging positively, I again ask him to observe his racket and to tell me exactly where it is at the moment of bounce. As the player finally lets himself observe his racket with detachment and interest, he can feel what it is actually doing and his awareness increases. Then, without any effort to correct, he will discover that his swing has begun to develop a natural rhythm. In fact, he will find the best rhythm for himself, which may be slightly different from what might be dictated by some universal standard called “correct.” location 460Then when he goes out to play, he has no magic phrase that must be repeated, and can focus without thinking. location 463Clearly, positive and negative evaluations are relative to each other. It is impossible to judge one event as positive without seeing other events as not positive or as negative. location 512When we “unlearn” judgment we discover, usually with some surprise, that we don’t need the motivation of a reformer to change our “bad” habits. We may simply need to be more aware. location 543between ego-mind and body—that is, between Self 1 and Self 2—was to let go of self-judgment. location 552Self 1 did not have to tell your body how far to reach before closing your fingers on the light switch; you knew your goal, and your body did what was necessary without thought. The process by which the body learned and performed these actions is no different from the process by which it learns and plays the game of tennis. location 563It is Self 1’s mistrust of Self 2 which causes both the interference called “trying too hard” and that of too much self-instruction. The first results in using too many muscles, the second in mental distraction and lack of concentration. Clearly, the new relationship to be established with ourselves must be based on the maxim “Trust thyself.” What does “Trust thyself” mean on the tennis court? It doesn’t mean positive thinking—for example, expecting that you are going to hit an ace on every serve. Trusting your body in tennis means letting your body hit the ball. The key word is let. You trust in the competence of your body and its brain, and you let it swing the racket. Self 1 stays out of it. location 591Letting it happen is not making it happen. It is not trying hard. It is not controlling your shots. These are all the actions of Self 1, which takes things into its own hands because it mistrusts Self 2. This is what produces tight muscles, rigid swings, awkward movements, gritted teeth and tense cheek muscles. The results are mishit balls and a lot of frustration. 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. But once the game begins, watch Self 1 take over; at the crucial point it starts to doubt whether Self 2 will perform well. The more important the point, the more Self 1 may try to control the shot, and this is exactly when tightening up occurs. The results are almost always frustrating. location 604Thinking that it has to use a lot of muscle to hit as hard as it wants to, Self 1 will initiate the use of muscles in the shoulder, forearm, wrist and even face which will actually impede the force of the swing. location 611Fortunately, most children learn to walk before they can be told how to by their parents. Yet, children not only learn how to walk very well, but they gain confidence in the natural learning process which operates within them. Mothers observe their children’s efforts with love and interest, and if they are wise, without much interference. If we could treat our tennis games as we do a child learning to walk, we would make more progress. When the child loses his balance and falls, the mother doesn’t condemn it for being clumsy. She doesn’t even feel bad about it; she simply notices the event and perhaps gives a word or gesture of encouragement. Consequently, a child’s progress in learning to walk is never hindered by the idea that he is uncoordinated. location 622It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself. location 668The changes that Sally made in her forehand lay in the fact that she gave Self 2 a clear visual image of the results she desired. Then she told her body in effect, “Do whatever you have to do to go there.” All she had to do was let it happen. location 705Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match. Once you are competing it is too late to work on your strokes, but it is possible to hold in your mind the image of where you want the ball to go and then allow the body to do what is necessary to hit it there. It is essential here to trust Self 2. Self 1 must stay relaxed, refraining from giving “how-to-do-it” instructions and from any effort to control the stroke. As Self 1 learns to let go, a growing confidence in the ability of Self 2 emerges. location 708Suppose, for example, that you are consistently rolling your racket over on the follow-through, and the habit continues despite all efforts to change it. First you must give Self 2 a very clear image of what you are asking it to do. This can best be done by holding your racket in front of you in a proper follow-through position and looking at it with undivided attention for several seconds. You may feel foolish, thinking that you already know the proper follow-through, but it is vital to give Self 2 an image to imitate. Having done this, it might also be useful to shut your eyes and imagine as clearly as possible your entire forehand with the racket staying flat throughout the swing. location 715before hitting any balls, swing your racket several times, letting the racket stay flat and allowing yourself to experience how it feels to swing in this new way. Once you start to hit balls, it is important not to try and keep your racket flat. You have asked Self 2 to keep it flat, so let it happen!Self 1’s only role is to be still and observe the results in a detached manner. Let me stress again that it is important not to make any conscious effort to keep the racket flat. If after a few strokes the racket does not conform to the image you gave Self 2, then image the desired outcome again and let your body swing your racket, making sure Self 2 isn’t giving it the slightest assistance. Don’t try to make this experiment work; if you do, Self 1 will get involved and you won’t really know if Self 2 is hitting the ball unassisted or not. location 726Ask your body, Self 2, to do whatever is necessary to hit the can, then let it do it. Exercise no control; correct for no imagined bad habits. Simply trust your body to do it. When you toss the ball up, focus your attention on its seams, then let the serve serve itself. location 739The ball will either hit or miss the target. Notice exactly where it lands. You should free yourself from any emotional reaction to success or failure; simply know your goal and take objective interest in the results. Then serve again. If you have missed the can, don’t be surprised and don’t try to correct for your error. This is most important. Again focus your attention on the can; then let the serve serve itself. If you faithfully do not try to hit the can, and do not attempt to correct for your misses, but put full confidence in your body and its computer, you will soon see that the serve is correcting itself. You will experience that there really is a Self 2 who is acting and learning without being told what to do. Observe this process; observe your body making the changes necessary in order to come nearer and nearer to the can. Of course, Self 1 is very tricky and it is most difficult to keep it from interfering a little, but if you quiet it a bit, you will begin to see Self 2 at work, and you will be as amazed as I have been at what it can do, and how effortlessly. location 744Having 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. location 760“Asking for qualities” describes this other kind of role-playing. When introducing this idea, I usually say something like this: “Imagine that I am the director of a television series. Knowing that you are an actor that plays tennis, I ask if you would like to do a bit part as a top-flight tennis player. I assure you that you needn’t worry about hitting the ball out or into the net because the camera will only be focused on you and will not follow the ball. What I’m mainly interested in is that you adopt professional mannerisms, and that you swing your racket with supreme self-assurance. Above all, your face must express no self-doubt. You should look as if you are hitting every ball exactly where you want to. Really get into the role, hit as hard as you like and ignore where the ball is actually going.” When a player succeeds in forgetting himself and really acts out his assumed role, remarkable changes in his game often take place; if you don’t mind puns, you might even say that the changes are dramatic. As long as he is able to stay in this role he experiences qualities that he may not have known were in his repertoire. There is an important distinction between this kind of role-playing and what is normally called positive thinking. In the latter, you are telling yourself that you are as good as Steffi Graf or Michael Chang, while in the former you are not trying to convince yourself that you are any better than you believe you are. You are quite consciously playing a role, but in the process, you may become more aware of the range of your true capabilities. location 781Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game. location 804THE IMPORTANCE of quieting the thinking mind by letting go of mental self-instructions, focusing attention and trusting the body to do what it is capable of doing. location 810The less instruction interferes with the process of learning built into your very DNA, the more effective your progress is going to be. Said another way, the less fear and doubt are embedded in the instructional process, the easier it will be to take theRead more at location 814

Nicholas

** 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."

Boris

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.

David

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!

Stacey

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.

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.

Becca

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))

Jessieirwin

Exceptional perspective shaping for leaders.

Ollie.on

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.

Berend

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.

Brian

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.

Deodand

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.

Jeremy

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.

Alex

"In a society that has become so oriented toward language as a way of representing truth, it is very possible to lose touch with your ability to feel and with it your ability to “remember” the shots themselves." - From the Inner Game of TennisInsanely readable. A philosophical treatise breezy with practical applications for the nutty tennis player (cough cough, I'm looking in the mirror) who torments himself on the court with lashings like, "You're embarrassing yourself!" or seemingly practical advice like, "Keep your head up on your serve, man!" This book transcends the incipient corniness of the self-help narrative by offering tangible insight that any tennis player, or for that matter, any person honing a physical skill, can use immediately.

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