Gallwey and Alexander
By Kim Shanley
To The TennisONE Community
In my last newsletter (Let
Go), I was mildly critical of Tim Gallwey's classic, The Inner
Game of Tennis for not providing a systematic methodology for
achieving the ideal state of mind to play the Inner Game. That
state is one where your ego (Self 1 in Gallwey's lexicon) allows
Self 2 (natural self) to play without fear or mental interference.
When that happens, we enter "the zone." When you're
in the zone, time slows down, your mental chatter subsides, your
focus and awareness increases, and you stop trying and simply
let it happen.
Today, we're featuring a new writer (Gary Adelman) who does
represent a systematic methodology for getting out of your own
way and unlocking the gates of the zone. That methodology is
called the Alexander Technique, which is now taught by over 6,000
teachers around the world.
However, before I provide more background on Gary Adelman
and the Alexander Technique, I want to revisit my conclusion
about Gallwey's methodology. After re-reading Chapter 6 ("Changing
Habits") and Chapter 7 ("Concentration") of the
Inner Game of Tennis, I still reach the same conclusion: Gallwey
is a bit light on how to get into the zone. Having said that,
Gallwey does have some interesting and valuable insights that
are worth retelling.
- Awareness. In Gallwey's approach, you can't really
learn from the outside-in. In other words, you can't learn simply
by trying (there's the word again) to be a good student
by dutifully obeying every instruction issued by your coach or
teaching pro. Trying to please is the ego's first impulse, quite
often followed by an ego-condemnation that you've "got a
lousy serve" or you're a hopeless punter. Before real learning
can take place, you must gain awareness of what you're doing
in the moment. Rather than make judgments that cloud your awareness,
simply become aware of every detail of your stroke. Listen to
the sound of the racquet striking the ball, feel the tension
in your shoulder, sense when you're out of balance. Now, says
Gallwey, you can begin to learn from the inside-out.
- Programming. Gallwey recommends watching someone hit
the ball like you would like to hit the ball (too bad there was
no ProStrokes in his day), and then use that model for visualizing
how you would like to hit the ball.
- Self-Learning. Once you've visualized your ideal stroke,
Gallwey says, just let it happen. Don't try to make it
happen, let it happen. Trust that Self 2, having become
aware, will make any corrections on its own.
- Concentration. In Gallwey's universe, the ego and
the mind are the two greatest enemies of the Inner Game. You
may think you've let go of the ego-gratification of winning,
but here comes a tie-breaker, and suddenly your ego has snuck
back into the picture and you're feeling tight.
tenacity of the ego and mind to want to get back into your game, Gallwey recommends several techniques for concentrating the mind.
Gallwey calls concentration the master art, for "no art
can be achieved without it, while with it, anything can be achieved."
Gallwey's best recommendation for focusing the mind is to concentrate
on the spin of the ball. Seeing the ball better is only one benefit.
The more important benefit is that watching the spin of the ball
absorbs the mind, minimizing mental chatter and ego-interference.
How is this different from every tennis coach since time began
scolding, "watch the ball?" The difference is that
if you are trying to be a good student (pleasing your coach)
and trying to watch the ball, you are allowing fear and anxiety
to diminish your focus on the ball. Additionally, you are probably
tensing your eye muscles, which tense your neck muscles, which
in turn inhibit your body's ability to stroke the ball naturally
and freely (you will see a similar analysis in Gary Adelman's
Alexander Technique piece).
In summary, I still think The Inner Game of Tennis
is a great book whose wisdom deserves a re-reading every few
years. But reading one book will only get you so far. Here's
where I think players need more systematic and enduring methodologies
for unlocking the secrets of playing in the zone.
This is the reason why TennisONE is publishing a series of
articles on the Alexander Technique, which is a systematic methodology
for re-educating the mind and body. As far as I know, this is
the first article ever published on the Alexander Technique and
tennis, so we're very proud to bring this fresh perspective to
our TennisONE audience.
Our new contributing editor, Gary Adelman, is well qualified
to introduce the TennisONE community to the Alexander Technique,
as he's been an Alexander teacher for 10 years and a tennis instructor
for 25 years (teaching at the club, college and professional
level). He's been quietly refining his secret formula of Alexander
and tennis for a number of years now, so it's quite satisfying
to share his unique perspective with our audience.
The background to the Alexander Technique is provided in Gary's
article, so I won't repeat that here. But if you read between
the lines a bit, you can see some Inner Game principles peeking
through the Alexander Technique article. Both F.M. Alexander
(the founder of the Technique) and Gallwey believed that real
change comes from self-awareness and observation. Both Alexander
and Gallwey believe that the ego (and it's need to please society)
has interfered with the natural functioning of the body. Where
Alexander differs from Gallwey is in his more comprehensive and
systematic approach to teaching people how to get out of their
Playing better tennis requires mastery of the outer and inner
game (we're not neglecting the outer game - check out Jim McLennan's Federer groundstroke analysis). We have only one firm belief
at TennisONE: that there's no one best way to learn to play tennis.
Everyone seems to learn a bit differently, and therefore there
is no one ideal way to teach tennis. Our goal is to provide as
many schools of thought on how to play this great game as possible.
You can choose the one that best suits you.
As always, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the Alexander
Technique school of tennis, as well as any other opinions you
care to share on the subjects raised in this newsletter. Please
click here to send
your email directly to me.
If you are receiving the newsletter but haven't become a member
yet, here's some good news. Now you can get a free one month
here for the details.
Alexander Technique: A Way to Effortless, Natural Tennis,"
by Gary Adelman
Playing better tennis requires mastery of the outer and inner
game. TennisONE introduces the first series of articles that
tackle this complex subject via the perspective provided by the
Alexander Technique. Developed early in the 20th Century by its
founder, F.M. Alexander, the technique has been primarily associated
with benefiting performance artists, who have found the technique
improves their breathing, movement and balance. Gary Adelman,
who has been both an Alexander teacher for 10 years and a tennis
coach and instructor for 25 years, explains how the Technique
can be applied to play effortless, natural tennis.
to Counter Specialist Styles," by David Sammel
All good competitors should be clear about their own game
style and how to counter the styles of all potential opponents.
Want to know the secret fears and weaknesses of the "The
Serve and Volleyer," the "Good Returner," the
"Net Rusher," or the "Big Hitter?" David
Sammel, one of the UK's top tennis instructors, provides a succinct,
insight guide on how to frustrate and ultimately defeat all these
ProStrokes: Roger Federer," by Jim McLennan
Who are you going to model your game after? With his new coach
and confidence, and his 140+ serves, Andy Roddick is becoming
the man in American tennis. But in his tribute and analysis to
Roger Federer's game, TennisONE Senior Editor Jim McLennan strongly
suggests your role model should be Roger, not Andy.
Exclusively on TennisONE
Roger Federer - Groundstrokes
He has one of the smoothest and most explosive games on the
tour. His one-handed backhand is a model of technical perfection.
You've requested him repeatedly, so here are Roger Federer's
groundstrokes, part 1 in our ProStrokes portrait of this amazing
young all court player.
Research - The New Rankings are Here, by Wilmot McCutchen
TennisONE continues its revolutionary way for players to evaluate
the bewildering number of racquets and exotic design features
in the tennis market. Racquet Research is based on actual scientific
measurements and goes beyond the claims of manufacturers, or
even the subjective play test evaluations found in magazines.
Check out the latest rankings and see how your racquet measures