Mental Game, Sports Psychology, Playing in the Zone, Focus, Strategy, Tactics
When it comes to improving your ability to perform in any sport, reading a book about it is rarely the solution. Most kids learn to practice a sport by emulating what they have seen the pros do on TV and rarely question themselves about the mechanics of the movement. In most cases, the best teaching method uses very few words but a lot of visual cues. However, when it comes to developing your mental game and your tactical approach, I have come across a couple of very interesting books which I often review before the beginning of the tennis season or when my mental game leaves much to be desired…
The classic book by W. Timothy Gallwey “The Inner Game of Tennis” is certainly required reading for anyone who wants to gain understanding of the mental side of any sport activity. Mr. Gallwey expertly describes how your conscious mind tries to control your every movement on the court and as you will find out; this is not a good thing. In addition to explaining how your mind works and how it can sabotage your efforts to perform, this book will provide you with a ton of simple tricks to help you find “your zone” and play at your best. Most of us have experienced at one point, the feeling of playing beyond our abilities, only to be brought back to reality once you start questioning yourself and try to figure out what you have fixed so expertly. The Inner Game of Tennis will help you deal with your lack of confidence, nervousness, and distractions.
It addresses issues players are facing without even realizing it:
- Playing not to disappoint your coach, parents or peers.
- Playing not to lose instead of playing to win.
- How to separate your ego from your game.
- Letting your body express itself without interference from the conscious mind.
- Trying too hard and losing control over your emotions
“The Inner Game of Tennis” is an exceptional book that will enlighten anyone interested in achieving their full potential in sports or even everyday life.
My second recommendation has more to do with the tactical approach to the game of tennis. I have read this book many times but I still find myself going back to it when my tactical game needs some tuning, which is more often than I would like! Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert is a thoroughly entertaining book which is a fantastic reference for anyone wanting to improve their tactical approach.
This book is not about shot making, but it will explain to you how to identify and take advantage of your opponent’s weaknesses. There is an excellent chapter on how to deal with different types of players. Also, for all the nostalgia buffs, you will get fun insights into some of the big tennis names from the 80’s and 90’s and how Brad Gilbert managed to beat these legends at one point in his career. The first section on equipment and preparation may not be the most useful but will definitely give you a good introduction to Brad Gilbert’s colourful character.
Enjoy reading these classics and improve your game at the same time!
For more ways to improve your game, please take a look at my article on tips to select a tennis racquet for best topspin results.