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A Tale Of Two Players
Player number 1 is confident. He has a swagger as he moves around the table, making the game seem effortless. As he lines up over the ball he's sure it's going in, and it usually does. He sees everything so clearly that there seems to be lines on the table guiding him to the pocket. He's not worried about winning or losing. He's just in the moment and enjoying every little detail.
Player number 2 is lost in the weeds. He can't seem to find the connection between the object ball and cue ball. His mechanics feel off and he's not sure what to do. The game feels impossible and overwhelming and he just wants to crawl into a hole. All he can think about is the score. Oh, and that annoying guy in the corner who's talking too loud.
We all want to be player 1, but the reality is all pool players are player 1 and player 2 combined. What is it that makes us play so amazing for days or weeks before everything comes crashing down again? I don't have the answer but I've noticed a few things that player 2 can focus on to try to turn back in to player 1.
Player 1 is immersed in the game. He's focused on the smallest details, and there are no random thoughts in his head. He isn't distracted by people talking or walking around the table. If you're feeling distracted it's especially important to not shoot until you get yourself un-distracted. Take a bathroom break to clear your head.
Player 1 is having a good time. Not only is he enjoying playing the game, but he's enjoying the competition. He doesn't want the match to end and he actually wants his opponent to play well. If you don't feel it, fake it. Studies have shown that the act of smiling can actually make you feel happier. You may just be a few phony smiles away from playing your best pool.
Player 1 is confident. He's not worried about what his opponent or anyone else thinks of his game. He is happy with his game and is completely unselfconscious. If the pressure is on and you feel all eyes are on you, try singing your favorite song to yourself while you're shooting. It's nearly impossible to focus on anything else if you recreate the song in your head.
Player 1 is certain that the ball is going in. The ball usually goes, but even when it doesn't he shrugs it off. He'll make the next one. I know you've heard the phrase analysis paralysis. It's when you overthink things and suddenly you become unable to perform. There is a part of your brain that's made so many balls that it doesn't need conscious input. In fact, your conscious is your own worst enemy. Play faster. Instead of sharking your subconscious, try to go on instinct.
It's a terrible feeling to play bad pool, but if you commit yourself to trying to turn things around, you'll become better at finding your A game. This is what some players call 'digging deep'. Your best game is your true potential, and no matter how long it's been since you've seen it, it's in there somewhere, so get out your shovel and start digging. Some days it doesn't work out no matter what you try, and on those days you just have to accept that bad pool is part of good pool.