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I’ve just read The Inner Game of Tennis, by Timothy Gallwey

This was an interesting read, recommended by some experienced players at my table tennis club. (The book focuses on tennis but most of it is transferable). This tip came at a good time, as I’m looking to reduce tension from my game.

The author presents the following ideas:

You have two selves. Self 1 is your ego. Self 2 is your body and unconscious brain/memory.

Tension with negative impact comes from trying and overthinking – characteristics of Self 1. Let’s avoid this.

Self 2 is amazing. Let it do its thing without ego interference. Don’t “try hard”.

Observe what’s happening during a game without attributing good or bad, criticism or praise.

Learn to concentrate and still the mind. One method is to focus on the ball, both visually and on sonic rhythm. In between points when those aren’t available, just notice your breathing (without trying to breath differently).

During training or before matches, program self 2. This involves visualising (without verbal instructing) a stroke as I want to play it, then let it happen.

When programming Self 2 you can program for:

  • results: (visualise the ball arcing over net and onto other side); or
  • form: shadow the stroke inc proper start and finish position. Pause and store the visual. Shut eyes and imagine the visual. Do it again and notice how it feels. Then play but don’t “ask” Self 2 to do it, let it happen. Or
  • identity: in training pretend I’m an actor playing the role of, say, Timo Boll. Don’t worry about the ball going out. Just play like them and go for it.

Without ego interference, Self 2 will automatically correct things so that the results match the programming.

It occurred to that I could try this programming for some of the harder techniques such as the reverse pendulum serve.

The writing style of this book felt a bit dated (it was written in the seventies so it’s perhaps understandable). However the ideas are really interesting and I’ve been trying things out in training, with some success so far.

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