We went outside
to the tennis courts. Most pros, Gallwey said, give a constant stream of
commands in teaching—sideways to the net, keep the racket flat and so on. This
just helps the Ego self and, as Satchel Paige would say, angries up the
On the tennis
courts we divided into pairs, pitched balls to each other, watched the seams of
the balls and hit. "Be aware of the sound your racket makes on a good shot
because your body will unconsciously remember the sweet sound and try to repeat
it," Gallwey said.
We had several
people in our group who hadn't played tennis before or hadn't played very much.
Gallwey pulled one of the novices out. Gallwey hit a smooth forehand. The
novice hit a forehand over the fence. And another one. The third shot stayed in
the court. Silently Gallwey hit another forehand. "Be aware of where your
racket head is when you finish your swing." The novice extended his
follow-through a bit more and got a ball into the court. His next ball went
over the fence again.
Each of us tried
two serves. "Let the serve serve itself," Gallwey said. "When I
first used this technique my serve got hot. Then I thought, 'Wow, I've mastered
the serve,' and immediately it got cold because it was me, not the serve,
serving itself." The serves we hit were against the fence, and I didn't
feel any click of supersensory awareness. I heard an Ego voice saying,
"That was the same old serve you always serve."
I had a question
about imagining the ball into the corner. Was that the power of positive
thinking, Norman Vincent Peale?
Gallwey said. "Positive thinking is negative thinking in disguise. If you
double fault six times in a row your positive thinking will flip to negative.
So I try not to pay compliments to students because the compliment can always
be withheld on the next shot. What we are talking about is no
It seems, at
first, a marvelously Rousseauean philosophy. Man is born with a perfect tennis
game, but he is everywhere in chains. You don't need a tennis pro, with his
negative instructions, you need a movie of each shot and a ball machine to
But it was hard
for me to see the difference between Gallwey saying, "Be aware of your
racket head" and a pro saying, "Follow through, where is your racket
distinction is that the pro says good shot, bad shot," Gallwey said. "I
just want to focus awareness, not make a judgment."
Is perfect tennis
really in everybody, without help? Most beginners do not slip instinctively
into the right strokes, even with negativism removed. They tend to swing at
volleys instead of blocking or punching. If the ball is consistently going out,
they tend to raise the racket head on the backswing to hit down instead of
dropping the racket head on the back-swing to get more top spin.