The Inner Game Of Tennis
W. Timothy Gallwey
Reading the Inner Game of Tennis is an experience in putting two and two together, both within the covers of the book and within the mind of the reader. It is actually a delicate book. Tennis tips and instructions are given simply and clearly, even brilliantly, yet something; rather subtle is always happening just off the court.
What is the 'Inner Game? Tim Gallwey, the author, describes it this way: "Every game: is composed of two parts, an outer game and an inner game. The outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles, and to reach an ex, ternal goal. Mastering this game is the subject of many books offering in; structions on how to swing a racket, club or bat, and how to position arms legs or torso to achieve the best results. But for some reason most of vs find these instructions easier to remember than to execute.
"It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to relatively neglectedskills 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 concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation."
It seems that What Tim prescribes should work: achieve at least a mild state of relaxed concentration; refrain from punishing yourself with unnecessary thought lectures; and let your body do what your own tennis experience has automatically programmed it to do. Then watch the effects of relaxed concentration in other areas of your life - and enjoy yourself by being better at anything you do.
But there is one possible flaw in the book. No doubt your tennis game will improve by reading it, but if the general reader sincerely applies the principles given and absorbs the rationale - or rather the 'beyond rationale - behind the principles, he will ultimately experience frustration.
Why? By following Tim's techniques, he will get a glimpse - but only a glimpse of perfection. Tim insinuates in many different places that perfection is possible. At some point in the development of a tennis game, a career, a theory or a human relationship one sees that perfection is not being realized and that everything less than perfection is tthe notorious 'almost' of sports. "I
almost made that shot." Or, "I almost won." And everyone knows that doesn't count, it doesn't ultimately mean anything in terms of experiencing the total satisfaction human beings long for-in life.
But Tim never really spells out how to complete that 'almost.' He does, however, hint that he knows. And in that, I think, he is playing a nice inner game of his own with the reader. Thus, the part of The Inner Game of Tennis which is hopeful (if you manage to put the unspoken two and two together) or frustrating (if you don't) is Tim's underlying insistence that complete satisfaction, complete concentration is possible, in tennis, in all aspects of life.
Once Tim began really getting involved with the inner game that happens on a tennis court, he found that excellence in tennis was no longer his primary goal. This is where the book leaves tennis behind and takes on a more esoteric look: "After I developed by practice some small ability to concentrate my mind, I discovered that concentration was not only a means to an end, but something of tremendous value in itself. As a result, instead of using concentration to help my tennis, I now use tennis as a means to further increase concentration." And where does that lead us? Getting deeper into it " … There is something within every human being that is not mentioned in psychology books … It is something real and changeless; its beauty and its value have no limits … When one finds one's way to the direct experience of it … then he has achieved the first - but not the final - goal of the Inner Game." Still, if you feel that you somehow got left behind on the tennis court, that's where it all started anyway. And that, too, is what the book is all about. The Inner Game of Tennis is one of those 'unified wholes'; a skillful weave of many levels of perception - physical, mental and spiritual - with no level dominating so much that one can safely ignore the others. Perhaps that is why it is selling so well.