Many Melee players have read and recommend The Inner Game of Tennis. Here are my thoughts on it plus other books.
I have about 10 minutes before I am going to look at a car for sale and so I thought I would make this quick video to just discuss some books that I have been reading and things that I have been thinking about when it comes to improving at Melee and getting better.
Hey! I am Mecca from Melee.co and in this episode, I will specifically be talking about 2 books: one is The Inner Game of Tennis, and one is the book called Flow, which is a book written by a psychologist about getting into a state of Flow; you know those states where you really focused in, you really feel like you are learning, you are achieving your best when you are in that sort of state. I want to talk about those 2 different books.
So the first book that I read was The Inner Game of Tennis, which is about the mentality towards tennis but you can basically apply it to any sport. That book was really good. I have had some reservations about that book because it was written by someone – it is kind of anecdotal, written from their experiences or experiences they have seen or had with other players. It was not written by a psychologist who has actually taken an experimental approach to the inner game of the sports and how to achieve the best.
I had some reservations in terms of the recommendations of the book and the way that they have got them just because – you probably notice that about me but I am very passionate about psychology, about neuroscience, the way the brain works. And in terms of psychology, so many psychologists and scientists have gotten things wrong over time and you need very specific experimental designs to actually be able to prove stuff in psychology. And in terms of The Inner Game of Tennis, they do not have that rigor and so some of the recommendations could potentially be false – like they could be true, that they could be false. But something that I got out of it that I thought was really good was just having a disassociation with your results. It talks about when you play, you are at war with 2 different versions of yourself.
The more conscious self: I need to hit this float cancel fair into grab, and you try to focus on this situation and it is yourself who is getting frustrated when you are not doing the right thing. It talks about that and it talks about the second self or self 2, the almost unconscious self or subconscious self who kind of just does things like it is a muscle memory that hits the old cancel. It is the person inside you that when you switch your brain off or when you listen to music, you start playing really well anyway. And so it talks about this dichotomy of the selves and how to quiet self 1 – the conscious self, and how to basically let self 2 do its work. And it talks about in tennis, if you do that, if you disassociate yourself and let self 2 take over, then you generally get better results.
However, I had issues with this because – my wife explained it to me a bit better, but it turns the way the book describes in the way that I interpret it. It did not really explain how to incorporate self 1 and use that towards your gameplay. And I did not really like that because it is like you are just relying on your subconscious self. But Melee is such a conscious game like you need to be understanding these micro-situations, what are your different options in these situations, even all the pros.
Anyone who plays Melee talks about theory crafting where they might be driving or in the car like I am now, and they are thinking about different situations. If they are on the ledge as Peach and there is a falcon there ready to hit them, what is the best way to get back or if there is a math there, what are my different options, what can I do? And thinking about these in their minds while they are not even playing like it is such a conscious game.
And so The Inner Game of Tennis kind of annoyed me because it did not really address that like it talked about quieting the annoying version of yourself that is getting you down, that is making you frustrated and I find that there is value in that. But it did not really address the situation where you actually need to approach this game super consciously in order to understand what to do in each situation. So, The Inner Game of Tennis is really good to help you disassociate yourself and to understand that ‘hey I need to be less conscious in some situations but it is not a perfect book.
I then read a book by John Wooden. Something about the pyramid of success, I do not know. The book was really, really annoying. I am a Christian. I went to Bible College, I did 2 and a half years of Bible College. I did church for many years. Currently, not in church because of disagreements I have with some of the ways they treat people but that is a whole another story. But I still believe in God; I am a passionate Christian.
But this book by John Wooden, who is a famous basketball coach from the 60s, is like 80% scripture/preaching and like 20% meat on how to be a good player, how to be a good mentor. But he talks about similar stuff to The Inner Game of Tennis, where he talks about having a disassociation with results, talks about focusing and trying to do the best that you can do and not worrying about the outcome of the game but just being the best you that you can be. And I really like that and how that matched up with The Inner Game of Tennis.
And then I read a book called Flow and while listening to the audiobook, which is like old-school sort of tapes that have been converted into audio books so it is not perfect. But they are talking about the same sort of thing in terms of disassociating yourself from results and in order to get into a flow state, if you are worried about results or if you have these nagging feelings or nagging goals in the back of your mind like things that are stressing you out; it stops you from getting in these flow states.
However, if you are just focusing on the complex issues at hand, you are trying to get better; you are trying to overcome these challenges that is when you get into a flow state. And so for me, the way I am going to approach it moving forward is not worry whether I win or lose because I am not the best anyway. At the moment I am not going to win any tournaments; I might play slightly better than I did last time but that does not matter. But focus on each individual game. Focus on learning from each individual game and focus on situations and just enjoy the complexity of the situations and thinking about what you can do. So for example last night, my friend Tang got really excited because he discovered that as Peach, when you are shielding, Falcon can do a neon you near the ledge. He is within your spacing so you go for a shield grab and he can then jab you and gentleman you. And he realized that “Well, hey. In that situation I go for the shield grab, he jabs me.
I could crash, cancel, down smash that and get a hit on him making it basically – well, it is a shield positive but it is not a good situation for Falcon.” And so he was so excited about that and that was really exciting to learn that sort of thing. And I am thinking, when I approach the game, rather than focusing on ‘will I win and will I lose,’ I need to focus on ‘okay, this is continually happening to me, this is a complex circumstance, what are some complex ways out of it? Or what are some things that I can do to get out of it?’ Just enjoy that experience.
Just enjoy the difficulty and the challenge in trying to overcome that challenge. So less focus on the game as a whole or how am I doing in a tournament as a whole; and more focus on individual situations, individual stocks like what am I doing in this match up – I am in the middle of the stage, I have a shield.
Falcon keeps stomping my shield; I cannot seem to punish him in any way, “What can I do in that situation?” and just enjoying that, just having fun in that situation, having fun trying to solve for the solution; that is according to the book Flow. That is how you get into the state of flow and you really enjoy yourself.
So that is something that I am going to be trying. Look, I need to go and check out this new car that we are looking at buying. I hope that this has been interesting to you. I definitely recommend checking out the book Flow if you have not read it already and you are interested in getting better at Melee. Inner Game of Tennis is pretty good as well but I am not 100% sure if I would recommend it, and there is the John Wooden book.
There are such great ideas in it but so painful to read and so I do not recommend it. And that is a Christian talking about a very Christian book. I do not know. It was too annoying for me talking about so much scripture and stuff like that. I just wanted to learn how to be a better player and I appreciate God and all the big things but … anyway, I got to go. So keep calm and play Melee.