Every game is composed of two parts, an outer game, and an inner game. The outer game is played against an external opponent to overcome external obstacles and to reach an external goal. Mastering this game is the subject of many books offering instructions: on how to swing a racket, club or bat, and how to position arms, legs or torso to achieve the best results.
But for some reason, most of us find these instructions easier to remember than to execute. It is the thesis of this book that neither mastery nor satisfaction can be found in the playing of any game without giving some attention to the relatively neglected skills of the inner game. This is the game that takes place in the mind of the player, and it is played against such obstacles as lapses in concentration, nervousness, self-doubt, and self-condemnation. In short, it is played to overcome all habits of mind which inhibit excellence in performance. We often wonder why we play so well one day and so poorly the next, or why we clutch during the competition, or blow easy shots. And why does it take so long to break a bad habit and learn a new one?
Victories in the inner game may provide no additions to the trophy case, but they bring valuable rewards which are permanent and which contribute significantly to one’s success after that, off the court as well as on. The player of the inner game comes to value the art of relaxed concentration above all other skills; he discovers a true basis for self- confidence, and he learns that the secret to winning any game lies in not trying too hard.