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The Inner Game by Gallwey- Coaching Tips

Here are the notes and lessons that I took away from Timothy Gallwey's excellent book on player performance. Although the book primarily focuses on the sport of tennis, the 'inner game' is played inside the mind of all athletes regardless of the sport. The world's best soccer players I am sure practice these methods religiously.

The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey

  • Every game is composed of an outer game and an inner game

  • Outer game: played vs an external opponent to overcome external obstacles

    • Ex.) how to kick a ball, how to position the body

  • Inner Game: takes place in the mind of the player and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt and self-condemnation. It is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance.

  • Too much verbal instruction makes it impossible to retain all of it

  • Images are better than words, showing better than telling, too much instruction worse than none, and that conscious trying often produces negative results

  • Peak performances don’t come when you are thinking about it, you are in mindlessness

  • A concentrated mind is so focused that it is still. The mind becomes one with the body and is working without interference of thoughts

  • The key to do better in anything lies in improving the relationship between the conscious teller (self 1) and the unconscious, automatic doer (self 2)

  • By thinking too much, trying too hard, and/or complaining to oneself (self 1) has produced muscle tension in the body

  • We must program Self 2 with images not just words

  • We must trust Self 2 to do what you ask of it

  • Learn to see “nonjudgmentally”, meaning see what is happening, not solely noticing if it was well or badly performed

  • Harmony exists between the two selves when the mind is quiet…here at peak of power

  • Judgments are our personal, ego reactions to the sights, sounds, feelings and thoughts within our experience…To quiet the mind be nonjudgmental because the initial judgment starts the thinking process, which starts self doubt, which starts tense muscles

  • Self-judgments become self-fulfilling prophecies…Self 2 is programmed by Self 1 to do poorly now

  • Errors we make can be seen as simply parts of our entire, ongoing developing process

  • Slumps are not bad, but endure seemingly endlessly as long as we think of them as bad events

  • Compliments can be criticisms in disguise because they label something as good and therefore label something that is the opposite as bad

  • Trust thyself- let Self 1 stay out of it and just let it happen, don’t try too hard

  • As one practices, Self 2 refines and extends the information to its memory bank, constantly learning- let the natural learning process happen and don’t focus on the self-instructions

  • To learn: First see, then feel aka. first observe, then practice

  • Self 1 has two jobs: 1. Set goals for Self 2 and 2. Let Self 2 perform

  • The harder we try to break a habit, the harder it becomes

  • Easier just to start new habits!

  • Awareness of what is, without judgment, is relaxing, and is the best precondition for change. Also, there is nothing wrong with making unconscious changes.

  • The Inner Game Way- Process of Learning:

  • 1. Observe, Nonjudmentally, Existing Behavior

  • 2. Ask Yourself to Change, Programming with Image and Feel

  • 3. Let it Happen!

  • 4. Nonjudmental, Calm Observation of the Results (faith) until Behavior is Automatic and Seemingly Natural

-Don’t revert back to trying as hard as possible and also critiquing yourself

  • Concentration means keeping the mind now and here. Keeping it calm and still.

  • Concentration is not thinking hard about something; it is fascination of the mind, where there is love present

  • The sound of the ball can be a great ‘programming tool’

  • You must become extraordinarily sensitive to feel

  • Remember it is almost impossible to feel or see anything well if you are thinking about how you should be moving. Forget should’s & just experience

  • Clear mind of “what ifs” and what happened in the recent past. Concentrate on the moment.

  • Improve concentration through practice and meditation. Pick one object (or breathing) and stick to it.

  • It is when competition is thus used as a means of creating a self-image relative to others that the worst in a person comes out

  • Surfer waits for the biggest wave so that there is a greater opportunity for the surfer to discover and extend his true potential- not out to prove himself, not trying to use success as self-image

  • Value in winning is only as great as the value of the goal reached (the process is often more rewarding than the victory itself)

  • True competition = true cooperation (a competitor is a friend by challenging you)


I am a youth and college soccer coach who is passionate about making coaching my career and helping assist players in their development. I am always trying to learn from the game and always willing to share with others the insights I have made from the game. If you have coaching tips or materials you would like to share, just contact me.

See social media links on the 'Contact' page.

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