The Inner Game of Tennis

These principles can be applied to anything. I don't even play Tennis. I still loved the book.

4 min read

Chapter 1 - Reflections on the Mental Side of Tennis

To best learn, you must not think about what you are doing right or wrong, because then you'll do it wrong.

It must be done automatically, "out of mind" or "unconsciously", so to say.

You learn by imitating others, and you learn what to immitate by seeing what they are doing and repeatedly imagining yourself doing it.

Chapter 2 - The Discovery of the Two Selves

Teller = Self 1

Doer = Self 2

Self 1 gives orders to Self 2.

Self 1 is bossy and very critical of Self 2.

Self 1 does not trust in Self 2.

Self 1 is to blame, but blames Self 2, which reduces confidence in Self 2 further. This results in even worse performance.

Make Self 1 not think, or make it think about something else so that Self 2 can do its thing.

  1. Learn to get the clearest picture of the desired outcome.
  2. Learn to trust Self 2.
  3. Learn to see 'non judgmentally' - to observe what is happening without thinking it to be either bad nor good.

Chapter 3 - Quieting Self

Harmony between the two selves exists only when the ego-mind, Self 1, is quiet and focused.

Only then can peak performance be reached.

Skills required to quiet Self 1:

  • Letting go of judgements
    • Self-judgements become self-fulfilling prophecies.
    • If you say that you are something enough times, Self 2 starts to live up to that expectation.
    • Letting go of judgements does not mean to ignore errors, but instead, to see things as they are, and not add anything to them.

Chapter 4 - Trusting Self

Self 2 is your body. Everything in it.

Let Self 2 make it happen - do not interfere.

Think of how a child learns to walk. It's mother doesn't scold it because it falls, nor does it judge itself.

If your body doesn't know how to do something, let it learn.

How to learn: Observe - absorb it visually. Feel how it is to imitate the actions.

How to talk to Self 2:

  • Ask for results. Tell your body to "do whatever you have to do to get there" - and then just let it happen.
    • Do not give "how to do it" orders to Self 2.
  • Asking for form. Close your eyes and imagine perfect execution of the task that you are about to perform. While your eyes are closed, practice the movements. After a few repetitions, go do. But do not slet your Self 1 interfere with Self 2.
  • Asking for qualities. Some people 'hypnotize' themselves into bad performance. They do this by repeatedly telling themselves that they are bad at something, or in another sense, lack certain qualities. To fix this, act as if you were a professional at what you do. Have the confidence.

Chapter 5 - Discovering Technique

The best use of technical knowledge is as a hint towards a desired destination.

Chapter 6 - Changing Habits

When you learn how to change your habits, it is relatively simple to learn which ones to change.

Once you learn how to learn, you only have to discover what is worth learning.

Grooves (patterns) build up - which are more likely to repeat - because when you perform an action, you are increasing the probability of you performing that action again.

Grooves = habits. If you have bad habits, start new ones.

Step by step guide to making those changes:

  1. Nonjudgmental observation
  2. Picture the desired outcome
  3. Trust Self 2
  4. Nonjudgmental observation of change and results

Chapter 7 - Concentration: Learning to Focus

Fighting Self 1 and ordering it to be quiet does not work. You must distract it by learning to focus it.

The best way to increase concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived.

It is very difficult to focus for extended periods of time. That is why the best way to remain focused is to get interested in what you are focused on.

No matter how many times you've seen it.

Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus.

The greatest lapses in concentration come when we allow our minds to project what is about to happen or to dwell on what has happened.

How can we then stay in the present?

Practice. When your mind starts to leak away, simply bring it gently back.

Chapter 8 - Games People Play on the Court


Chapter 9 - The Meaning of Competition

It is when competition is used as a means of creating a self-image relative to others that the worst in a person tends to come out.

If you are secretly afraid that by performing badly or losing the match may be taken to mean that you are less of a man, naturally you will be more upset with yourself for making a mistake. This only makes it harder to perform at the highest levels.

The only competitor you have in life is yourself. Do not compare yourself to others, compare yourself to the you of yesterday.

Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached.

The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself.

Instead of hoping that your opponent makes a mistake, hope that he performs well. That will only serve to challenge you, and therefore, improve you.

Chapter 10 - The Inner Game Off the Court

Perhaps the most indispensable tool for human beings in modern times is the ability to remain calm in the midst of rapid and unsettling changes.

The ones who best survive the present age are the ones Kipling described as "those who can keep their heads while all about are losing theirs".

Inner stability is reached by acquiring the ability to see the true nature of what is happening and to respond appropriately.

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