Author: W. Timothy Gallwey
The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance W. Timothy Gallwey 1974
The Inner Game Phenomenon (The Inner Game of Tennis)
The Inner Game of Tennis: The publishers warned Timothy Galwey that it was unlikely that a tennis book would sell more than 20,000 copies. But the circulation exceeded two million, the book became an international bestseller, and the principles outlined in it gave rise to a methodology for developing personal potential that is relevant for any field of activity.
Each game has two components – external and internal. It is on the inner aspects of playing tennis and overcoming obstacles such as insecurity, inability to focus and self-condemnation that Timothy Galwey turns his gaze. What goes on in the mind of a tennis player and how does it affect his game?
Years of playing and coaching allowed Timothy Galwey to bring to light the internal discussion of tennis players and discover that most of these internal disputes come from fear and uncertainty – and they also create them. This closed system does not allow the player’s natural abilities to be fully manifested, to enjoy the game of tennis, to successfully master and improve technical skills.
Imagine that someone is constantly commenting on your actions and pointing out how and what to do. Someone who supposedly knows better how to play tennis properly: holding the racket, hitting the ball, and kicking. Someone who evaluates your efforts, takes credit for your successes and blames you for your failures. Someone who doesn’t really believe that you can handle it. And this someone is always with you: on the court, in training, in life. Because he is inside you.
But there is another part of you – the one that hits the ball with a racket. The one that embodies natural abilities, hears everything and forgets nothing. The one that, at least once hitting the ball correctly, forever remembers the feeling of which muscles and how to strain.
The relationship of these internal characters determines how your game or training develops. It is in their harmonization that Timothy Galwey sees the path to uninhibited high-class tennis and tells what inner skills contribute to this.
Yes, this book is about tennis, but whatever you do, there is always you, and therefore a place for the inner game.
What’s going on inside
We have two characters that act and affect us in completely different ways. If we understand how and when each of them takes the stage, we can bring our actions to harmony, which makes us as successful as possible.
Access to L2 is opened when L1 and L2 cooperate. Only a calm mind, harmony in the relationship of L1 and L2 allows you to translate dead knowledge into effective actions.
Skills for the harmony of two “I”
Judgment or evaluation is the main weapon of L1. Any action, whether it is a serve or a rebound, is evaluated by R1 as good or bad, which creates a vicious circle.
How the vicious circle of evaluation is born
To get rid of judgments, capture the facts using descriptive terms. This will allow you to see your punches for what they are and get out of the vicious cycle. If the ball hits the net while serving, mark it as such. This is enough not to turn a blind eye to mistakes, but also not to engage in self-condemnation. A clear perception of your punches for what they are will in itself start a process of rapid change.
Jack came to Timothy Galwey with “his terrible backhand.” Five different coaches told him that he lifted the racket too much during the backswing, but he could not fix it. Having made a swing, he was sincerely surprised, looking at his reflection in the window: “Yes, well! I’m really lifting up the racket! She flies above my shoulder!” There was not a drop of condemnation in this remark, only a statement of fact. And already from the second swing, Jack was able to keep the racket at the right height. Until then, his mind had been occupied with the process of judging and diligently correcting the wrong blow. Awareness of the blow as it is, immediately launched the process of change.The Inner Game of Tennis
How negative and positive R1 assessments work
But remember that not every statement is an estimate. Gratitude, respect for one’s own or someone else’s strength, success and talents support faith in the abilities of Z2.
2. Trust instead of control and willingness to let things take their course
Three pillars of trust in R2:
- Being able to consciously control body movements while playing tennis is an illusion.
To simply hit a flying ball, you need to know where to put your feet and how to turn the racket. To do this, at the moment when the ball flies off the opponent’s racket, it is necessary to calculate where it will hit the ground. Also take into account the initial speed of the ball, its gradual decrease, wind, the effect of the “twisted ball” and many other parameters. Can you make these calculations consciously in a tiny fraction of a second? And then, as soon as the ball bounced off the surface, recalculate everything to understand where it should meet with your racket? And do not forget that at the same time you need to give commands to the body, constantly updating them according to new information.The Inner Game of Tennis
R1 attempts to control movements lead only to excessive tension and diligence: even those muscles that are not needed at the moment are included in the work. Excess energy is spent on this, and the blow only weakens.
Think of the clenched teeth and chin on some players’ cheekbones, when you don’t need facial muscle tension to hit well. Or a first-grader with his tongue sticking out from the strain, which only displays letters on paper.The Inner Game of Tennis
- Recognition and respect for the abilities of L2. It is R2 that hits the flying ball, performing the entire most complex sequence of actions that is inaccessible to conscious control. It does this in the same way that it walks or reads. No computer can compare with the R2 in the management of complex physical actions.
To simply turn on the light, you need to coordinate many muscle impulses. But do you really need commands and hints, how far you need to stretch your hand and how hard to close your fingers in order for the switch to work?The Inner Game of Tennis
You can trust C2 to hit the ball on his own just as you trust him to walk or breathe.
- Disidentification. As long as you identify with your actions, disappointments are inevitable. But your backhand is not you. Even your overall tennis game is not you. And even your body is not you.
As long as the mother identifies with every failure and success of her child, her sense of self is as unstable as the baby’s gait. For internal balance, she needs to understand that the child is not her.The Inner Game of Tennis
I2 is just a part of you, and you can trust him to play the same way you trust another person to work.
3. The image of the result instead of verbal instructions
To convey your thoughts and desires to L2, speak to him in his language: the language of visual images and sensations. One picture can replace a thousand words for L2. Images are absorbed into the subconscious bypassing consciousness and go directly to the disposal of the body.
Three methods of figurative communication with R2
How to master technique
1. Abandon traditional learning based on obedience to the verbal instructions inherent in L1. The technical instructions for playing tennis come from experience. But the problem is that verbal descriptions and commands convey only an idea of the action, and not the action itself. We store them in memory only as voice messages. And remembering a verbal instruction is not at all the same as remembering a technique. If it does not exist in personal experience, the instruction continues to live in the mind in isolation from experience.
A common advice from many trainers is: “Don’t relax your wrist while backhanding.” It is based on careful observation of the power and confidence of hitting when the racket is held firmly or slack and relaxed. It seems legitimate and obvious, but it is impossible to use it. After all, a left hand can be made with a clamped wrist, and with a wrist so relaxed that the player does not even control his hand. What exactly from this range will mean that the wrist is not relaxed?The Inner Game of Tennis
2. Learn from experience. The skills of the inner game will give you access to the natural learning process inherent in L2. Most technical skills can be acquired naturally by simply observing your own body, racquet, and ball. A clear perception of your punches for what they are will in itself start a process of rapid change.
3. Use the instructions of more experienced people, translating them into personal experience and independently revealing the possibilities of a particular strike. You do not need to think where your racket should be pointing, but at any moment you need to know where it is, and therefore feel it.
To take advantage of the power of natural learning, the advice “Don’t relax your wrist during a backhand” should be replaced with advice on how to choose the optimal tension in the wrist area. To do this, you can carry out several strokes with varying degrees of tension, tracking the sensations, and choose the optimal one empirically. It will be difficult to convey it in words, but it will be remembered at the level of sensations.The Inner Game of Tennis
4. Don’t make dogma out of instructions. Drop the standards and discover your own way of hitting the ball. Find your own unique punching technique.
5. Keep control of your learning. An article about a new way of serving or that top-level professionals now serve a little differently does not mean that you urgently need to change your serve. But looking at a new way and experimenting with it can be interesting. Determine what you personally need, what goals you are pursuing, and proceed from this.
6. Watch the pros, but don’t consciously try to imitate their movements. Follow your interest – L2 will independently select those elements that it considers useful at this stage, and discard the excess. Track the sensations and results of each movement until the natural learning process leads you to optimal gestures.
7. Remember that all training in hitting technique is aimed at fulfilling only two tasks : after hitting, the ball must, firstly, fly over the net and, secondly, hit the court within the court.
How to change habits
Principles of the natural learning process:
1. Learning – awareness of the new, which changes the external (for example, the technique of playing tennis) or internal (for example, the way of thinking) behavior.
2. Habits – a well-trodden rut, a certain behavioral, stereotyped scheme. Each repetition of the same movement produces a barely noticeable effect in some tiny part of our brain. The more repetitions, the deeper the groove it leaves. In the end, a quite noticeable groove is obtained, like the sound track of a record, from which the pickup needle will not go anywhere.
3. Behavioral patterns always have a specific purpose. We are not inclined to repeat any action if it does not serve a purpose. Therefore, it is worth slowing down the condemnation of the “bad” habit and carefully consider what it gives us.
4. Instead of fighting a habit, it is worth replacing it with a new one that serves the same purpose, but is more effective. Breaking a habit with willpower is a path of long struggle, tension, and grief. It’s much more natural and easier to just leave her behind. So children stop crawling as soon as they realize that walking is a more convenient way to move around in space.
Four steps to change punching technique
Step 1. Observe without judgment.
The last three times the ball flew out of bounds by about half a meter. The racket does not go smoothly, but somehow oscillates. And what is the position of the racket during the swing? Yes, much above the belt… Well, this time the blow was strong, but the ball didn’t fly out of bounds.The Inner Game of Tennis
Step 2. Draw a picture of the desired result. A visual or tactile representation of each element of a stroke or ball’s trajectory from the racket to the target.
Step 3. Trust R2. Let R2 operate freely until a new track is rolled. Keep L1 away from this act.
Step 4. We observe without reasoning – we track changes and results. New changes are required only if the results do not match the created image. Otherwise, it is enough just to continue to observe the changes, simply fixing them in the mind.
Focus is the Key to Inner Skills
Inner game skills require that Self renounce pretensions to power, control, and the role of expert. But Z1’s voice gets stronger the more we argue with him, snap at his criticism and tell him to shut up. Fighting it does not contribute to calming the mind and harmony between L1 and L2. The passive position does not help either: if everything is left to chance, L1 is unlikely to leave us alone. The optimal way out is to occupy R1, focusing on something. Everything we experience on the court is a learning process. Consciousness makes things and events accessible to knowledge. It is channeled by the five senses and the mind itself. Attention focuses consciousness and allows you to know more deeply what is around.
Imagine a lantern in a dark forest. Those objects that are closer to it are better illuminated and visible more clearly. Those that are removed are barely visible. If you surround the lantern with a reflector and turn it into a spotlight, all of its light will be directed in one direction. Objects caught in the beam of its light will be seen with greater clarity. By redirecting the beam, we learn about those objects that were hidden by darkness. Focused attention also works. But if it is scattered to the sides due to a dirty lens or flickering light, the clarity of visible images is lost. This is how distraction and distraction work.The Inner Game of Tennis
Focused attention is being in the here and now. This is a state when our mind is tuned exclusively to what is happening in the present time and in a given place, and everything that is not of interest at the current moment remains outside of attention. The state when we are focused on a single place and time, where and when we really act and enjoy life and ourselves.
You can focus attention both on external objects accessible to the senses, and on internal ones – thoughts or feelings. The beam of attention can be wide and cover the whole area of the forest, or narrow, aimed exclusively at the bend of the branch. But it must be something that is present here and now.
But just looking at a subject or thinking hard about it does not mean concentrating. Attention is not concentrated through force. Attention follows interest. The mind irresistibly reaches out to the object that interests it, and natural concentration comes by itself. Just let yourself be interested.
It is better to change the methods of concentration for training from time to time – our mind is too restless to keep it on the same object. During the match, it is worth choosing one move and not deviating from it anymore, and when the game is suspended, focus on breathing. Breathing is always with us, occurs continuously, is closely connected with the energy of the body and is one of the fundamental rhythms. By focusing on your breathing during the break, you will be able to focus even better by the time the game is played.
The lapses in concentration, when our mind prefers the world of the past or the future to what we have now, are due to the fact that tennis is far from the only game that is played on the court. If Y1 is fighting for life and death for his honor and self-esteem, Y2 will hardly be allowed to stick his head out. But it is enough to understand his games to feel a breath of freedom and choose the game you want.
Ways to focus in tennis
Hidden games of people on the tennis court
Only the variations of Health and Pleasure are in harmony with the inborn needs of L2.
The meaning of victory and the value of obstacles
True competition equals true cooperation. We compete with an opponent, but we do not defeat another person at all, but the obstacles that he provides us with. And if victory is overcoming obstacles on the way to the goal, then its value is directly proportional to the complexity of these obstacles. And then we only wish the opponent that his serve was a success as well as possible, and we cooperate to give each other a chance to be realized as much as possible. There are no losers in this game. Both players only win by getting the opportunity to reach the real limits of their abilities.
The surfer has no human opponent, and there seems to be no competition. Its goal is to join the stream and swim, subduing the wave, to the very edge of the sand. But if that’s all he wants, why is he waiting for the biggest wave he thinks he can ride? He appreciates the very challenge that the wave presents, and the obstacles that it provides on the way to his goal – the edge of the sand. It is they who allow him to show all his abilities.The Inner Game of Tennis
The victory in the external game, that is, the victory in a particular match, is beyond our control. It depends not only on our efforts. Its co-author is always the enemy with his will and skill. But the maximum dedication for the sake of victory is under our complete control.
Out of court
In any human activity there is both external and internal play. In addition to external obstacles on the way to the goal, there are always internal ones.
“Work harder, work better, be like that, don’t be like that, strive for achievements. Hurry to change, because we are introducing changes.” All this is not too different from requirements like “hit the ball like this, hit it like that, you’re worthless if you don’t master the new technique.”The Inner Game of Tennis
The good news is that internal obstacles always come from the same source and the same skills are suitable for overcoming them : humility Z1 and trust Z2. And focus in tennis is no different from the focus you need for any other task.
In the midst of rapid and non-stop change, it is especially important to maintain inner balance and clarity of vision, which means to withstand the onslaught of L1 and its panic in the face of the threat of certain events. The easier it is to do this, the stronger your Self2 is. Support, encourage him and learn to distinguish his needs from the external requirements that have been adopted by Self. When you act in accordance with R2, you are accompanied by a sense of the meaning of being.
Top 10 Thoughts
1. In addition to the external game, there is always an internal game. Without attention to the inner aspects, neither perfection nor joy can be achieved – both in tennis and in any other activity.
2. Everyone has two characters inside. Self1 – the conscious mind – commands, controls, evaluates and criticizes. Self2—the unconscious, body, brain, and nervous system—is doing the work.
3. Z1 does not trust Z2. His commands, control and criticism lead only to excessive tension and diligence, insecurity and self-condemnation. Under such oppression, R2 is difficult to manifest itself, and it involuntarily gets used to the role of a worthless player, which R1 ascribes to it.
4. L2 is capable of much more than L1 thinks. It remembers every action and the result of every action. Includes all personal and accumulated abilities. Learns naturally, based on the accumulated personal experience and seen actions.
5. The key to overcoming such internal obstacles as self-judgment, insecurity and inability to focus is in the harmony of the relationship of L1 and L2.
6. Three skills for harmony between L1 and L2:
- Valuelessness. Give up judgment. They only destroy self-esteem and make it difficult to perceive their game and technique as they are, preventing the natural process of change from unfolding.
- Trust Z2. Controlling R2 is like controlling the breath. It is worth recognizing his abilities and allowing him to act on his own. Stop identifying with your every action and trust R2 to hit the racquet just as you trust others to do this or that job.
- Communication in one language. L2 speaks the language of visual images and sensations. It cannot reproduce an action from a verbal description. Send him an image of the result you want, and you’ll get what you want faster than you thought.
7. Habits are like a well-trodden rut. Don’t try to cut or break them. Just determine what purpose they serve and replace the way they achieve it with a new, more efficient one.
8. Four steps for natural learning:
Step 1. Observation without judgment.
Step 2. Painting the desired result.
Step 3. Trust R2.
Step 4. Non-judgmental observation of changes and results.
9. It is useless to argue and fight with R1 – it only makes it louder. Just keep it busy by focusing on something. But remember that attention is not concentrated through force, but follows interest. In order not to fall out of concentration, figure out what other goals you are pursuing and what games you play for this while being on the court.
10. True competition equals true cooperation, and true victory is overcoming obstacles on the way. The better the opponent plays, the more opportunities you have to show your abilities and reach their real limits.