The Inner Game of Tennis

The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
by W. Timothy Gallwey | Random House © 1997 · 122 pages

Originally published in 1974, this book is, as the sub-title suggests, the classic guide to the mental side of peak performance and transcends tennis/sports. If we want to win the game of life, we've gotta start by winning the inner game. In the Note, we'll take a quick look at how to do that, learning about Self 1 + Self 2 (and how to help them get along), quieting our mind and asking for qualities we aspire to have.

To uncover and explore the potential within the human body is the quest of the Inner Game; in this book it will be explored through the medium of tennis.
W. Timothy Gallwey

“It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance. . . .

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. He aims at the kind of spontaneous performance which occurs only when the mind is calm and seems at one with the body, which finds its own surprising ways to surpass its own limits again and again. Moreover, while overcoming the common hang-ups of competition, the player of the inner game uncovers a will to win which unlocks all his energy and which is never discouraged by losing.”

~ Timothy Gallwey from The Inner Game of Tennis

As Timothy Gallwey tells us in the first line of the book, “Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game.”

The outer game focuses on winning a match or achieving some external outcome against an external opponent. The inner game, of course, focuses on what’s going on inside our minds and how we can dial that in to win.

Originally published in 1974, this book is, as the sub-title suggests, the classic guide to the mental side of peak performance.

Pete Carroll (coach of the Seattle Seahawks and author of Win Forever (see Notes)) wrote the foreword and talks about how deeply inspired and influenced he was by the book. I think it’s fair to say that all modern mental training books lean into this wisdom in one way or another.

Tennis is the medium through which the finer points of the inner game are explored, but the wisdom transcends tennis and sport. It’s a great, quick read. (You can get the book here.)

Let’s jump in and explore some of my favorite Big Ideas!

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About the author


W. Timothy Gallwey

Creator of The Inner Game