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Playing Under Pressure
Playing Under Pressure
It doesn't matter how long you've been playing the game or how many balls you've hit, when the pressure is on and you're faced with the winning shot everyone feels the heat. Even the greatest players, who never seem to falter, feel pressure when they're shooting the winning ball, they've just found various ways to trick themselves into making it. Whether you're a pro player or a league player everyone ends up in high pressure situations. The following are a few tricks that I use on myself when I'm one ball away from winning, and my heart is pounding out of my chest.
1. Pretend you are on your home table. My home table is #11 at Amsterdam Billiard Club, and no matter where I am in the world, when I'm shooting the winning shot, my mind is on table 11. If you can block out your surroundings and visualize yourself somewhere that you are comfortable and have made the shot a thousand times, you're make percentage goes way up.
2. Take a walk. This holds especially true if you've just come with an amazing shot, and you've left yourself perfect. After a great shot you're heart will already be pumping, and if you add nerves to that you're likely to snooze all the steps it takes to make the 'easy' shot. Take a lap around the table. Return to your chair for a sip of water. Towel down your shaft. Ok, now go win.
3. Dedicate the shot to someone you love. In my head I think, this ones for you, Max (my son). This usually makes me take extra time and focus to execute perfectly because not only would I be letting myself down, I'd be letting my son down, too.
4. Go down firing. There is nothing worse than going through your whole preshot routine, getting down on a ball and not completing your stroke. Most undercuts are caused by this exact reason. You hold up your stroke and any spin you've applied doesn't take, and the ball doesn't go. If you're going to miss, miss with authority. Once you take aim, fire away, no holding back.
5. If you're not sure, GET UP. This may be the hardest thing to do in pool. Sometimes we don't get up because we don't want others to see our fear, sometimes we just want to get it over with. Either way, if you don't feel comfortable, do not shoot. I often think to myself that I am going to take as much time as I need to get certainty in my mind. If that means getting up 10 times, that's what I'll do. I promise you, it looks much more foolish to one stroke and miss the game ball than it does to get up and reset 2 or 3 times in order to make it.
These things take time to master, but as long as you keep putting yourself in pressure situations you will continually get better at tricking yourself into winning. Just remember, it's not easy for anyone. With practice, some of us just get good at making it look that way.