The Inner Game of Tennis – W. Timothy Gallwey
Thoughts: The Inner Game of Tennis made a pretty big impact upon me when I read it, applicable to my music playing and even more to my music teaching. Typing these notes up now, several years after I read the book, I’m struck by how much the ideas of Self 1 and Self 2 align with the conscious vs unconscious parts of the mind dealt with in books I’ve recently read like Atomic Habits and The Elephant in the Brain, as well as what I’ve heard about Thinking Fast & Slow.
(The notes below are not a summary of the book, but rather raw notes - whatever I thought, at the time, might be worth remembering.)
Gallwey, W. Timothy. 1979. The Inner Game of Tennis. Bantam.
- 7: in many domains, showing is better than telling, images are better than words, too much instruction is worse than none.
- 13: Gallwey identifies two “selves” within each person, corresponding to the ego and the unconscious. “The key to better… anything lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller, Self 1, and the unconscious, automatic doer, Self 2”
- 16: “‘This time, I want you to focus on the seams of the ball’” (a way to direct your focus toward perceiving the movement of the tennis ball as fully as possible, allowing other tasks to be taken over by the subconscious) - j: worth thinking about how I can apply this in my teaching, or in my own learning.
- 17: “learning of several skills: learning to program… Self 2 with inner images rather than instructing yourself with words; learning to trust [Self 2 to do its thing]; learning to see non-judgmentally – that is, to see what is happening rather than merely noticing how well or how badly it is happening”
- j: this last point: cf. quantitative/empirical data is no substitute for a good qualitative description - be sure what you’re measuring is really what's relevant
- 31-33: to do: use mirrors more often in my teaching/learning
- 34: “the most beneficial first step is to encourage [someone] to see and feel what [they are] doing – that is, to increase their awareness of what actually is.”
- 39: “my compliment had engaged their judgmental minds.”
- 40: “‘Compliments are criticisms in disguise. Both are used to manipulate behavior’”
- 47: “everyone who inhabits a human body possesses a remarkable creation”
- 51: detached interest allows a skill to develop naturally. “trust your body to learn… as you would trust another person to do a good job”
- 52: “the main goal of Self 1 is to set goals”
- 54: “to Self 2, a picture is worth a thousand words. It learns by watching the actions of others, as well as by performing actions itself.”
- Ch. 3: Three methods of programming Self 2: Programming for Results, Programming for Form, Programming by Identity
- 64: to do: experiment with role-playing, both in my own playing/conducting, but also in what I ask choristers to do.
- 88: “It is not helpful to condemn our present behavior patterns… as ‘bad’; it is helpful to see what function these habits are serving, so that if we learn a better way to achieve the same end, we can do so.”
- j: clear echoes of this in chapter 10 of Atomic Habits
- 90: “there is no need to fight old habits. Start new ones.” “starting a new pattern is easy when done with childlike disregard for imagined difficulties”
- Ch. 7: Concentration: tennis-specific methods listed: watch the ball, listen to the ball, pay attention to the sense of touch.
- j: what are musical analogues for these things? Listen for the timbre of one’s instrument, listen to other musicians fully, listen for alignment of onsets, watch another musician’s hands or face…
- 114: “Instead of using concentration to help my tennis, I now use tennis as a means to further increase concentration”
- 124: “it is perplexing to wonder why we ever leave the here and now.”
- 131-135: Games we play, rather than playing the Inner Game:
- Good-o (Perfect-o, Compete-o, Image-o)
- Friends-o (Status-o, Togetherness-o…)
- Health-o-fun-o (Health-o, Fun-o, High-o (to achieve higher consciousness(…?)))
- 137: “The value of a human being cannot be measured by performance, or by any other arbitrary measurement. … Are we not an immeasurable energy in the process of manifesting, by degrees, an unlimited potential?”
- 152: “The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents”
- 153: “Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal, but the value of winning is only as great as the value of the goal achieved.” “[Your opponent] is a friend to the extent that [they do their] best to make things difficult for you. Only by playing the role of your enemy [do they] become your true friend”
- 154: “…the startling conclusion that true competition is identical with true cooperation”
- 156: “for the player of the Inner Game, it is the moment-by-moment effort to let go and stay centred in the here-and-now action which offers the real winning and losing, and this game never ends”
- 160: “both the inner and outer games go on simultaneously, so the choice is not which one to play, but which deserves priority.” “Almost every human activity involves both the inner and outer games”
- 170: “I have found it helpful to look at myself as the seed of a tree, with my entire potential already within me, as opposed to a building, which must have stories added to it to achieve a greater height.”
- 173: “when we understand something, we may have cause to be wary of it, but there is no fear.”
- 175: “If I wasn’t learning as much as my tennis students in the course of a lesson, I probably shouldn’t be teaching them.”
Posted: Feb 25, 2021. Last updated: Feb 25, 2021.