Houdini Pool: The Art of the Comeback

Posted by : Liz Ford

It takes special mental, physical and emotional focus to come back and win from the brink of defeat. How many of us are prone to throw in the towel and believe that the match's over before it's really over? The following five techniques can help you up the odds that you'll pull off a Houdini-like escape maneuver. You can't win them all, but you CAN find success in the fact that you've pledged to give your best effort regardless of the score; that's the beginning of the path to becoming a champion.

1. Make a commitment
Any great comeback starts with the choice that you'll continue the fight until the bitter end. With this mindset you ensure that you're acting towards a goal instead of reacting to the situation. A good functional example of this might be playing a lock-up safety when you're down 8-0 in a race to 9 games instead of shooting wildly and impulsively out of frustration.

2. Manage your energy
If you're losing by a wide margin, chances are that you're either pretty tense and keyed up (energy is too high) or you've gone into a submissive and defeated posture (energy is too low.) Begin by becoming aware of how you feel. If you're running too hot, you'll need to employ some relaxation exercises to calm yourself down to optimal performance levels. If you're running too cold, you'll need to do some energizing and pumping up.

3. You're gonna need a powerful mantra
Giving yourself a positive catch-phrase that you cling to when you reach a critical point in a match can go a long way to reducing intrusive negative thoughts that can impair your performance. Something like “I'm the hardest working player out here” sure beats “I suck.” Your brain can only consciously think one thought at a time: why not make it a good one?

4. One ball at a time, one game at a time
You can't come back and win a pool match in one shot. Most people focus too hard on the long-term goal and fail to meet their short-term objectives. Bring yourself back into the present to do the best you can with the shot at hand. Rarely does just one mistake put you many, many games in the hole; likewise, digging out will take giving a solid and calm effort repeatedly.

5. There's power in giving up the illusion of control
Expending energy trying to play fortune teller about the outcome of your match will rob you of energy and focus, as will dwelling on regrets about shots past. There's a difference between “giving up” in a match and “giving up control.” Once you switch your focus from results (mostly out of your control) to effort (mostly within your control) you'll likely free yourself up to play to the best of your ability on that given day. Trying to control things that are beyond your scope leads to worry and poor performance. Putting forth effort towards the process will lead to mastery and perhaps a few stories about magically snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.