The Inner Game of Tennis - W. Timothy Gallwey

The Inner Game of Tennis - W. Timothy Gallwey

Discover in this summary ways to develop self-confidence, becoming a person more concentrated and focused on your goals.

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Have you ever stopped to think why we do something very well in one day and so bad in another day? In the book "The Inner Game of Tennis" W. Timothy Gallwey explains how to overcome these habits that block performance excellence.

The author defends his points contextualizing with a tennis match: the inner and exterior game. In this way, a better fixation is formed about the concepts taught throughout the book.

You will also learn how to explore your unlimited power, learning the art of relaxed concentration, creating solid self-confidence, and spontaneous performance. In this way, you'll find a way to overcome yourself naturally.

Want to know more about these techniques? Start now reading this summary!

About the book "The Inner Game of Tennis"

The book "The Inner Game of Tennis" has its most updated version released in 2016. It is an American bestseller that focuses on the gap reduction between the potential and the performance.

During its 160 pages, the book addresses in 10 chapters coaching concepts that will help you to master concentration and self-confidence.

About the author W. Timothy Gallwey

Timothy Gallwey is also known as the founder of the coaching concept. He was born in 1938. Timothy was already captain of the Harvard tennis team in 1960.

In the 70s, he started to develop concentration techniques as a manner to improve and intensify the tennis matches, originating this book.

To whom is this book indicated?

This book is recommended to people that are looking forward to performing better in life, whether in the workplace, in sports, or in raising your children.

The concentration techniques presented here will guide you to release your true potential, opening doors never imagined before.

Main ideas of the book "The Inner Game of Tennis"

  • Concentrate mind in a natural way to eliminate tension and nervousness;
  • Master the "relaxed concentration" state, amplifying your performance in any activity;
  • Discover the smart learning techniques, making easier the fixation and application to future teachings;
  • Comprehend the concept of winning and losing.

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[Book Summary] The Inner Game of Tennis - W. Timothey Gallwey

Overview: Reflexions about the tennis mental aspects

In this first chapter of "The Inner Game of Tennis", the author comments about how to develop the mental aptitudes that guide us to excellence in practice, always exemplifying with a tennis match.

The typical tennis class

Here W. Timothy Gallwey explains the ordinary tennis teaching method, where the professor tries to transmit the technical commands verbally, but due to that, the student ends up feeling nervous and pressured, missing the execution.

Thus, the author realized that fewer verbal instructions were resulting in an increased likelihood of the desired change. To prove that, he started to show the correct execution/movement, forcing the student to look at him imagining himself executing the correct movement.

This methodology brings higher naturality to the students' movements, concluding that show is better than speaking.

"Conscious attempt leads to negative results."

Playing with mind

In this part, the author mentions the importance of full concentratio n, in an "out of mind" state, so naturally concentrated that you have no time to think about how you're executing the movements. This virtue is explained throughout the book.

Overview: The discovery of the two egos

In the second chapter, W. Timothy Gallwey presents the two egos concept: during a tennis match it is very common to talk to ourselves, giving instructions like "keep your eyes on the ball!".

This is because there are two selves inside us, one gives the instructions while the other executes: the EGO 1 and EGO 2, respectively.

The author states that the secret to improve your performance is to build a better relationship between these two inner selves. EGO 1 being the conscious and EGO 2 the unconscious.

Typical relationship between EGO 1 and EGO 2

In this part, the author explains that EGO 2 listens to every word EGO 1 says, and never forget what has too much insight, it's your own nature.

EGO 1 doesn't trust in EGO 2, and because of that, it sends excessive commands to EGO 2, transforming it into something unnatural, making the situation worst.

In this way, Gallwey suggests that we should stop charging ourselves so much, leaving EGO 1 concentrated in something, i. e. staring at the tennis ball while you execute the movement, leaving EGO 2 work, trusting in yourself!

Overview: Put things together - Part 1

Calming the mind

Timothy Gallwey states that there is harmony between the two egos only when the mind is calm:

"Perhaps that is why it is said that great poetry is born in silence, that great music and great art arise from the silent depths of the unconscious, and that true expression of love comes from a source that is beyond words and thoughts. So it is with the best performances in sports: they come when your mind is calm as a serene lake."

In order to apply that, it is necessary to put things together, slowing down your mind rhythm, thinking less, focusing on the present, acquiring the perfect union between the action and the actor. So having inner security that we can execute something without having to work so hard.

Abandoning Judgements

The book suggests that this is the first step to calm the mind. For example, if you judge whether the ball was good or bad, you'll be forcing your EGO 1 to try to correct your movement and also think about your mistakes, making you more nervous.

This effect just gets worst, starting to surface generic negative thoughts: "you're playing bad" goes to "you're bad", and your EGO 2 starts to believe in it!

"You become what you think."

The author points out that abandon judgments are not ignoring your mistakes, it means just see the events as they are, without add something to them.


Gallwey states that positivity is not something beneficial as well, because compliments are disguised criticisms, putting pressure and tension to don't make mistakes. The reasoning works as follows: "If what I'm doing is good, the opposite is bad", and then you start to judge your performance again!

Overview: Put things together - Part 2

Let it happen/Trust in yourself

"The Inner Game of Tennis" points out that it is impossible to unite the two egos without confidence. Trust in yourself isn't having positive thinking, is just let your body hit the ball, leaving EGO 1 behind, without interfere in the process.

Let it happen isn't make it happen, it is not put so much effort into it, and it is definitely not about controlling your movements.

Programming the EGO 2

When you don't know how to do something, let your body learn it, he will store each new and useful experience to execute the next time.

Use EGO 1 in a cooperative way, establishing goals to EGO 2, always being natural and without suspicion. In this way, the 3 steps to program EGO 2 are formed:

  1. Goals established by EGO 1;
  2. Let EGO 2 perform what was proposed (without judgments);
  3. Transmit to EGO 2 images instead of words.

Overview: Changing habits

In this chapter, the author explains that when we learn how to change a habit, it is much easier to choose which habit to work in. Once you discover how to learn, you just need to discover what worths to be learned. According to Gallwey:

"Why is it so easy for a child to learn a foreign language? Mainly because she has not learned to interfere with her natural learning process. The Inner Game's way of learning is a return to this childish way."

It is not necessary to fight against the old habits, it just makes us more nervous, simply start new ones.

First, observe and analyze your movements, see what you're doing wrong, but don't charge yourself due to it. So program your mind imagining and visualizing for 1 or 2 minutes the way you want to execute the movement.

After that, let it happen without pressure, leaving EGO 1 out of your thoughts. Observe without interfering.

"The more you trust the natural process that is going on, the less you will tend to fall into common patterns that interfere with learning."

Overview: The importance of concentration

Timothy Gallwey reinforces the thesis that concentrate isn't something intellectual, it is natural. He exemplifies saying that look at a tennis ball, focusing on its seams is a good exercise to stop thinking about things, because the ball is always in the present, avoiding thoughts about the past or future.

"Concentration is the fascination of the mind, it's not looking at something, it's not trying to concentrate."

The author explains that makes use of touch, sound, and sight as a manner to concentrate during a match is a good option, focusing your attention on the ball sound, on the racquet impact, etc. Choose something that keeps you in the present, anything that works better for you!

Overview: Games that people play on the court

In this chapter, the author explains the 3 common types of tennis players, and how their EGO 1 works in each situation.

Game 1: The Best

In this class, we have the "perfect", the "competent" and the "image" player.

The perfect has the "good" and acceptable parameter only the perfection, their EGO 1 fights constantly with their body, having the "perfect pattern" as their main goal.

In the case of the competent, the "good" is measured in comparison to other players' performance, their EGO 1 always wants to prove that is better than others.

Finally, for the image, the "good" about looks brilliant, making plays that impress everyone, their EGO 1 is afraid of not being pleased.

Game 2: The Friend

This kind of player doesn't search for excellence comparing themselves with others, like the previous style. They crave only social approval, making friends, their EGO 1 is constantly afraid of rejection, adapting their game to please their friends.

Game 3: Health or Leisure

This player plays due to a medical indication, where there EGO 1 is always doubting whether it is really being helpful, or for leisure, which is the purest form of tennis, playing without judgments, only for fun.

Competitive Society

The book "The Inner Game of Tennis" comments about the society we live in, where we are constantly judged by our performances, but in fact, we are who we are, and we cannot be judged by it. To explain, the author quotes a phrase from Jonathan L. Seagull:

"Aren't we immeasurable energy in the process of manifesting unlimited potential? Is this not so for every human being and perhaps for all forms of life? If so, it really doesn't make sense to be compared with other entities and people or with other beings that cannot be measured."

Overview: The meaning of competition

Gallwey explains in this chapter that our society interprets competition as a way to project an image to others, and there is when our worst part appears. All your fears and wishes arise, making us more unstable and nervous.

The worry about self-image is the biggest threat to our performance. Your value is not connected to your performance in one match.

The author explains that many times we don't appreciate the details of life, nature, because we are always craving success and perfection, thinking that if we don't win we aren't worthy of love.

The meaning of win

The author explains this word with the following sentence:

"To win is to overcome obstacles to reach a goal, but the value of winning is only comparable in magnitude to the value of the goal achieved. Achieving the goal itself may not be as valuable as the experience we have in making a supreme effort to overcome the obstacles involved. The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself."

Said that your opponent is actually your friend, presenting you challenges to overcome yourself. When competing with you, the opponent becomes a partner, cooperating with your growth!

Both are growing and getting stronger with the challenges that appear during the match.

What do other authors say about it?

In the book "Focus", Daniel Goleman argues that practice only brings you closer to perfection if it's done intelligently, that is, if the person who is practicing uses that time to make adjustments and improvements. How much attention you employ during practice is crucial.

In "Deep Work", Cal Newport divided the book into two sections. First, he argues that in almost all professions, keep a deep work brings huge benefits, including in our personal life, a virtue that he explains throughout the book.

In the book "Essentialism", Greg Mckeown says that when we try to do everything and have everything, we make decisions that take us away from our goal. If we don't decide where we should focus our time and energy, other people - bosses, colleagues, customers, and even family - decide for us, and soon we lose sight of everything that is significant.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

After test this new learning methodology, we tend to return and use EGO 1 again, because when we got something right thinking and aiming it, we feed our EGO 1, a fact that doesn't occur when we got something right naturally and without pressure, because we feel that are nobody to give credit.

In this way, the main tips are:

  • Don't go back to EGO 1, with the thought "now I have the secret, it's the concentration", because concentration is something natural, without thoughts to force it to happen;
  • Find something inside the sport/activity that keeps you concentrated, and use it always cherishing the naturality;
  • Apply the values change: instead of focus on improving your movements, prioritize your energies to improve your concentration, it is the key to success;
  • When the mind learn how to stay calm in crucial moments, it becomes capable of easily distinguish real dangers from imaginary ones;
  • Remember the last overview about competitiveness, reflect on your attitudes and how do you face competition.

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Book 'The Inner Game of Tennis'