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

(inner Game)

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  8,797 ratings  ·  767 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 1974)
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Mary Because it was originally published in 1974. ;)

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Jake Taylor
Jul 31, 2012 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 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
Emma Scott
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
ETA: My husband's Goodreads account is inexplicably linked to mine. So when he finishes a book, his review shows up here. I have not read this book but I trust the reviewer. He's pretty keen. ;)

His review:

An enlightened view

Some simple and profound insights. Practical and theoretical guidance on the power of attention and focus, and the pivotal role these essential skills play in the game of tennis and the game of life. Highly recommend. A swift and engrossing read with lasting value.
Nicolay Hvidsten
I bought this book twice, if that's not a testament to its quality I don't know what is.

Immediately after I finished listening to the audio book version I went over to amazon and once more gladly gave them my money in exchange for a physical copy. 'Why?' you ask? Because this is not a book you read once, then forget about. This is a book that needs to be absorbed over time, then put aside while you contemplate its messages and let them grow, before once more picking it back up and solidifying wh
Mario Tomic
Oct 09, 2014 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
Mar 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: work


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
Jul 25, 2010 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
Anthony Mazzorana
Feb 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
It’s Buddhism, secularized and westernized and applied to sports. Bloody brilliant if you ask me.
Tigran Mamikonian
Jan 14, 2015 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
May 10, 2012 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 struggling ...more
Jun 21, 2008 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
Daiva Sindaravičiūtė
Jul 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book since primarily I was interested to learn more about tennis. By reading the title you'd assume that it's purely about tennis, yet tennis is used as an example.

This book explains more about the inner game of “everything”.The book breaks down the Self into Self 1, which is basically your thinking brain (judging), and Self 2, which is your "feeling" brain.

Author also gives an interesting perspective on winning, derived from surfers. Surfers want to ride the biggest wave not
Sergio Reyes Armas
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Woow. Incredible book. It breaks down our selves into two. Self 1 - your analytic side, always judging and caring about what other people think and Self 2, your feeling and doing side. So basically, Self 2 can master everything if Self 1 doesn't interfere. In order to achieve it, you have to learn how to quite your Self 1. The book gives some strategies about how to focus in important moments and also a great perspective about winning and losing.
Sep 16, 2013 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 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow, thanks Made You Think podcast. I was so short sight in avoiding this and thinking I needed to focus instead on technique and the physical.

This book is life changing, I will be reading and re-audiobooking it soon.
Arash Narchi
Jan 26, 2016 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.
Vishal Katariya
Enjoyed it. I realized pretty soon that this isn't a book about tennis at all, instead it's about how to control your mind while doing anything. Turns out, you can't control it. Instead, you let the body dictate and find its natural rhythm. You have two selves, Self 1 and Self 2 (Kahnemann and Tversky anyone?). Self 1 is the intellectual self that tells you, "take a longer backswing!" whereas Self 2 just does. The book veered off from tennis to get into breathing, meditation, concentration, cons ...more
May 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
The author makes the distinction between Self 1 (the thinking brain) and Self 2 (the executing and feeling brain), stating that Self 2 can get in a state of flow or relaxed concentration if it learns to quiet the brain (Self 1). The book also provides a framework for trying to achieve this state and the analysis is based on the tennis game. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on winning and competition and the comparison with the surfers who wait for the biggest wave because they value the chall ...more
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
I generally dislike self-help books, but the Inner Game of Tennis is different. It is concerned as much with philosophy and meditation as it is with tennis, or as it states:

All these skills are subsidiary to the master skill, without which nothing of value is ever achieved: the art of relaxed concentration. The Inner Game of Tennis will next explore a way to learn these skills, using tennis as a medium.

The book does this quite well, astoundingly so given that it was published about 40 years befo
Nov 13, 2011 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
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2012
I am an emotional tennisplayer, which I hate! So when I heard about this book I ordered it immediately. I didn't read it all the way through, but when I felt I needed some support I read some chapters. It really helped! Not that I am as cool on the court as I should be, but it did help me set my mind in the right direction... coping with the other me that always gets mad or dissapointed when I don't hit a ball right. Still have ups and downs, but now that I am more selfaware I can control the em ...more
Mark Bao
A very good book on the "selves" involved in learning, as well as how to learn naturally. Applied to tennis, naturally, but this can be applied to many things. This was a really good book on the fundamentals and techniques on natural learning (or "inner game" learning).

I found it goes pretty well with the dual process theory presented in Thinking, Fast and Slow, connecting "self 1" to "system 2" and vice versa.
Margaret Ashton
Sep 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This book is one of the most important books out there for overcoming our own mental barriers to any activity. It was actually recommended to me by my oboe teacher, but has also been brought up by shooting coaches and, yes, tennis coaches. Definitely worth a read to get great ideas on how to trust your subconscious and overcome your own tendencies to over-think performance - and thereby not perform as well as you can. Highly recommend - for everyone, not just tennis players!
Oct 07, 2010 marked it as to-read
Recommended by Kareem!
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
It is a short book that punches way above its weight. Surprisingly, it packs a lot of wisdom for such a small size. Perhaps, it is because it was written in 1975 when authors didn’t feel compelled bloating book sizes for the sake of sales.

This book teaches you an interesting concept. As a player of any kind of game, you should be competing not against an opponent, and not even against yourself, but to test the limits of your abilities and uncover the ultimate levels that you did not know you po
Mar 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
I took from this book two important insights. First, a refreshed view on thinking fast and slow, or systems 1 and 2, in situations that require many sub-second decisions. Slow thinking is simply unable to keep up with the rate of events, significantly reducing performance and preventing a state of flow. Unfortunately, it seems we are unable to turn off slow thinking on command. To keep it in check, let it pay attention to a single object or recurring event, offloading the majority of computation ...more
Apr 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A simple book with a powerful message - to quiet the mind, allows the body to excel. Ever see a cat inch up on its prey? The cat has utmost focus and every muscle is acting out of instinct. Contrary to the cat, human minds continue to be bombarded by the outside world. Learning to filter what is important and what is not, is imperative in excelling in this chaos. Learning to give up something, is what allows us to be free. How do we gain such focus? How do we become lucid? There are techniques d ...more
Jul 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book is quite strange to read if you go into it without any plans to start learning tennis in the future but you read it anyway because of all the high recommendations. And sure enough with a bit of patience you can pull out quite a few gems of wisdom till you get to the last third. Some of the thoughts on why and why should we compete in various areas of life are quite interesting. Sure some of the suggestions of letting go of judgments and go with the natural flow are as old as humankind i ...more
Tommy Johnson
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really good read for anyone devoted to self-improvement. Though the theory put forth in this book about Self 1 and Self 2 might not be wholly indicative of reality, it is at least a helpful paradigm for both critically assessing one's performance while also being kind and gentle with oneself. The big takeaway for me is that stressing over performance and overthinking your mistakes is actually harmful to improvement, something 'Endure' by Alex Hutchinson also stresses convincingly. Having this bo ...more
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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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