By: George Moore.
It's such a clichè, right? "Free your mind". What the hell does it actually mean!? Well, in pool - the expression could not be any more important! I'll go out on a limb and make a statement: Shane Van Boening is not much better than you at making balls! However, he is probably much stronger mentally, and therein lies his "secret". There is a rumor saying that you can’t learn mental strength. This is absolutely not true!
If you do these simple, yet effective drills - you will see great results rather quickly. You need to reprogram your brain. The first step is to think like a winner. Commit to your mental strength training. Train your brain to think differently from how you think today. With practice, thinking like a champ will become second nature for you.
Drill #1: Visualization practice
Visualization involves creating a mental short video of you achieving the task at hand. Use this technique whether it’s a simple stop shot, a bank, or some elaborate safety in front of you. It’s also very important to visualize a pattern when you step to the table. Visualization is a mental rehearsal of an actual potential outcome. It calls on you to use your imagination to see what you want to achieve. Initially, most people are skeptical of this mumbo jumbo technique. They don't see how it can be so effective. But, the outcome is documented by science, and the results are undeniable.
Tiger Woods and Mohammed Ali are just two of the sporting legends who have confirmed that they had used this technique with great success.
Drill #2: Find your own mantra
Discover a couple of positive words that you repeat to yourself. Repeat to this mantra to yourself over and over again when faced with a stressful situation. Discover the magic of positive reinforcement.
Train as you fight – Fight as you train
I must have heard that mantra 10 000 times at the Officer Candidate School. And guess what? Soon it became second nature to me. And, boy did it work! When sh*t got real, we all had our training to fall back on.
Drill #3: Play to win
No top athlete thinks "I hope I don't embarrass myself." They focus on winning. That's all they focus on!
Studies show that a slight way in the way you think, make a massive difference in the result. Do not enter a situation thinking, "I hope I don't screw up," you will get a result worse than if you think "I am here to win!"
Focus on your breath and repeat your mantra. Visualize. That change in your thought process will massively increase your success rate.
Drill #4: Train your ability to focus
On different occasions in your every day, find an object and practice focusing on that object only. See how long it takes before a new thought pops up in your head. Try to extend the period of time you are able to zone in on just that object. It can also be a visualization of a shot or pattern. Like the alpine skiers do. They visualize the entire course before lunging themselves down that hill. And like we did before jumping out of an airplane. We visualized a successful jump. We never thought "what if the parachute does not open?".
Drill #5: Push your own limit Many top athletes constantly look for ways to push themselves and step outside of their comfort zones. This creates mental strength. There is no better teacher of confidence than to see yourself achieve something new. Even failing is part of the process. Learn from the mistakes.
A tree with strong roots laughs at storms
Unless you keep stepping outside your comfort zone time and time again, you will never grow stronger roots. Challenge yourself, and take note of how you feel mentally after these experiences. You will feel more confident if you can push through the challenge. I guarantee it! With limited action at the tables, now is a perfect time to start doing these drills. Good luck!