(10 customer reviews)

The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance


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The Inner Game of Tennis

The Inner Game was a huge discovery when it was initially released in 1972, becoming a hit.  Instead of emphasizing technique, it focused on the idea that, according to Gallwey, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game, and an inner game”. The former is played against opponents and is filled with a lot of contradictory advice, the latter being played within the player’s mind and having self-doubt and anxiety as its main obstacles. Gallwey’s ground-breaking ideas, which were based on Zen philosophy and humanistic psychology, were actually a primer on how to get out of your own way and perform at your peak.

Gallwey’s views on focus, gamesmanship, overcoming bad habits, learning to trust yourself on the court, and awareness is all refined in this new version of the astonishing text that Billie Jean King called her tennis bible. He emphasized that the first step in helping his students was to let them “see and feel what he is doing,” which he defined as “increasing his awareness of what actually is.”

There’s psychobabble and mysticism, but Gallwey teaches through anecdote and has become a guru. What was unique in the 1970s is now standard; mental attitude is as important as a strong backhand. The Inner Game of Tennis does a lot to keep that idea alive. Jeff Silverman’s

About the Author: W. Timothy Gallwey has produced a series of bestselling Inner Game books, which set forth a new methodology for the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields. For many years, Gallwey has been introducing the Inner Game approach to corporations looking for better ways to manage change.

The Inner Game of Tennis will help you

  • 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 nerves and self-doubt, then increase your talents through wise practice.
  • This new version refines Gallwey’s techniques from his extended experience.
  • His lucid explanations and interesting anecdotes can help beginners to experts.
  • This book will revolutionize how you play tennis.

Specifications of The Inner Game of Tennis

  • Number of Pages: 122 Pages
  • Editorial: Random House Trade Paperbacks
  • Idiom: English
  • Publication date: 27 May 1997
  • The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
  • The Inner Game helps players overcome ego, anxiousness, and concentration lapses.
  • This iconic book is now available in a redesigned paperback form.

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10 reviews for The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

  1. Amazon Customer

    Easy to read, short book with some good insights you can apply to almost everything, not just sports

  2. Robin Landry

    I was recommended this book by a horse trainer, and it was an excellent recommendation. Of course I had to skip lots of tennis advice, since I don’t play the game, but the gist of the book is life changing. What I got out of this book, is that we have two brains that guide us through life–actually, the analytic, ego brain believes that it knows best, to the point of narcissism if you let it get out of control.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.

  3. Rasih Bensan

    Does it matter how and what we think about while we are playing tennis ? Yes, it matters so much that it affects our tennis performance significantly and could even affect our mental well being. W. Timothy Gallwey obviously understands both tennis and psychology very well and has written an excellent book that very clearly explains why it matters how we think about our tennis performance. As a long time tennis player I enjoyed reading the book and learned very much from it. I am eager to start applying Gallwey’s advice as soon as possible. If you often scold yourself everytime you make a ” mistake ” and / or you are trying too hard but not quite achieving the performance you aim in tennis then you can not afford to not read this book. I read it twice and I recommend that everybody read it again and again every few months.Many tennis instructors do not know the psychological aspect of the game that is so well explained in the book. Their ignorance is obvious from the incessant verbal instructions they give their students.The harmful and correct ways of thinking explained in the book are not limited to tennis ; they can be applied to our self talk about anything and to any interaction between humans such as parenting, marriage, social, work and other relationships.The types of scolding comments and even positive instructions and praise we make to ourselves either silently or aloud when we are playing tennis are self defeating ; they re- enforce the performance that we label unsatisfactory. Then the negative comments we make to ourselves about our tennis performance become self fulfilling prophecies.Timothy Gallwey demonstrates that it is no use to replace negative self talk with positive self talk neither. Because positive thinking is actually negative thinking in disguise ; it communicates the demand for good performance and is therefore manipulative. Thus positive self talk and manipulative self praise also have an unfavorable effect on our tennis performance although not as much as negative self talk. Any instructions we give ourselves such as : ” tilt the face of the racket a little more ” or ” I hit it very well this time ” also interfere with the natural method of learning which is much more effective. We have the potential to learn naturally which is possible only when we let go, that is when we shut up and stop criticizing or praising our performance, stop giving instructions to ourselves and stop trying too hard to correct our mistakes.So what is the correct and effective method of improvement in tennis ? It is visualization in our mind of the desired strokes and consistent practice on the court. This practice must be without interference from the disruptive way of thinking and self talk. Gallwey does not propose that we do not pay attention to our tennis strokes. On the contrary, he says we must feel and be aware of our strokes without judgement i.e. without labelling our strokes as bad or good. If you think you are making mistakes eg : the ball keeps on getting caught in the net when you hit it, instead of saying to yourself things such as : ” You loser ! you couldn’t hit even one ball over the net ! ” just observe how you play non – judgementally and visualize in your mind’s eye the ball clearing the net and landing inside your opponent’s court and continue to play. Do this consistently without giving yourself verbal instructions about how to hit the ball ( aloud or silent ), be patient and observe the eventual correction in your strokes.He says that each human being has two selves ; Self 1 who continually makes judgements about the performance of Self 2 and scolds or praises it. In the meantime Self 2 is trying to play tennis under nagging and much less often praising from Self 1.Self 2 has the natural ability to learn and improve, like a toddler learns to walk naturally without any lessons nor comments from parents about how to walk. But Self 2 can not learn naturally nor effectively as long as Self 1 judges and comments negatively or positively about Self 2’s tennis performance and rolls out instructions to it. What we need to do is to silence Self 1 , visualize in our mind the desired strokes, continue practicing on the court and trust our body and mind’s natural ability to learn. The power of visualization in the mind with open or closed eyes ( with open eyes when you are playing of course ) of the desired performance to improve it in sports and other aspects of life is mentioned in many other psychology books too. As I mentioned above this principle is valid whatever we are learning and in our communication with other humans not just in tennis. In fact Gallwey says that Self 1 could be a critical parent and self 2 his / her child.Achieving these will involve unlearning the bad habit of self judgement whether it is negative or positive. Gallwey says that if we fight the bad habit it will get stronger. Instead of fighting the existing bad habit, develop the new habit to replace it. In fact don’t even see the bad habit as a habit. Like a toddler who promotes from crawling to walking does not see crawling as a bad habit to get rid of but rather as a stage in development.I observe that in many cases in addition to the disruption from their Self 1s many children taking tennis lessons also have to cope with additional negative comments sometimes even insults, yelling and unproductive praises from their tennis teachers, in front of their parents who bring them to the tennis lessons. The parents think that the tennis teachers are doing the right thing when they scold and yell at their children everytime they make a mistake. The result ; the mistakes get worse instead of being corrected. I have observed the same destructive attitude in swimming, basketball, gymnastics and classrom teachers at schools. It is a pity that most parents, teachers and bosses at the workplace do not know the psychology in this book titled ” The inner game of tennis “. Certainly there are tennis and other sports teachers, parents, bosses who are effective communicators but unfortunately they constitute the minority ; most teachers, parents and bosses are of the Self 1 type even if they have no bad intentions. Some of them are aware of the inefficacy of their methods and wish they could replace them with better methods but they can not help it. These teachers, parents bosses their students, children and employees would benefit greatly if the teachers, parents and bosses read and applied this book.In the book the author also gives a detailed action plan about how you can become more aware of your various tennis strokes without thinking about them in the wrong way. Just observe various parts of your strokes non – judgementally, become aware of them, by feeling and hearing them as they are without labelling them as good or bad. If you decide there is a need for improvement visualize your desired correct strokes as you may have observed from competent players. Avoid Self 1 from giving instructions to Self 2 and let it happen. He also gives examples of how dogmas regarding the correct way of hitting various types of strokes have changed overtime ; tennis teachers were scolding their students about some ” mistakes ” until tennis pros challenged the dogmas and started playing like the long time believed mistakes. Only then did the non – traditional strokes become generally accepted.Another very important issue the author talks about is the wrong and correct reasons for playing tennis ; if you play tennis because you like the game, want to be healthy and fit, want to make friends and at the same time you want to win from time to time etc. you are on the right track. But if the only reason you play tennis is to win, beat everyone else, prove to yourself and to everybody how great you are then you are playing tennis for the wrong reasons. Tennis is a very good stress reliever when played for the correct reasons. But it becomes a source of stress if played with such selfish motives. There is nothing wrong with wanting to win but if you are playing tennis only to prove your supremacy over other tennis players it is very likely that your motive is to compensate for low self esteem even if you are unaware of this.You may have low self esteem regarding your failures in other aspects of your life ; your social, work, marriage, parenting relationships or other feelings of inferiority. I know tennis players who play very well, but are very unpopular and annoying because they always brag about their tennis and are unhappy about other aspects of their lives. It is OK to want to win and improve in tennis provided that our self esteem does not depend solely on our tennis performance and we do not belittle other tennis players. If currently, knowingly or unknowingly we are relying only on tennis to bail us out of our low self esteem due to other problems in our lives, it makes sense to deal with our low self esteem by reading and applying a good self help book on the subject such as ” The six pillars of self – esteem ” written by a psychologist named Nathaniel Branden. If reading and applying that book is not sufficient to improve our self esteem we should seek professional help. Let’s play tennis for the correct reasons, not to liberate us from our low self esteem.Like any tennis player I am also pleased with myself when I win after a good game of tennis but I personally do not have the negative, the positive self talk nor the ” I must be the greatest in tennis otherwise I am no good ” attitude to the extent described in the book. Still, I found some mental and attitude corrections I need to make about my own tennis. I also realized that I am frocing my 10 year old son too much in tennis. I will ease the pressure on him. It would be nice if he won in the tournaments but not at the expense of his happiness.To summarize I highly recommend that you read ” The Inner Game of Tennis ” by W. Timothy Gallwey.

  4. B. F. Mooney

    Why do I recommend this book when almost all self-help books IMHO are market hype, and in truth, fraudulent. The only other “self-help” books I can recommend are Merton’ The Seven-Storey Mountain, St.Augustine’s Confessions, and Willian James The Varieties of the Religious ExperienceNOTE: the point is not my life; it is just testimony through an illustrative example.I first read this in 1982. I was living in Vermont, and in that peaceful place had taken the incredibly sport of bulleye pistol shooting (done single-handed with .22 Long Rifle and .45 ACP pistols). It is peaceful sport (I am a card-carrying pacifist and a Quaker).Anyway, I had moved up to the too 10% of such competitors in the state, even in the NE region. Hard work had gotten me this far, with coaching from senior shooters. But I had plateau. A top competitor who competed at a national level (and often won) noticed I hadn’t been improving for months. He tslked to me and suggest some improvements. This helped a little, but I was obviously stuck.Finally this mann, a State Police officer, video taped and analyzed my faults. He gave me a traing program, but said it wouldn’t be enough. So he said, read this book -it is not about tennis. He told me it allowed himmto move to the too. (The book also unexpectedly improved many other aspects of hislife, leading promotion (and eventually accept a high-salary offer from the State Police of another state.)So I read it. I was skeptical , until I grasp the core ideas, Applying these idea to my sport was truly a surprise! Over a couple of months, my score shot up and I started winning matches. Eventually I won the State hampionships, beating even the man who gave me the book. I started to apologize to him, and graciously said hecalways thought Imwas more gifted, and should win matches! He told that that attitude of gracious acceptance also came from reading Inner Game.Imfound the rest of my life improved as well. When I returned grad school, Inner Game helped me turn anxiety into excitement and joy. None of the the graduate-level science course were difficult for me because I was confident hard work would let excel in every course and in my dissertation work. I would not be a college professor today if I had not read Inner Game.The point is not my life ; that is just testimony through an illustrative example.Inner Game for skiing used to be very good, but apparently has been revised, and the core ideas were lost.So, with profound gratitude, I highly recommend this book. YMMY, but reading it will still be some you never forget or regret.It changed my writing and I published. It changed my sport and I began winning state and regional matches. It helped me sail through grad school to become the college professor I am today.Buy it. Read it.

  5. Jose S

    I really liked this book.While reading it, I realized that some things can be done in a very different way.This book left me wanting some more…Highly recommended!!!

  6. Fullerft

    My senior son ordered and is reading this book! An actual book. Makes want to read it myself. Doesn’t have his face in his phone!

  7. Logan Nelson

    Reading this book instantly allowed me to look inside and realize the issues I had that I never knew how to solve. The thing that spoke to me the most was the importance of focus. Being in the moment is something you hear a lot of successful people talk about and the instructions given in this book allow you to paint a vivid picture in your brain. I highly recommend this book to anyone who competes and feels stuck.


    With a myriad of self-help and personal development book’s and courses available, I was compelled to buy this book after reading a comment by NFL player Tom Brady say that this was the book that changed his game. Just to be clear, I am not a tennis player nor do I have any intention of taking up the game. After reading a brief sample of the book I purchased it with great curiosity. The clear and concise style of authorship by Gallwey makes this a pleasant read and makes the application of the ideas very practical. Gallwey draws up on his extensive personal experience of teaching tennis to share his style of tutorship that encourages the student to “get out of their own way” and let the natural flow of the body or “self 2” as he puts it to do the work. Though the application of this program is through the medium of tennis, it can be just as easily applied to any sport or indeed, facet of life. It almost takes on the aura of a spiritual works by a devout practitioner without actually leaving the practical plane or getting all “woo-woo”. Far from it in fact.Whether you are looking to perform better in your chosen sport, hobby, profession or life in general, this is a book that is elevated far above most of what is available out there by the more well known “self-help” gurus. The book is a life changer, not by offering you a short term buzz or illusionary pill that once it wears off you need more. Gallwey’s work here produces the outline for you to take back control of your own life by giving up the control of “self 1”. Its well written chapters provide real world practical advice and examples on how to best support your natural learning mechanisms, making permanent and positive changes that can provide fluid experiences. Even the chapters that offer technical advice on improving particular tennis skills provide a deeper insight on how to assist your own desires wherever you choose to apply them.I recommend this book for anyone keenly interested in self improvement or with an interest in how the body best learns new skills. No book shelf should be without this great work.

  9. Blanca Ruvalcaba

    It was a great book it really changed my mentality about sports and in general.

  10. Hope Brothers

    Classic. I read this book 25 years ago. Here I am reading it again. It is a must

5.00 average based on 10 reviews

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