The Inner Game of Tennis

The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallwey could be described in multiple ways. It is a philosophical book using tennis as a tool to explain his thoughts. Or it is a tennis book with philosophical underpinnings. Either way, this book has high reviews on Amazon and Goodreads because it goes beyond tennis.

I play tennis and this book has helped my game tremendously. But more importantly, this book has changed my views on learning and winning. Gallwey’s ideas have similarities to buddhist principles. He was either influenced by buddhism or he naturally got to these principles through tennis. It is fascinating how Gallwey’s ideas and buddhist teachings coincide. Gallwey did not mention any buddhist influence to his ideas.

The middle part of the book goes on specific details about tennis techniques. If you don’t play tennis, it might not be interesting. But the majority of the book teaches how to learn effectively. On how to develop nonjudgmental awareness. Judgements and our egos impede the learning process. Judgements are partly the reason why adults have a difficult time learning new skills compared to how children learn by simply doing (without any judgment).

The last part is a must-read. It touches on how society is obsessed with competition. And that one’s self worth is tethered on winning. Winning external achievements should not be the main priority. Winning the internal game is more satisfying and less stressful.


Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting.

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.

Self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Judgment results in tightness, and tightness interferes with the fluidity required for accurate and quick movement.

In the game of tennis there are two things to know. The first is where the ball is. The second is where the racket head is.

As the player finally lets himself observe his racket with detachment and interest, he can feel what it is actually doing and his awareness increases. Then without any effort to correct, he will discover that his swing has begun to develop a natural rhythm.

There is a natural learning process which operates within everyone. This process is waiting to be discovered by all those who do not know of its existence.

positive thinking

It is impossible to judge one event as positive without seeing other events as not positive or as negative.

how to teach self 2

Teach self 2 using its own language – imagery. You cannot teach self 2 with words.

Give self 2 a clear visual image of the results desired.

Once you are competing it is too late to work on your strokes, but it is possible to hold in your mind the image of where you want the ball to go and then allow the body to do what is necessary to hit it there.

Too many verbal instructions, given either from outside or inside, interfere with one’s shotmaking ability.

The competitive ethic

We live in an achievement-oriented society where people tend to be measured by their competence in various endeavors.

When love and respect depend on winning or doing well in a competitive society, it is inevitable that there will be many who feel lack of love and respect.

We are what we are; we are not how well we happen to perform at a given moment.

The meaning of competition/winning

Each person imagines that by beating the other he has in some way established his superiority over him, not just in a game, but as a person.

What is seldom recognized is that the need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt. Only to the extent that one is unsure about who and what he is does he need to prove himself to himself or to others.

It is when competition is thus used as a means of creating a self-image relative to others that the worst in a person tends to come out; then the ordinary fears and frustrations become greatly exaggerated.

Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached. Reaching the goal itself may not be as valuable as the experience that can come in making a supreme effort to overcome obstacles involved. The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself.

In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by each other.

It is said that all great things are achieved by great effort. Although I believe that is true, it is not necessarily true that all great effort leads to greatness. If the reward is worth the effort, does he attempt to overcome the obstacle.

Building inner stability

The cause of most stress can be summed up by the word attachment. Self 1 gets so dependent upon things, situations, people and concepts within its experience that when change occurs or seems about to occur, it feels threatened.

The cornerstone to stability is to know that there is nothing wrong with the essential human being.

What else can be done to promote stability? Focus. Focus of attention in the present moment, the only one you can really live in…

Stability grows as a I learn to accept what I cannot control and take control of what I can.