Inner Game book reviews
Timothy Gallwey and other authors


Inner Game of Tennis
Timothy Gallwey, 1972

"Inner Game of Tennis" was first published in 1972. It sold 200.000 copies in two years and became a phenomenon. Even Billie Jean King called it her »tennis bible«.

The main point of the book is that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to your inner game. This game is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. The goal of the inner game is to overcome these obstacles which inhibit peak performance.

As my journey of a tennis coach began I started looking for more and more books on this topic. It doesn’t take much searching before you find this extraordinary book. I read it in two days and many pieces of the mental puzzle finally came together.

We have to agree with him that most problems with players of any level are not technical or tactical. Even a total newbie to tennis quickly realizes that when he passes the local courts and overhears many inappropriate words and emotional outbursts.

Timothy Gallwey masterfully explains his concepts of Self1 and Self2; there is an inner dialogue in our mind – and it's usually not the friendliest one. When we learn to find harmony between both parts of our mind is when we discover the harmony in our mind – body connection.

His next very powerful concept is »letting it happen« vs. »trying hard«. It comes very counter intuitively since that's not we are used to do. We try harder. In tennis that translates to tension, narrow awareness and emotional hitting.

I've personally discovered this fact before reading Timothy Gallwey's books and called it »less is more«. When you learn new things in tennis whether they are a technique, tactics or movement your first tries rarely succeed. But instead of trying harder try less. Hit slower, grip your racquet lighter, move more lightly and don't try to be good or even perfect. Accept your current level and stay with it for a while. Suddenly you'll experience improvement which happens by itself.

This approach is closely tied to Timothy Gallwey's final concept of non-judgment. It means seeing things as they are without adding our labels of good and bad. The biggest problem is the consequent thinking which comes after the label »bad«. It spreads like a virus from a bad shot to the bad stroke and then to the bad player and finally to the bad person.

If we investigate our thinking we realize that there is no logical connection between bad backhands and our inner self. And the best way of investigation of our thinking and making yourself free from these concepts is Loving what is by Byron Katie.


Inner Tennis - Playing the Game
(Timothy Gallwey, 1976)

Timothy Gallwey's second book "Inner Tennis – Playing the Game" is the next corner stone in tennis literature. It's called the »practical successor« of his first book.

Gallwey expands his concepts and approaches to the inner game. He manages to explain his ideas even more clearly and identifies many more inner obstacles. But his approach is the same – cooperation of Self1 and Self2, letting go and trusting your body and applying the principle of non-judgment.

He goes deeper into the natural learning mechanism and uses many examples from his coaching that shows us exactly how the lesson went and what his questions and advice to the player were.

The best parts of this book are the drills. Their goal is to quiet our mind and allow our potential to come through unhindered. And quieting the mind goes even deeper in this book. Timothy Gallwey calls it Progressing in the Art of Relaxed Concentration and it has four stages: paying attention, interested attention, absorbed attention and finally »being wholly there« or union.

What Timothy Gallwey describes is actually a pathway to »the zone« which is a more common term among coaches and athletes for this special state of mind.

The parts on natural learning and body awareness can help the beginner and the advanced player to quickly realize – become aware – of his shortcomings and correct his technique. Which usually corrects itself by the way…

The book ends with two very intriguing chapters which go deep into human psyche – self-image and the will to win. The self image part is quite possibly a real eye opener if you haven't read any books on similar subjects. It makes you realize all the limitations that we put on ourselves because of our self image.

There are many books about tennis technique and tactics. There are also many books that deal with the mental approach to tennis but this approach is limited to off court or in between points or games. Timothy Gallwey's work fills the gap with one of the most challenging aspects of tennis – what do with our mind during the ball exchange. It shows us how to achieve a mental state that will allow us to play at our best regardless of our level.

This reading is a must for anyone who feels that his mind is not yet his best ally in the tennis mind game.



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