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The Inner Game of Tennis

A book recommended by just about every coach I know.

It has a great way of looking at how we interfere with our own performance and how we can tackle this.


value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills;

secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.

This process doesn’t have to be learned; we already know it.

my own worst enemy; I usually beat myself.

sometimes my verbal instructions seemed to decrease the probability of the desired correction occurring.

that images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that trying often produces negative results.

to play unconsciously does not mean to play without consciousness.

It becomes one with what the body is doing, and the unconscious or automatic functions are working without interference from thoughts.

within each player the kind of relationship that exists between Self 1 and Self 2 is the prime factor in determining one’s ability to translate his knowledge of technique into effective action.

Self 1 does not trust Self 2,

learning to see “nonjudgmentally”—that

Harmony between the two selves exists when this mind is quiet and focused. Only then can peak performance be reached.

As soon as we reflect, deliberate, and conceptualize, the original unconsciousness is lost and a thought interferes.

we are focused without trying to concentrate.

“getting it together” requires slowing the mind.

See how long you can remain thoughtless. One minute? Ten seconds? More than likely, you found it difficult, perhaps impossible, to still the mind completely.

Letting go of the judging process is a basic key to the Inner Game;

they are evaluations added to the event in the minds of the players according to their individual reactions.

judgment is the act of assigning a negative or positive value to an event.

self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies.

letting go of judgments does not mean ignoring errors.

judgmental labels usually lead to emotional reactions

It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each state, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is.

He had learned, but had he been “taught”

both participating in a wonderful process of natural learning.

most beneficial first step is to encourage him to see and feel what he is doing—that is, to increase his awareness of what actually is.

my compliment had engaged their judgmental minds.

this subtle ego-mind sees a compliment as a potential criticism.

“My compliments are criticisms in disguise. I use both to manipulate behavior.”

By ending judgment, you do not avoid seeing what is.

Acknowledgment of one’s own or another’s strengths, efforts, accomplishments, etc., can facilitate natural learning, whereas judgments interfere.

trust is developed, and eventually the basic but elusive ingredient for all top performance emerges—self-confidence.

it seems inappropriate to call our bodies derogatory names.

It is Self 1’s mistrust of Self 2 which causes both the interference called “trying too hard” and that of too much self-instruction.

You trust in the competence of your body and its brain,

In some ways the relationship between Self 1 and Self 2 is analogous to the relationship between parent and child.

Letting it happen is not making it happen.

He simply absorbs visually the image in front of him. This image completely bypasses the ego-mind,

It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.

the native tongue of Self 2 is imagery: sensory images.

happen!Self 1’s only role is to be still and observe the results in a detached manner.

When a player succeeds in forgetting himself and really acts out his assumed role, remarkable changes in his game often take place;

the less fear and doubt are embedded in the instructional process, the easier it will be to take the natural steps of learning.

experience precedes technical knowledge.

words can only represent actions, ideas and experiences. Language is not the action,

too many verbal instructions, given either from outside or inside, interfere

Trying too hard to perform even a single instruction not well understood can introduce an awkwardness or rigidity

“No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.”

you use the instruction to guide your discovery of the optimal degree

the best use of technical knowledge is to communicate a hint toward a desired destination.

allow yourself to focus on whatever most interests

Self 2 will automatically pick up elements of the stroke that are useful to it and discard what is not useful.

Self 2 has very good instincts about when it is time to work on any particular element

The prevailing learning mind-set is a freedom to search for the feel that works for you.

Natural learning is and always will be from the inside out, not vice versa.

Self 2’s nature is to evolve every chance it gets.

We never repeat any behavior which isn’t serving some function or purpose.

the harder we try to break a habit, the harder it becomes to do.

If you think you are controlled by a bad habit, then you will feel you have to try to break it

Step 1: Nonjudgmental Observation

It is good to pick the stroke you most want to change.

Step 2: Picture the Desired Outcome

Step 3: Trust Self

Step 4: Nonjudgmental Observation of Change and Results

The important thing is to experience it. Don’t intellectualize it.

a strange phenomenon called “trying to relax.” Relaxation happens only when allowed, not as a result of “trying” or “making.”

Relaxed concentration is the supreme art because no art can be achieved without it, while with it, much can be achieved.

the most effective way to deepen concentration through sight is to focus on something subtle, not easily perceived.

The mind is so absorbed in watching the pattern that it forgets to try too hard.

Focus is not achieved by staring hard at something.

Attention is focused consciousness, and consciousness is that power of knowing.

it is also necessary to learn to focus awareness in the now.

usually part of our energy is left in the thought world of past or future,

Alertness is a measure of how many nows you are alert to in a given period.

in breathing man recapitulates the rhythm of the universe.

actions which need to be done in the present have their best chance of being successfully accomplished,

One caution about “the zone”: it cannot be controlled by Self 1.

the child self, the true self, is there and will be there as long as our breath is.

every achievement-oriented action becomes a criterion for defining one’s self-worth.

who said that I am to be measured by how well I do things?

who said that I should be measured at all?

a human being cannot be measured by performance—or by any other arbitrary measurement.

the need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt.

The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents.

It is only against the big waves that he is required to use all his skill, all his courage and concentration to overcome;

obstacles are a very necessary ingredient to this process of self-discovery.

The process can be more rewarding than the victory itself.

true competition is identical with true cooperation.

When one is emotionally attached to results that he can’t control, he tends to become anxious and then try too hard.

one can control the effort he puts into winning. One can always do the best he can at any given moment.

the inner obstacles come from only one source and the skills needed to overcome them remain constant.

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

Self 1 tends to thrive when it is fought.

The cause of most stress can be summed up by the word attachment.

the cornerstone of stability is to know that there is nothing wrong with the essential human being.

The ability to focus the mind is the ability to not let it run away with you.

we are still just at the beginning of a profound and long-needed rebalancing process between outer and inner.