The Inner Game of Tennis




The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard. (Location 90)review

the key to better tennis—or better anything—lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the natural capabilities of Self 2. (Location 192)review

In short, “getting it together” requires slowing the mind. Quieting the mind means less thinking, calculating, judging, worrying, fearing, hoping, trying, regretting, controlling, jittering or distracting. (Location 275)review

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. (Location 284)review

letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors. It simply means seeing events as they are and not adding anything to them. (Location 332)review

Judgment results in tightness, and tightness interferes with the fluidity required for accurate and quick movement. Relaxation produces smooth strokes and results from accepting your strokes as they are, even if erratic. (Location 342)review

Read this simple analogy and see if an alternative to the judging process doesn’t begin to emerge. 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. (Location 344)review

Self 1, the ego-mind, wants to take responsibility for making things “better.” It wants the credit for playing an important role in things. It also worries and suffers a lot when things don’t go its way. (Location 490)review

Why shouldn’t a beginning player treat his backhand as a loving mother would her child? The trick is not to identify with the backhand. If you view an erratic backhand as a reflection of who you are, you will be upset. But you are not your backhand any more than a parent is his child. (Location 591)review - Note: You are not your actions in the short term, but perhaps are in the long term

What is the native language of Self 2? Certainly not words! Words were not learned by Self 2 until several years after birth. No, the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images. Movements are learned through visual and feeling images. (Location 645)review

Getting the clearest possible image of your desired outcomes is a most useful method for communicating with Self 2, especially when playing a match. (Location 667)review

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. (Location 668)review

Having outlined these basic styles to a group of players, I often suggest that as an experiment they adopt the style that seems most unlike the one they have previously adopted. I also suggest that they act the role of a good player, no matter what style they have chosen. Besides being a lot of fun, this kind of role-playing can greatly increase a player’s range. (Location 753)review

Letting go of judgments, the art of creating images and “letting it happen” are three of the basic skills involved in the Inner Game. (Location 759)review

Many times I have seen students hitting perfectly good shots, but complaining about them because they thought they did something “wrong.” By the time they have brought their stroke into conformity with their concept of the “right” way to do it, the shot has lost both power and consistency, as well as naturalness. (Location 812)review

For the teacher or coach, the question has to be how to give instructions in such a way as to help the natural learning process of the student and not interfere with it. (Location 831)review

“Hold the foil as a bird, not so loosely that it can fly away, but not so tightly that you squeeze the life out of it.” It is a nice metaphor. (Location 878)review - Note: On how hard to grip a tennis racquet

Backswing Exactly where is the head of your racket at the back of your swing? Where is the ball when you initiate your backswing? What happens with the face of the racket during the backswing? (Location 935)review

Impact Can you feel where the ball is meeting the racket at impact? How is your weight distributed? What is the angle of racket face at impact? How long can you feel the ball on the face of the racket? To what extent can you feel the kind and amount of spin being imparted to the ball? How solid does the shot feel or how much vibration is sent up your arm at impact? How far in front of or behind you is the ball at impact? (Location 937)review

Follow-through Where does your racket finish? In what direction? What has happened to the face of the racket since impact? Is there any hesitancy or resistance experienced during the follow-through? (Location 941)review

Footwork How is your weight distributed during preparation and at impact? What happens to your balance during the shot? How many steps did you take to get to the ball? What size are the steps? What kinds of sounds do your feet make on the court as you move? When the ball approaches you, do you retreat, advance or hold your ground? From how solid a base are you hitting the ball? (Location 942)review

How much forward or behind, right or left of the toe of your front foot? (Location 954)review - Note: Regarding the toss

Because power is so sought after on the serve, it is not unusual for players to “try too hard” to produce it, and in the process to overtighten the muscles of wrist and arm. Ironically, the overtightening of these muscles has the opposite effect on power. It reduces power, by making it more difficult for the wrist and elbow to release freely. So again, the important point is to observe the tightness of your muscles so that you can experientially find the degree of tension that provides the best results. (Location 965)review

Most important of all, note how each of these players has his or her hitting arm in the “palm-down” position: i.e., the hitting-hand palm is facing the ground at the moment the ball is released. … This is necessary to achieve the “lasso effect” of a good serve, in which the racquet is then quickly raised above the head and circled down around the back before snapping up to strike the ball. (Location 993)review

Toss the ball as high as the extended arm and racket, and about six inches in front of your lead foot. (Location 1065)review

When one learns how to change a habit, it is a relatively simple matter to learn which ones to change. Once you learn how to learn, you have only to discover what is worth learning. (Location 1072)review

In short, there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones. It is the resisting of an old habit that puts you in that trench. Starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties. (Location 1116)review - Note: This reminds me of Simon Sinek saying don’t think about an elephant. It actually causes you to do it more. Here if imagine what we want to happen it will likely lead to better results

Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change. (Location 1133)review

It is not unlikely that during this observation period some changes have already begun to take place unintentionally. If so, let the process continue. (Location 1134)review

If increased power does not come immediately, don’t force it. Trust the process, and let it happen. (Location 1148)review - Note: I have found this to be helpful. The first session you attempt the new feature it just doesnt work, but the next time it might.

To test if the groove is there, serve a few balls with all your attention solely on the ball. Be engrossed in the seams of the ball as you throw the ball into the air so that you are sure that your mind is not telling your body what to do. (Location 1169)review

The process is an incredibly simple one. The important thing is to experience it. Don’t intellectualize it. See what it feels like to ask yourself to do something and let it happen without any conscious trying. For most people it is a surprising experience, and the results speak for themselves. (Location 1209)review - Note: Is this a more elaborate form of don’t tense up and get out of your head?

To still the mind one must learn to put it somewhere. It cannot just be let go; it must be focused. If peak performance is a function of a still mind, then we are led to the question of where and how to focus it. (Location 1251)review

Watching the ball means to focus your attention on the sight of it. I have found that the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived. (Location 1264)review

Not assuming you already know is a powerful principle of focus. (Location 1280)review

Focus is not achieved by staring hard at something. It is not trying to force focus, nor does it mean thinking hard about something. Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested. When this occurs, the mind is drawn irresistibly toward the object (or subject) of interest. It is effortless and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled. (Location 1303)review

Remember: it is almost impossible to feel or see anything well if you are thinking about how you should be moving. (Location 1362)review

“Basketball is a complex dance that requires shifting from one objective to another at lightning speed. To excel, you need to act with a clear mind and be totally focused on what everyone on the floor is doing. The secret is not thinking. That doesn’t mean being stupid; it means quieting the endless jabbering of thoughts so that your body can do instinctively what it’s been trained to do without the mind getting in the way. All of us have flashes of oneness … When we’re completely immersed in the moment, inseparable from what we’re doing.” (Location 1486)review

The grade on a report card may measure an ability in arithmetic, but it doesn’t measure the person’s value. (Location 1629)review

The answer was simple, and it unraveled the confusion that surrounds the true nature of competition. The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort. It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome; only then can he realize the true limits of his capacities. At that point he often attains his peak. In other words, the more challenging the obstacle he faces, the greater the opportunity for the surfer to discover and extend his true potential. (Location 1782)review

So I arrived at the startling conclusion that true competition is identical with true cooperation. Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in this use of competition it isn’t the other person we are defeating; it is simply a matter of overcoming the obstacles he presents. In true competition no person is defeated. Both players benefit by their efforts to overcome the obstacles presented by the other. Like two bulls butting their heads against one another, both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other. (Location 1800)review

When I’m concerned only about winning, I’m caring about something that I can’t wholly control. Whether I win or lose the external game is a result of my opponent’s skill and effort as well as my own. When one is emotionally attached to results that he can’t control, he tends to become anxious and then try too hard. But one can control the effort he puts into winning. (Location 1826)review

As tennis players we tend to think too much before and during our shots; we try too hard to control our movements; and we are too concerned about the results of our actions and how they might reflect on our self-image. (Location 1841)review

Until subdued, Self 1 is capable of producing fears, doubts and delusions wherever you are and whatever you are doing. (Location 1864)review

learning to welcome obstacles in competition automatically increases one’s ability to find advantage in all the difficulties one meets in the course of one’s life. Hence, every inner gain applies immediately and automatically to the full range of one’s activities. (Location 1867)review

Maybe wisdom is not so much to come up with new answers as to recognize at a deeper level the profundity of the age-old answers. (Location 1883)review - Note: Do you ever hear something you had heard before but it carries new weight and meaning this time. This quote feels like that.

The message of the Inner Game is simple: focus. Focus of attention in the present moment, the only one you can really live in, is at the heart of this book and at the heart of the art of doing anything well. (Location 1938)

Do your best in the current moment and if you do that long enough you will succeed

The ability to focus the mind is the ability to not let it run away with you. It does not mean not to think—but to be the one who directs your own thinking. (Location 1941)review - Note: Sleep is a critical aspect to having control over your focus