Several (volleyball) lifetimes ago, I had a young player in my team. Although he was only a year or two out of high school and had neither much extra playing experience nor any coaching experience at all, his old school coach asked him to come back to coach his old team. Unable to say no, and yet concerned that he had no clue what he was putting himself in for, he decided to do some informal study. For reasons that I don’t recall, and aren’t important anyway, he decided the best study he could do would be to read ‘The Inner Game Of Tennis’ by W. Timothy Gallwey. Nearly everyone else I know would have looked for a coaching textbook, or even a book on volleyball, but this guy chose ‘The Inner Game Of Tennis’. From reading those 122 pages through once, he based his entire coaching life. I do not hesitate to say that he is the smartest coach I have ever worked with. The reason I know he is smart is because he, unlike me, knew that becoming a coach was not a good life move, and the reason I think he became a smart coach is because he read that book. Twenty years later, as a successful small business owner, he still refers back to the experience of reading it.
I personally read ‘The Inner Game Of Tennis’ many, many years ago and have long since forgotten… er, absorbed, most of its lessons. The strongest lesson to me, is the importance of demonstrations and visual input, and conversely the negative impact of verbal instruction. This is something we all know, but often only pay lip service to. The easiest thing in the world for a coach to do is talk, but it is rarely the right thing for learning. For Gallwey, it was one of the central teaching concepts. Beyond that, I only remember that I really enjoyed the book and took a lot out of it. Sadly the details of what I took out of it are lost. Luckily, with a bit of patience and luck you can find everything on the internet. And today I found a You Tube clip with a short precis of the book and an old 1970’s TV report on Gallwey’s techniques. Both are linked below.
I urge you to check out the book, and if you can’t at least watch the clips. It will take less than 30 minutes from your day. But if even that is too much, my notes from the book review are:
“To play at your best, you must live every second in the present. This is concentration.”
Winning is overcoming obstacles to reach a goal. But the value in winning, is only as great as the value of the goal reached.
(When it came out, the book) put forward ideas that are now commonplace in coaching such as;
– Trusting people to come up with their own solutions.
– Asking questions instead of instructing.
– Visualising successful outcomes
– Appreciating the value of each moment
Relaxed concentration, not fearful self punishment more effectively leads you to true success.
Here is the short version of the book.
And an example of his principles in action