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If you're a thespian or musician, the term is "stage fright." For athletes, it's more commonly referred to as "performance anxiety." In pool, we simply "choked" or in this case, "dawged it." No matter what you call it, the affects are the same: dry mouth, sweaty palms, elevated body temperature, increased heart rate, and nervous shakes and jitters. All these things result in the inability to get the job done. And most sports psychologists would agree that the number one cause of this is the fear of failure.
Well, I'm no sports psychologist, but I am here to offer a few proven helpful ways to handle this fear factor. Before we begin, it's important to identify what it is you're afraid of. The definition of fear is different for each person. More often than not, fear comes from being too focused on the results, which then leads to disappointment. Who is it that you're afraid to let down? Is it your coach? Is it your teammates? Is it your family? What is it exactly that you're most afraid of? You'll never be able to overcome those fears without first identifying them and getting to the real source.
Okay, now that you've identified the source, what is the reality of it? Is your coach going to be disappointed with you if you miss? Are your teammates going to kick you off the team if you lose? Will your family love you any less if you don't come home with the trophy? The reality is that the answers are most likely NO. Once you realize the fears that seemed so big and so scary to you are really manifested thoughts that you've allowed to haunt you, you can begin to seek a solution.
Here are Four Proven Ways to Handle Your Fears
Separate practice from performance.
Once it's time to compete, or perform, and step up to the table, you are no longer the student, you are the competitor. Let your right-brain take over and play intuitively and calmly. Visualize the shot and execute it. Focus on the execution and not on the outcome.
Trust in your ability.
Remove the baggage that you've accumulated. Your memory bank of missed shots has created doubt overtime which results in more anxiety and worry about missing the shot again. If there's a shot you're afraid of, set it up and make it over and over again so you can replace those negative memories. If you don't overcome the doubt, it will only cause you to be tentative and too careful because you’re trying to avoid the same mistake again.
Tentative play leads to tightness and tension.
Play for yourself and not for others. Quit worry about that other people think about you and your game. At the end of the day, does it really matter? Is it really the end of the world? You've heard that old cliché: "You can't make anyone else happy until you can make yourself happy," well it’s so true and it applies here. Are there really in severe consequences if you don’t succeed?
Focus on the process, not the results.
Control the things that you can and let everything else go. What do you need to do to give yourself the best chance to execute the things that you’ve practiced? Focus on your pre-shot routine. Get good rest. Stay nourished and hydrated. These are all the things within your control. Keep your mind in the present moment and concentrate on the execution of each shot, not on the outcome.
I hope you enjoyed this special Halloween edition of Samm's Cue Tips. Remember, face your fears both on and off the table so you can perform better. Remain in the here and now and don’t get hung up on the results. The winning part will come naturally. When you’re in the mile high area and looking for a Denver billiard instructor, please look me up.