Tim Gallwey: How To Refocus After An Error

Tennis Psychology

Regaining Focus After Errors

How do you respond to making a bad shot in a match?

Do you play off mistakes by saying to yourself, “I just don’t have it today,” or are you able to fight through and trust your game?

Think of a match when you made an early unforced error… Did you become frustrated and make more mistakes?

Maybe, you began to doubt your abilities and thought:

“My game is totally off today.”

And you probably proved yourself right as the game snowballed out of control.

Trusting your abilities may be difficult when you are not on top of your game.

But you don’t need to be perfect to trust your abilities.

Every tennis match you play will have some degree of error.

Trusting your abilities is not about playing mistake-free tennis, it’s about your belief that that you can play good tennis despite making some errors.

I recently interviewed Tim Gallwey regarding mistakes and trusting abilities.

Gallwey revolutionized the mental game of tennis in the 1970s. In 1972, Gallwey published the ground-breaking book, The Inner Game of Tennis, which was a road map to getting out of your own way and allowing your best game to emerge.

COHN: How does confidence relate to the whole [concept of] awareness, and letting yourself perform?

GALLWEY: Well, trust in your resources is a basic human need.

So when we hit a few bad shots, and say, “Oh, my backhand is off today,” you’re really doing yourself a disservice. It’s not all day yet. You don’t know that it’s going to be off all day.

And it gets worse… “I have a really bad backhand,” or “I’m in a slump,” are all doubt-generated statements in your internal conversation.

And they produce tightness, they produce exactly what they’re saying will come true.

It makes you have a bad backhand, because you over-tighten, you over-try, and it interferes with the spontaneous generation of the stroke.

COHN: Is there one secret there that you can share with us that hasn’t come to light in your books?

GALLWEY: I would say, when I was playing competitive tennis, and I hit a bad shot or I started playing below standard, I would just do one of the two things: I would either focus more on the ball, or I would let go more and trust myself more rather than less.

Try these tips to re-focus after an error:

  1. Be careful of buying into the “here-we-go-again” statements, such as “my backhand is off today.” This will only keep you stuck and cause you to make unnecessary changes to try too hard.
  2. You should respond to an error with confidence in your next shot. A bad shot is not indicative of how you will play the rest of the match or your level of ability. Find a shot that’s working and get the job done.
-For Peaksports Members-

Listen to and download the full interview with Tim Gallwey and many other top sports psychologists on this page:

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P.S. This is one of our 14 exclusive interviews with top sports mental game experts in our “Champion’s Mindset” series. Make sure to check out all 14 interviews on our Peak Performance Sports Network, where you can listen, download and read the transcripts of each interview.

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1 thought on “Tim Gallwey: How To Refocus After An Error”

  1. Getting stuck in those “here we go again” mental patterns can really set a player up for failure! You do have the ability to overcome whatever problem you think you’re stuck with. Every play is the chance to get it right.

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