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The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance Paperback – May 27, 1997
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The new edition of this remarkable work--Billie Jean King called the original her tennis bible--refines Gallwey's theories on concentration, gamesmanship, breaking bad habits, learning to trust yourself on the court, and awareness. "No matter what a person's complaint when he has a lesson with me, I have found the most beneficial first step," he stressed, "is to encourage him to see and feel what he is doing--that is, to increase his awareness of what actually is."
There are aspects of psychobabble and mysticism to be found here, sure, but Gallwey instructs as much by anecdote as anything else, and time has ultimately proved him a guru. What seemed radical in the early '70s is now accepted ammunition for the canon; the right mental approach is every bit as important as a good backhand. The Inner Game of Tennis still does much to keep that idea in play. --Jeff Silverman
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Gallwey offers some good tips on how to maintain one's concentration and approach matches with the right mentality so as not to choke under pressure. However, much of the book is spent advocating for a teaching style whose effectiveness I find extremely questionable. For example, instead of learning how to hit a forehand by having a pro point out your mistakes and focus on correcting them, Gallwey suggests having your conscious self non-judgmentally observe what is happening and then letting your unconscious self correct the errors on its own. This might work great if you are a talented athlete like Gallwey is, or if you are already accomplished at the game, but it was of no use to me since I'm still learning the sport and don't have good natural instincts for tennis, and if I could learn on my own then I wouldn't be engaging a coach in the first place.
The other criticism I have with this book is the writing. Much of the book is spent repeatedly advertising this approach of having "self 1" let go of judgment and letting "self 2" "discover" the right technique on its own. It's pretty repetitive and makes a lot of the 130 pages pretty redundant. Gallwey also spends quite a lot of time writing about his personal anecdotes, many of which were of only tangential relevance to the point at hand. At many times it seemed like the book was more about him than about teaching us.
The first brain/ego, is great at taking information in and shouting it back at you, usually in a negative way. Try making a mistake, and the ego is brutal in its corrections. What does this have to do with this book?
Well, the author shows us the workings of the two sides of our brain--the ego, and the intuitive side. While the ego may thing it's got everything under control and all will be well if only the intuition side listens and obeys. The trouble is, the ego side works out of fear, while the intuitive side simply taps into the 'all that is' internet of sorts, and simply watches and learns in whole chunks, while the ego likes to break everything down into steps.
As the author points out, we can only hold so many 'steps' in our head at one time, and trying to do the right thing makes us tense, and being tense never works with the body.
The intuitive side, if allowed to just flow, when not hampered by the ego shouting orders, can allow us to achieve our goal by focusing on the goal rather than breaking it into steps that tense a person up until they are tied in knots--unable to even swing a racket--golf club--or go with the horse.
I'm not giving the author his due--trust me, he sums this up much better than I just did, so buy the book, read and improve whatever skill you happen to love and hopefully learn to trust your body/intuition(the secret is, your body is your subconscious). Focus on the goal and have fun.
Simply put, Timothy Gallwey writes that we should trust of bodies to do what they already know how to do, without all the judgement, self-coaching and self-criticism that so many players, myself included do. I used to puzzle over why my a certain stroke was so effortlessly effective one day and then just plain terrible in the next. My body would feel a lack of confidence, for example, a kind of forehand or volley or serve anxiety. The problem was that I never fully truly trusted my body to do what it already knew how to do. And once I did, my game changed.
I now play relaxed and confident, whether my opponent is better than me or not. And when errors occur, I notice them and let go, something I never used to do before.
Many thanks to Mr. Gallwey for giving me my a new and most powerful tool for tennis and beyond!!
This book refreshingly didn't disappoint. Not only did it encourage a holistic and healthy approach to competition, it brought employable strategies for a player to examine and work with. I digested this book quickly multiple times, and have eagerly been employing its mentality. Before I would fret and worry, letting the stress of the game overwhelm me, but now I look forward to playing without the fear and insecurity.
Top international reviews
It is ostensibly about tennis but its lessons can be applied elsewhere, of course. However, it is definitely a tennis book -- there was a long section on perfecting one's serve, if I recall correctly, that was not of much interest or use.
In summary, it basically seems like a precursor to a lot of the mindfulness blather that passes for wisdom these days, only in this book the lessons seem unpretentious and sensible. I didn't find they helped me at all with acting, however, the purpose for which I bought the book. Hopefully you'll have more luck than me.
Author had described everything very well. I really enjoyed this book. I would like to read this book again.
Simply put: the 'bible' of the psychology of tennis.