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The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance Paperback – Illustrated, 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
From the Inside Flap
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Paperback : 122 pages
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679778318
- ISBN-10 : 0679778314
- Dimensions : 5.15 x 0.4 x 8 inches
- Publisher : Random House Trade Paperbacks; Revised ed. edition (May 27, 1997)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #5,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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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 reviews from other countries
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.
The Inner Game of Tennis has a very valid thesis on the technique of hitting a ball. It is now a well proven technique for rugby kickers, football penalties, golf players etc, who need to crowd out the noise of the crowd and concentrate on the movement of their body (Self 2 as Tim Gallwey calls it). So often, the mind (Self 1) plays tricks, focusing on the "what if's" - if I get it will be a hero, if I miss I will be the villain. I am impressed and convinced with his coaching technique for learning - just watching people with good technique and trying to apply this to yourself, can help immensely in many sporting environments, including non-intuitive sports like skiing.
However, to me, this doesn't translate really to non-sporting environments. Focusing on the position of my elbows, while typing on my computer, isn't going to help me solve equations. Even when we move away from the Self 1/Self 2 ideology and into the psychology of sports, performance and winning, I am not sure I agree with Tim. His take is that all feedback, positive and negative, should be excluded. This again, doesn't really work in an office. It seems to treat the human as a robot, rather than as a person.
The story and ideology then becomes muddied. He quotes Phil Jackson - of Chicago Bulls/Lakers fame - as someone who agrees with this ideology, of removing thought from the process. But Phil Jackson was also a big fan of putting themes on seasons, of motivating players to achieve and to win. For all his thoughts about removing emotion and thoughts from the game, he then recalls how the best he ever played in tennis was when he was angry. This is something I can totally relate to in sports, when the best thing to awaken a team is a fight - "they should have let sleeping dogs lie". We all hear the phrase "playing like a man possessed". Emotion is extremely useful in sport too. He seems to acknowledge that later in the book after dismissing it earlier on. It seems the book has been refined and added to over the decades and is now rather confused.
I have mixed feelings about this book. It's quite repetitive and probably could be condensed into 30-40 pages. The writing and structure is a bit all over the place. But, unusually for a self-help book, I liked the author. He seems like an honest guy trying to get across an important message. This book isn't riddled with the BS of other self-help tomes. He too is still on a journey in finding the best psychology behind performance.
To be fair to the book, it was genuinely written for tennis players back in the 1970's. If you are buying this to improve your intellectual performance, I'm not sure it is worth your time and effort. But if you still dabble in sports, or have kids who do, there are worse things to spend a few pounds of your money on.