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

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  3,474 Ratings  ·  328 Reviews
The Inner Game of Tennis is a revolutionary program for overcoming the self-doubt, nervousness, and lapses of concentration that can keep a player from winning. Now available in a revised paperback edition, this classic bestseller can change the way the game of tennis is played.
Paperback, 134 pages
Published May 27th 1997 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published January 1st 1974)
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Mary Because it was originally published in 1974. ;)
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Jake Taylor
Jul 31, 2012 Jake Taylor rated it it was amazing
This was one of those books that I will never regret reading. The Inner Game of Tennis is well written, engaging, and probably the most practical and applicable book to my own life that I have ever read. I don't even play tennis and this book has helped my mental and physical approach to and performance in sports, namely basketball. I have always hindered my own performance by doing all the wrong things: trying too hard, criticizing myself, always trying to correct things but never actually perf ...more
Urban Sedlar
Sep 26, 2013 Urban Sedlar rated it really liked it
By reading the title you'd think it's about tennis, but it only touches it. It talks more about the inner game of *everything*. First, it breaks down the Self into Self 1, which is basically your thinking brain (always analyzing and judging), and Self 2, which is your "feeling and doing" brain. The book gives ample evidence (that's also quite easy to relate to) that Self 2 can master almost everything in a short amount of time, while being "in the flow", if only Self 1 doesn't interfere. Thus, t ...more
Mario Tomic
Nov 21, 2014 Mario Tomic rated it it was amazing
Honestly this is one of the best book I've ever read, it really spoke to me on so many different levels. If you've played any sports or games you know what it feels like to be In The Zone, everything is flowing and you play the best you've ever played. This state is familiar to most of us but what is preventing us from being in the zone every game? Well, this book addresses that exact issue and I found it extremely valuable to help me reach a new level for my gym workouts. One other thing I real ...more
Nov 24, 2011 Ahsan rated it it was amazing
This is one the most important books I've ever read (well, heard). Gallwey manages to teach us how both how to learn and how to teach in one book, and does so lucidly. The Self 1-2 abstraction is powerful and intuitive.

Not surprising but it seems this is the book that inspired the executive/business/personal coaching phenomenon in the 70s - but of all the self-development books I've read, this one tops them all!

It always amazes me when things I have learnt from diverse sources, even diverse g
Tigran Mamikonian
May 25, 2015 Tigran Mamikonian rated it it was amazing
Shelves: coaching
The Inner Game of Tennis by Tim Galloway is one of the best book I’ve ever read. Tim wrote this book in 70s and since then this book became classics, it even kicked off new profession - coaching…
The key idea of the book is that all of us are perfect from birth to death, so only limitation to achieve full potential are self-limitation we put on ourselves by being judgmental, unfocused and egocentric. Tim illustrates this by saying that in ourselves there are 2 selves: Self 1 - teller, thinker, c
Mar 12, 2014 Jeremy rated it it was amazing


Images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and… trying often produces negative results.

The “hot streak” usually continues until he starts thinking about it and tries to maintain it; as soon as he attempts to exercise control, he loses it.

The first skill to learn is the art of letting go the human inclination to judge ourselves and our performance as either good or bad.

Judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions and then to ti
May 18, 2012 Stacey rated it really liked it
Preface: I am not a tennis player. However, I am an ultimate Frisbee player/athlete and a lot of what Timothy talked about (perfecting your "Inner Game" via mental acuity & awareness) can be readily applied to any non-contact/competitive sport- especially ultimate Frisbee which is very much a thinking/mental game after you've mastered the basic skills. My friend, and some would say "coach," gave this to me to read- believing that it would help me get over a few things that I have been strugg ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Laura rated it did not like it
I finally gave up on this book after getting about 2/3 of the way through. Gallwey gets the heart of the issue pretty quickly and that's pretty much it to this book. Basically, the philosophy is yoga for tennis: be aware of what is happening in the present moment and you will stumble upon incredible insights. Also, quiet the critical mind (what Gallwey calls Self 1) and let your deeper, more instinctual impulses guide you (Self 2). In other words, trust yourself and turn off the unhelpful self-c ...more
Jul 25, 2010 David rated it it was amazing
I am a musician, and this was recommended to me by another musician friend. As it turns out, many of my colleagues have read this book, so it seems as though I am the last! 'The Inner Game' has, without a doubt, been one of the most beneficial books I have ever read. Before I had even finished, some of the insights of the book had already begun to change the way that I practice, audition, and perform! I wont say that the author has come up with any ideas or concepts so revolutionary that they ha ...more
Oct 18, 2013 Ben rated it liked it
I don't play tennis. But now I don't have to because I have locked down the inner game.

This book isn't really about tennis, it's about wu wei. Flow. The zone. Being "unconscious." It's about silencing the inner critic, detached observation, and naturalism. I read it from the perspective of a musician, although I am not much of one anymore, and felt like there was some great wisdom there.
Jun 27, 2008 Ryan rated it liked it
Recommended to Ryan by: Phil
Definitely a worthwhile read for the athlete and non-athlete alike (but especially for the athlete). Some amazing insights given that this book preceded all of the empirical work within the field of psychology concerning the dual role of the conscious vs. unconscious mind in shaping behavior. The most difficult part is figuring out how to institute some of the suggestions in specific situations (especially in other sports). Most of the examples are of course heavily dependent on the tennis mediu ...more
Feb 15, 2014 Betsy rated it it was amazing
This book isn't just about tennis, it's about learning to do anything more naturally. Our brains/ego -- "self 1" -- are not as smart as we think they are. There is no way that our brains can think through all of the small movements our body needs to do to hit a fast-coming ball with a tennis racket, or control our vocal chords to sing a song, or play a fast-paced jig on a fiddle. To do these sorts of things, we need to stop thinking and let our unconscious self - "self 2" - take over, trusting s ...more
Gwen Skrzat
This book is a classic -- if you play tennis it's a must read. The author is a renowned sports and life coach who became famous with this book, in a large part because Harry Reasoner thought the principles in it couldn't possible work and challenged to author to prove them. He did, and it changed the reporters mind, and the way many of us look at how we play sports and also how we live.

It's primary thrust is to help the reader learn to apply some basic principle of non-judgment and focus to thei
Dec 12, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it
This is a book about the inner game of performance, common to sports and the performing arts and beyond.

It's a solid book and clearly worthy of its popularity. I'm sure in its original release, in the 70's, it was revolutionary.

The central tenet of the book is that we have a "self 1" that is conscious (and neurotic) and a "self 2" that is instinctual (and fully capable) and that we should reform the communication between these two selves in order to enjoy our games (and performances) more. Also
Edgar Mora-Reyes
Mar 23, 2014 Edgar Mora-Reyes rated it did not like it
En el presente siglo hemos dedicado gran tiempo y recursos a experimentar y explorar nuevos conceptos solo para darnos cuenta que lo nuevo es lo viejo pero con otro nombre.
El autor utiliza simple sentido común y conceptos ya explorados y definidos por la pedagogía y la filosofía, en particular por la epistemología, pero comete el gran error, el autor, de creerse "creador" de una nueva teoría que utiliza definiciones de la psicología positiva, aportando sinceramente poco a la realidad de la perso
Arash Narchi
May 24, 2016 Arash Narchi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology, 2016
If you want to understand how to better focus and get in a mental state to excel your performance, this is a great book for that.
Jul 27, 2015 Elizabeth marked it as to-read
Recommended by Kareem!
Ispirian Hovhannes
Nov 12, 2015 Ispirian Hovhannes rated it it was amazing
Прекрасное пособие по ментальной стороне любого спорта высоких достижений и раскрытию своего потенциала, которое практически применимо и крайне полезно почти для любой сферы жизни человека, которая связана с обучением или другой осознанной деятельностью. Сегодня о темах, которые затронуты в книге очень много сказано и написано много великолепных книг: от "Потока" М. Чиксентмихайи до "Максимальной концентрации" Палладино. Однако, читая работу Тимоти Голви, написанную им в 1974 сугубо на основе св ...more
Ian Laird
Aug 30, 2016 Ian Laird rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sport, self-help
What a revelation - a Freudian approach to tennis.

The Inner Game of Tennis is an old book I have had for some time, but never got into thoroughly, but I am glad I have now.

Timothy Gallwey was a good player, highly educated, and in the mid-seventies found no-one had written a book on the psychology of tennis. So he wrote this.

His central thesis is that there are two tennis selves, self one (which I would liken to a superego, consciously controlling and directing all aspects of shot production) a
Jul 05, 2011 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
I received this book as a gift a couple of years ago. I haven't played tennis in many years, but I was intrigued by the premise stated in the introduction.

Mr Gallwey asserts that each tennis player not only is playing the external game of tennis, but an inner game where the ego is fighting against the natural player inside. He terms these two opponents as Self 1 and Self 2. Self 1 wants to be in control and suffers from competitive pride. Self 2 is the natural learner, the body that can instinc
Paul Darcy
Jan 09, 2012 Paul Darcy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: self-help
by Timothy Gallwey, published in 1974.

As the title of this book suggests it deals with, mainly but not entirely, with the game of tennis and what goes on inside your mind during the tennis game as opposed to the physical aspects of hitting the ball.

That is not to say that Timothy Gallwey does not give practical advice on stroke production - one chapter deals specifically with that - but rather he outlines a philosophy taken from the yogi about how to deal with mind and body during the tennis gam
Aug 30, 2009 Nicholas rated it really liked it
Shelves: psychology, lifestyle
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2007 Becca rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone in a field that involves consistent practice and mental games.
As a classical musican, the lessons that Gallwey has taught me have been invaluable. Although he focuses on the applications of the inner game as it applies to tennis, the metaphor can easily be switched to any number of things. I know there is a book entitled The Inner Game of Music, which is much more specific to my field, but Gallwey's book says much more with fewer words.

The state of "relaxed concentration" is the one most desired for any stressful situation in which you have to performed a
Junsong Li
May 17, 2016 Junsong Li rated it it was amazing
Shelves: eyeopener
I rate this a six-star book.

The best part of this book, for me now, is the eureka when the author reaches the conclusion that "true competition is identical with true cooperation." For years I've always been a take-your-time-and-build-your-skills guy. I didn't know how competition would help me, and thus I tended to avoid competitions. The eureka moment hit me so strong that I suddenly saw all my fault in my previous years.
Tatiana Averina
Mar 20, 2016 Tatiana Averina rated it really liked it
When we try to do everything right we are distracting our attention from reality. So, from now on I will try to observe and analyse the situation with detached curiosity without being critique. And accepting that I am a queen without trying to put the crown on its right place. I promise :)))
Jan 02, 2016 Marc rated it it was amazing
This was an incredibly important book to my development as a musician. Much better than the Inner Game of Music.
Julia Choukhno
Jan 15, 2015 Julia Choukhno rated it it was amazing
Классика коучинга и темы развития человека, к которой можно возвращаться раз за разом и всегда открывать что-то новое.
Oct 17, 2016 Adove rated it really liked it
Youtue video summary of the book

Here is the summary of /u/ukranner in news.ycombinator

The Usual Way:
1. Criticize or judge past behavior.
2. Tell yourself to change, instructing with verbal commands repeatedly.
3. Try hard. Make yourself do it right.
4. Critical judgement about results leading to repetition of process.
The Inner Game Way:
1. Non-judgmentally observe existing behaviour.
2. Ask yourself to change, programming with image and feel.
3. Let it happen!
4. Calm observation of results leadin

Michael Obiora
Sep 23, 2016 Michael Obiora rated it it was amazing
I’ve never played a full game of tennis before - I played a bit in primary school but all we did was just attempt to hit the ball back and forth between each other. I admire Serena Williams because she is on her way to becoming the greatest female tennis player of all time - not bad for a black lady in a white dominated sport. Oh, she’s from Compton too. I also admire her older sister because of the mental strength she has demonstrated for years as she battled a chronic illness, and still manage ...more
Rich Baker
May 30, 2016 Rich Baker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. What a fantastic book. Don't let the title fool you. It's not about tennis exclusively. In fact, my guess is that you could substitute the specific nouns in the book ('tennis' 'racket' etc.) for whatever nouns go into the field that you practice and you'll get a lot out of this book.

I listened to the whole thing substituting 'tennis' for 'improv' (I am a performer and teacher of improv) and I found this book to be immensely helpful. Gallwey put into his words a lot of the philosophies that
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W. Timothy Gallwey (born 1938 in San Francisco, California) is an author who has written a series of books in which he has set forth a new methodology for coaching and for the development of personal and professional excellence in a variety of fields, that he calls "The Inner Game." Since he began writing in the 1970s, his books include The Inner Game of Tennis, The Inner Game of Golf, The Inner g ...more
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“When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as "rootless and stemless." We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don't condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.” 45 likes
“It is said that in breathing man recapitulates the rhythm of the universe. When the mind is fastened to the rhythm of breathing, it tends to become absorbed and calm. Whether on or off the court, I know of no better way to begin to deal with anxiety than to place the mind on one’s breathing process.” 4 likes
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