Common Mental Mistakes ~ Anthony Beeler

Most pool players lose way too many games because of poor mental decisions. They do not know how to systematically approach each shot and control their emotions to maintain confidence. This article will address three common mental mistakes that pool players make and will also show you how to eliminate them.

Don’t Analyze your Stroke: Any thoughts about your stroke during match play are counterproductive to performing well. Whether it is in between shots or during play, trusting in your current ability is far more important than trying to correct some sort of a stroke flaw. Trying to consciously control your body during any action makes the task more difficult. Think about the first time you rode a bicycle (“foot on pedal, now balance…”). Most people lose control of their balance and wreck. After some practice, you learn to trust your natural ability. Thinking about your stroke while attempting to pocket a ball creates tension, which interferes with the free-flow of a good stroke.

It’s fine to think about your stroke in between matches or when you’re practicing your fundamentals, but during a tournament your mind must remain silent for you to play your best. Stroke thoughts usually creep in during a match when you miss a few shots. After failing a few times, most players think it is necessary to look at all of the parts of their stroke in an effort to correct the problem. A lot of these misses are simply caused by tension, which increases as the player attempts to gain more control.

There’s a saying that in pool, “you need to let go of focus in order to gain it”—and I strongly believe that to be the case. Instead of focusing on stroke mechanics, we need to be connected with our objective—shoot at a specific spot on the object ball and then trust our subconscious to do what comes natural. The best stroke thought is to trust the fundamentals you have, but if you need some help, you can always practice your stroke in between matches. Remember to say, “1…2…3…” – SET, “1…2…” – PAUSE, “1…2…3…4…” – FREEZE.

  1. Don’t Think About the Score: Unless you’re in a situation where you need to know your score for strategy, it’s best to forget about it. Some of the best matches in history have been played when one player didn’t concentrate on what his/her score was. You’ll find that when you play your best, it’s like you don’t care about the results and you don’t judge it, you’re just enjoying playing the game because it’s fun. This is the mentality we need to adopt every game. Score is something that is external and completely out of our control. Tying your performance to the match score or ball count can create a roller coaster of emotions. If you can shift your concentration each match from being results-centered to process-centered, you will immediately start to see improvements in your ability to perform.

  1. Don’t Forget About your Pre-Shot Routine: Taking the time to master a solid pre-shot routine is an absolute must if you want to become a more consistent player. It is a positive way to ensure that you choose and commit to the right shot and execute it properly. If you don’t have a meticulous pre-shot routine (which should be a habit), you are simply throwing away games. The section in m