The Inner Game & Learning Theory of Tennis

by Lucy Dale
Timothy Gallwey's book may help improve your tennis game.

Timothy Gallwey's book may help improve your tennis game.

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In 1972, Timothy Gallwey, a former Harvard University tennis player, revolutionized the world of tennis and competitive sports by applying theories of meditation and Eastern religions to the game. These learning theories allowed thousands of players to improve their games, and encouraged others to pick up tennis for the first time. If you want to take your tennis game to the next level, applying theories from the Inner Game of Tennis may help you.

The Outer Game

Gallwey doesn't focus on what he terms the "outer" game of tennis, except where it's affected by the inner game. The outer game consists of the elements that students and tennis players traditionally learn, from technique to game strategy. The outer game is played "against" opponents and works on an adversarial system. However, Gallwey contends that no amount of outer training can make a player succeed if he is challenged by problems with his "inner" game.

The Inner Game

The theory behind the inner game of tennis is that the real game is located in the player's mind; the player isn't fighting the opponent, but rather her own doubts and anxieties. By mastering the inner game through techniques based on Zen philosophy--concerning items such as gamesmanship, awareness and eradicating bad habits--players can break through and experience tennis on a new level.

Overcoming Obstacles

The techniques that Gallwey presents allow players to overcome various obstacles that athletes often face. These include doubting oneself on the court, anxiety, and a lack of focus. The obstacles can lead to different negative outcomes, such as "choking," or being unable to play at your top level.

Critical Receptions

Gallwey's book became an instant classic when it was published, and has been re-released in several different editions. Tennis great Billie Jean King is a proponent of the book and its related theories and techniques; she called it her tennis bible when the book was first published, according to

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