There are few things more frustrating than practicing your heart out to prepare for a big tournament and feeling completely ready, only to “dawg” it when it counts because you can’t handle the pressure. What a terrible way to lose. Performance anxiety can be caused by your own expectations or what you believe others expect from your abilities. You may have all the skills to win but if you don’t have the confidence to execute when it counts then none of that matters.
If you are a Nervous Nelly when it comes to competing, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Preparation. Preparation. Preparation. The number one cure is always preparation. There is no substitution it. When you were in school, you may have gotten away with cramming for an exam but not in the game of pool. No amount of last minute practicing can replace proper training and readiness. Being prepared also means having the necessary tools for the job, e.g. your cues, comfortable shoes, and other billiard accessories.
2. Take deep breaths. Lower your heart rate by taking slow, deep breaths. While in your chair, consciously relax the muscles in your body. Melt into the seat and think warm, positive thoughts. Go away to a place that is happy and pleasant. Control your breathing while in the chair and at the table.
3. Compete as much as possible. Get out and play. Join a pool league or compete in some small weekly tournaments. What better way to deal with pressure than by getting used to it.
4. Relax before your match. Have some downtime prior to playing. Read a book, watch some TV, or have a nice dinner with friends. Go do something mellow that you enjoy before you enter the battle field. Get your mind on something else.
5. Eat right. Select the right foods. The foods you eat can affect your performance and your ability to think clearly and make smart decisions. Stay away from fried, high-carb foods before your match. They can leave you feeling bloated and with low energy. Instead, have an apple or some meats and vegetables. Start noticing what foods help you perform at your peak.
6. Burn off nervous energy. If you find that you’re feeling way too much anxiety, take a walk or do some light exercise. Move your body. Find an activity to release tension that is not too strenuous.
7. Get plenty of sleep. Give yourself the best chance to be in tiptop shape by getting a good night’s rest the night before. If you party all night with your friends and wake up early with a hangover that is not giving yourself the best chance to reach your top gear. If you want to win you have to take it seriously.
8. Be on time. Do not be late to your match. In fact, arrive early so you can warm up and get acclimated to the table and lighting. Give yourself plenty of time for a pre-match bathroom break or for any other unexpected surprises. You should never feel rushed before your match.
9. One match at a time. Try not to look ahead on the tournament bracket. Take it one match at a time, one game at a time, one shot at a time. When you start anticipating who your next opponent will be or when your next match will start, it only adds unnecessary pressure. Focus on the match in front of you.
10. Stay hydrated. Always make sure you have plenty of water by your side during your match. Water quenches your thirst better than any other drink. When nervous, it can also help calm you.
Don’t let performance anxiety get you down. Make the game and the competition more enjoyable when you learn to handle the pressure. If you can’t stand the heat, find ways to deal with it. And if all else fails, you can always picture your opponent in his/her underwear. Most importantly, enjoy yourself.
The next time you’re in the mile high area and looking for a Denver billiard instructor, be sure to look me up.