The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance

“The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self-confidence; and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.”
“If we could treat our tennis games as we do a child learning to walk, we would make more progress. When the child loses his balance and falls, the mother doesn’t condemn it for being clumsy. She doesn’t even feel bad about it; she simply notices the event and perhaps gives a word or gesture of encouragement. Consequently, a child’s progress in learning to walk is never hindered by the idea that he is uncoordinated.”
“When the verbal instruction is passed on to another person who does not have in his bank of experience the action being described in memory, it lives in the mind totally disconnected from experience.”
“No teacher is greater than one’s own experience.”
“First you might want to get clear on why you might want to experiment with making a change in the first place. It may not be sufficient reason that some top pros serve differently now or that this way of serving is coming into fashion. On the other hand, you may feel that if there is a way for you to increase power on your serve it would be worth the effort of experimentation for you. This first step of knowing what results you want is critical to maintaining control of the learning process where it belongs—with you.”
“A child doesn’t have to break the habit of crawling, because he doesn’t think he has a habit. He simply leaves it as he finds walking an easier way to get around.”
“Natural focus occurs when the mind is interested. When this occurs, the mind is drawn irresistibly toward the object (or subject) of interest. It is effortless and relaxed, not tense and overly controlled.”
“What is seldom recognized is that the need to prove yourself is based on insecurity and self-doubt. Only to the extent that one is unsure about who and what he is does he need to prove himself to himself or to others.”
“The surfer waits for the big wave because he values the challenge it presents. He values the obstacles the wave puts between him and his goal of riding the wave to the beach. Why? Because it is those very obstacles, the size and churning power of the wave, which draw from the surfer his greatest effort.”
“I don’t worry about winning or losing the match, but whether or not I am making the maximum effort during every point because I realize that that is where the true value lies.”
“Whether I win or lose the external game is a result of my opponent’s skill and effort as well as my own. When one is emotionally attached to results that he can’t control, he tends to become anxious and then try too hard.”
“But one can control the effort he puts into winning. One can always do the best he can at any given moment. Since it is impossible to feel anxiety about an event that one can control, the mere awareness that you are using maximum effort to win each point will carry you past the problem of anxiety. As a result, the energy which would otherwise have gone into the anxiety and its consequences can then be utilized in one’s effort to win the point. In this way one’s chances of winning the outer game are maximized.”
“Thus, for the player of the Inner Game, it is the moment-by-moment effort to let go and to stay centered in the here-and-now action which offers the real winning and losing, and this game never ends.”