Have you ever felt your body get tense during a match? Have you ever felt insecure about a shot? Have you ever missed a key shot you lined up “perfectly” for? Have you ever been annoyed by your opponent? Have you ever felt like you were unstoppable one day and then question whether you belong in a pool hall another day?
Welcome to the mental game.
The impact our mind has on not only our performance, but our perspective, as well, is astounding. There are so many elements that contribute to the way we see the world and ourselves. New pool rooms, the temperature of the room, the volume and style of music, the noise level. Your opponent’s behavior, how you feel you’re performing, versus how you’re actually performing. These are all components that affect your game.
Let me give you an example on how your perspective can completely alter your mentality at the table. Imagine you’re in a tournament and your opponent is outside on the phone taking a while. You start to get irritated that he’s delaying the match. After 10 minutes, your opponent comes back inside and gets ready to start the match. You show some frustration, and your opponent matches that frustration. You question why on Earth he would be frustrated with you after he’s the one that took so long?
Not only is this scenario distracting from your game, but it’s incredibly consuming. Your mind is so far away from where it needs to be. You might be stewing on the fact that he’s displaying poor etiquette and now you have a grudge. Rewind to 10 minutes ago, your opponent was just finding out that his wife wants a divorce and his frustration had absolutely nothing to do with you.
Perspective is everything and false assumptions are dangerous. You are the only one at the table when you are shooting. No one else is there. You have the ultimate control! You get to decide everything you want to do. Don’t let who your opponent is, how they’ve been shooting, or any other outside interference come between you and how you’re going to play your next shot.
Another aspect of the mental game that can make or break your performance is your self-talk. First of all, why are pool players so damn hard on themselves? If you spoke to your best friend the way you speak to yourself, would your friend still like you? It takes just as much energy to be encouraging, proactive, and helpful as it does to be destructive, critical, or cruel – you’re just used to one style more.
When your self-talk is negative without any productivity attached to it, you are adding pressure, creating a heavier feeling at the table. Imagine playing wearing a 10lb. jacket. Would you play as efficiently? Negative self-talk can be a detriment to your decision-making skills, confidence, and execution.
The last thing to mention is the preparation. Imagine showing up to a marathon without stretching or training properly. How’s that race going to go? Mental preparation is just as important as physical preparation. There are many ways to begin practicing how you want your mind to work for you, as opposed to against you before a match and during the match.
A strong mental game can really transform your performance and experience in this sport. The three qualities that stand out the most are: patience, acceptance, and grit. Embody these. Practice these. Become a well-rounded player. The more aware you are of how your mind works, the more control you’ll have at the table. Always use your thoughts and emotions to your advantage. If you’re ever unsure, ask yourself: Is this helping me or hurting me?
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Learn more about Insight Performance Coaching at https://www.insightperformancecoaching.com/