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on November 12, 2010
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 Tennis Elbow.
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on August 3, 2008
Interesting book that has many insights I will use in improving my curling game.

However, given that this is a classic book written more than 30 years ago, I have to wonder why today's top tennis players are nothing like the calm, detached athlete that Timothy Gallwey sets forth as a model. They are passionate about winning and many get angry with their own mistakes or calls made by line judges. Top tennis players are not "detached from the result" as Gallwey would have us be.

My guess is that the tennis elite may have learned some things from this book, but have not bought the Zen tennis approach hook, line and sinker. Maybe they should - maybe we all should and the world would be a better, less hyper-competitive place. That they haven't does show that Gallwey's approach has some limitations for competitive athletes.

All that said, The Inner Game of Tennis has much to recommend it. His analysis of the role that the left brain and right brain (Self 1 and Self 2) play in athletics is extremely useful for analyzing one's own inner talk. His chapters on Changing Habits and Concentration: Learning to Focus are gold mines of practical tips.

The basic insight I will take away from this book is that of seeking awareness of what I am already doing in my curling delivery and having that awareness without making judgments. Let change/improvement happen, without forcing it to happen according to a preconceived model. Gallwey would never use as judgmental a word as "improvement," but probably everyone who reads this book is seeking exactly that. Pursued patiently using Gallwey's approach, they will probably find it too.
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on July 7, 2006
Excellent book on the psychology of playing tennis (or any other sport for that matter). Some concepts you already know or "feel" but Timothy Gallwey writes them in words extermely well so he makes you realize the ones you know and makes you discover the ones you don't know. Note that he doesn't "show" you how to make a forehand/backhand or any other shots. Instead, he tells you how you should approach learning and practicing them.

His concept of the 2 selves really hit the spot for me and helped me greatly in taking a different approach when playing others or practicing my shots. If you're like me, you've always felt there's a natural way of playing but most people are trying too hard and try to control every single movement in their shot. This makes you believe that it's how you should be playing (make sure you hold your raquet this way, then hold your raquet at this hight... shift your weight here while moving your raquet this way...). But Timothy explains and gives you tricks to focus and simply trust your body to make the shots it naturaly can make (or learn to make).

I really liked the chapters on why people play tennis and Timothy's concept of competition. This makes a great difference when enjoying the game. He actually goes very far in my mind and I now understand some of my friends attitude better after reading those 2 chapters (you most likely have some friends like this: win by all means so to prove one self to the other and themselves... and if they loose, there's always an excuse for it). It makes the game even more fun while getting better at it.

I'm a 28 year old amateur playing in a local league and just for fun with friends. I would have loved to read this book when I was a kid. Helps tremendously in self-esteem and the perception of competition (for any sport).
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on May 7, 2004
Tennis has been one of my favorite sports for many years, although I've never been that good at it (3.5 USTA rating, which is sorta intermediate). I had never heard about this book until it caught my eye at the library, and it intrigued me. I'm not that big on instructional books, because sports are so visual it's almost impossible to describe (for example) all the things your body needs to do to hit a decent serve. In my own game, my serve has actually deteriorated quite a bit over the years, and all my attempts at "fixing" it only seemed to make it worse.
Then, I happened to watch Andy Roddick play on TV at the 2003 US Open. As you probably know, Mr. Roddick has hit the fastest serve ever recorded (150+MPH), and is one of the best tennis players in the world. What really amazed me about his serve is that his motion isn't very complicated (like Pete Sampras or John McEnroe, to date myself). What I noticed is that his main focus when serving is simply to make perfect, solid contact with the ball and send it on its way over the net. Somehow, I was able to lock in on a mental image of Roddick getting his racket, arm and shoulder into perfect position to hit a killer serve. Then, just goofing around really, I took some balls to my local park and started whacking serves the way I thought Roddick would if he was in my body. The results were immediate and impressive. My velocity went up dramatically, and I just felt so much more comfortable than I had for years.
In this book, the author says he noticed that if he watched Frankie Albert play QB for the SF 49ers and then played street football with his friends (pretending he was Albert), he could throw much better than usual. I totally agree with what he's saying, and my Roddick experience above is another example. In fact, what got me started playing tennis was the total style, class, and enjoyment that was Bjorn Borg's game in the 70's-80's.
So, I agree with most if not all of the author's lessons, especially finding someone to "be like" and then "being like" that person. I also agree with the importance of getting your analytical, critical mind (Self 1) to focus on things like the spin of the ball or the sound it makes when your opponent hits a shot. Where I think the author sells the reader short is by not making two points:
1. TENNIS IS NOT EASY. While keeping your Self 1 under control will definitely help, everyone has physical limitations, and tennis is a difficult hand-eye coordination exercise. In my opinion, the main reason tennis has fizzled in popularity in recent years is because it's basically a hard game to learn. The author probably skips this point to avoid scaring people off, but he could counter by mentioning that the Inner Game will make tennis less difficult and more enjoyable.
2. TENNIS REQUIRES LOTS OF PRACTICE. This book is somewhat Zen-like in its approach, but any Zen book will tell you that the most important part of your practice is, well, practice. By this I don't mean hours of boring drills and instruction, I just mean playing on a consistent basis with a variety of levels, watching matches on TV or in person, and spending some time hitting by yourself or with a friend.
I still gave the book 5 stars, because I think it can help anyone's game and other aspects of life as well. I'm also reading his books on work and golf, but to me the author's forte is tennis so I'm glad I started with this one.
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on February 18, 2004
This is one of the pioneering books that brought about the field known as sports psychology.
A great self-help book, in my opinion, because it has an action plan you can follow. Basically, it will help you achieve total self-confidence if you don't already have it. The author talks about each person having a self1 and a self2. The former is your conscious ego and the latter is your potential. Self-confidence comes when we suppress self1 and allow the excellence in self2 to come out. We should trust ourselves to do what we want to do because everything we need is in self2. It is when we allow self1 to judge, we doubt ourselves. An important concept in getting rid of self1 is the art of being able to focus. If we focus on the here and now, this place and time, self2 will have a better chance to perform. How many times have we start to wonder about our cat or our past mistakes or day-dream how nice it is for something to happen when what we should be doing is to focus on the task at hand. In a way, self1 and self2 are similar to the conscious and subconscious mind. Whichever way you choose to believe is not what's important. What is important is that by conceptualizing this way, the complexity is reduced, and results can be produced quickly. How else can humans conceptualize confidence? Confidence without doubt, is nothing. Just like you cannot have hot without cold or fast without slow.
Lastly, we should cherish competition and our opponents. Our opponents are not our enemies but can be viewed as obstacles that allow us to grow and become better at what we do. Humans love to accomplish great things because they like to test their limits. Although this is fine, those who set out to overcome an obstacle should find out if the result they get is what they really want before they go about trying to overcome the obstacle.
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on January 14, 2004
I bought the hardcover version of the book shortly after its release, because I saw a film on the author. He taught a class that consisted of people, who had "never" played the game. In 20 minutes, they were hitting 20 shot rallies. Its great to philosophize on the "Inner Game", the "Zen" of tennis, but it doesn't help you play immediately. Swallowing the philosophy may be harder for some than the usual "practice makes perfect", learning curve for most sports. Therefore, Gallwey took a different approach. He observed the students swinging at the ball, asked them not to worry about hitting it. Instead, he had them tell him if it was rising, or falling, when they swung at it. Later, in another drill, he asked them to call bounce, exactly when it hit the court, and yell hit, when they struck it. Amazingly, these simple techniques had complete novices, consistently returning shots.
I had always liked the Eastern philosophies, but had rarely seen them applied, so well that they could be easily incorporated, in training for a sport. I even made up some of my own drills for playing back yard basketball, and improved my free throw shooting, by over 40 percent! What the drills accomplish is to maintain the focus, that the trained player sometimes takes years to master, in just a few minutes. If you "have" to call rising or falling, you "have" to look closely at the ball. You have to look "precisely" to call the bounce, and you will naturally be "in position" when you hit it.
A good deal of this book tells how Tim discovered the Inner Game, and how it applies to all facets of life. How doubt, and fear can cause you to tighten up, when it's not necessary. He wrote a follow-up book called, "Inner Tennis: Playing the Game". The follow-up book covered the techniques in more detail, and can help you develop a very polished game, with precious little practice. Most of these techniques become common sense, once you see the reasoning behind them.
I think there are a number of "Inner Game" titles out there, one of the most popular being on golf, since it's such a mental game anyway. If you've ever half-consciously tossed a paper wad, or a pop can, into the trash from 20 feet, you know the inner game. The techniques in this book allow you to repeat that sort of skill, to trust yourself, and your own mental coordination. It works! Before you buy the book try out one of the drills I mentioned. Hit a tennis ball with someone, or just off a backboard. You'll become a true believer fast!
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on December 26, 2003
I read this book four years ago on the recommendation of a World Champion in the sport in which I compete - Fast Draw. I had often ranked high at major contests, but had never been able to make it to the winners circle at major competitions during 18 years of shooting. I was pretty sure that the only thing holding me back was the mental game.
While reading this book I was amazed at Gallwey's description of mental aspects of competition, and how I had experienced the exact same things. His explanations of how a competitor sabotages his own outcomes showed me what I had been doing wrong. His tips for getting into the correct mindframe made perfect sense, although were probably not the sort of things I would have come up with on my own.
After putting these tips into action I really saw a big improvement in my shooting. I won my first major championship within four months, and have been the overall world champion in my sport for three of the last four years. It was the things I learned from this book that allowed me to perform at my top level when the pressure was on.
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on May 20, 2000
I remember clearly the first time I read this book. It was the summer before 9th grade, almost two decades ago. I'd been playing tennis for about a year. My trusty wooden racquet in tow, I had taken lessons, read every how-to book and tried to follow all the step-by-step pictures. Also, I was getting soundly beaten by friends who'd be playing longer than myself.
I found the book in the library and was surprised at how thin it was. Then I noticed there were no pictures. I thought "What kind of tennis book has no pictures? " I started to read there next to the shelves and my life has never been the same. I wound up captain of my highschool tennis team, all-state selection, and along the way crushed the bums who used to beat me.
Now I'm almost 30 and a tennis has-been but still play a pretty good game. And whenever I go on the court (be it tennis, basketball, squash) I apply the same principles. I stop trying, stop forcing. Quiet the mind and let it happen.
As others reviewers have written in this space, this book will transform your game. It will also broaden your appreciation for what the human body can do. It will enrich your life. This is a classic and indispensible work.
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on April 20, 2000
This book cuts right through to what all tennis players inherantly know, your success on the court is directly related to what is going on in your mind. You realize that your body knows how to play, and needs no gratification or instructions by your inner critic. The less you interfere, the better your body will perform. When your mind is quiet and trusts your body's abilities is when it is has the freedom to perform.
My game improved dramatically since my first match after I read the book, one technique is to occupy your mind into silence by focusing it on something. The thing I focused on was the spin of the ball as it came to me. When I began to concentrate on that, my mind was silent and focused on the ball. When I do this, the ball seems slower and bigger. All of my strokes improved by doing this. Another thing I got out of this book is to let go of all of your lessons and ideas of how to move your feet, how to hit the ball, how to angle your raquet head. A match is no time to ponder these things it is a time to do them. When in a match, just let your body do what it knows how to do. Don't focus on details, just focus on the goal of making a good tennis shot.
All of this is wonderful, but the best thing this book has to offer, is giving the reader the understanding of how to learn in a natural way without your inner voice giving approval or disaproval. And that is a skill that will apply to all things in your life.
I can't wait to read the Inner Game of Work.
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on December 12, 2001
Gallwey's book was an instant classic when it first came out. It was somewhat revolutionary at the time as few sport psychology books were available for the tennis public. It still makes good bathroom reading and it still applies to a general lifestyle, not just about tennis. However, there are currently more practical mental toughness or mental zone books out there which are easier to read and use. Still Gallwey's book is interesting philosophy more than psychology as he works with your automatic and analytic selves (self 1 and 2) which conflict each other.
Gallwey addresses why negativity and self-analysis inhibits the creative, automatic self. Readers become more aware of how being in the "zone" really works. Recently, there have been advances in sport psychology which pushes some of Gallwey's ideas a bit out there although he is still on the right path. I would recommend "Zennis" (Peter Spang) over the "Inner Game" since it is more practical.
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