I was fortunate enough to attend the Derby City Classic 2015 for a day. Going on a five hour drive just to see some of the greatest players—one would think this is not one of the smartest undertakings.
Plans were set and Chris (my boss) and myself hit the road for a day of networking with a few vendors and watching some good matches.
Walking into the Horseshoe casino you get a sense of how big, or just how small being a pool player can make you feel. All of the vendors are set up and talking to anyone that is willing to hear a pitch or ask questions. Most of the Filipino players are being carted back and forth from their rooms to the tournament floor. Announcements of matches on the intercom, or through players who set up games for after-hours action lets you know just how deep players are going.
After spending the day seeing what all these players could do with a cue ball, I was pumped! I was ready to play. I had not felt like that in over a year because, lets face it, life happens. Everyone has something going on that causes stress or puts their mind in other places. You just can’t focus on what you need to do on a pool table.
What does all of this have to do with the mental side of billiards, and your game?
Humans are creatures of emotions, sights, and sounds. If you are not feeling well or at 100% you are not going to play your game at 100%. Its a reality that every single pool player faces. You can’t win every game, or make every shot.
The mental aspect of the game is just as important as the ability to pocket a given ball. The above story is a prime of example of this. When I returned from the Derby I just wanted to play. The following days my game was on point. I won league matches, picked apart racks of one-pocket like I play the game every day (those who know me, know this is the farthest from the truth). I was in a great mood because I was winning.
Staying positive helps you pay attention to the task at hand.
Every pool player goes through slumps where they just can’t pull a set to their favor. Staying positive during this time is one of the hardest things to do. What is positive about sitting and watching your opponent run out rack after rack? You begin to wonder what the problem is and how to fix it. The stress level of tournament can make this task almost impossible to do. Staying positive can eliminate these thoughts and help you regain the edge you need to win.
Fixing your mental game starts before your match even begins. You need to come ready to win right at the start. A player does not go to a tournament to lose. Walk in ready to lay waste to everyone at your table. Wanting to win is the key, wanting to play is just that: playing. Part of winning is pulling out all the stops in your game, including in your head.
Knowing your limits can and will help you do this. Find the holes in your game and improve what you can. Having the information in your head while you play will allow you to focus on what you need to do to win. In turn, this will keep you thinking positive. Do you play the winner or loser of a current match? Watch it, and find weaknesses. Leaving your opponent in a tough position puts him or her on the defense both in game and in head.
Prepare for your test and do your homework.
My final thought is this: ask questions! In an earlier article I talked about knowledge of rules. You need to learn the table as well, and build your confidence where you are weak. Take advantage of players willing to spend time with you and show you new things. Trick shots, diamond systems, specific drills. When you have someone willing to show you things like this, at no charge, take advantage of it.
There are players out there willing to teach any and all who listen; be that player. Your brain will thank you for it when you play.