: Samm Diep
In the beginning, as you’re developing your skills, the focus is solely on pocketing the balls. You’re unaware of any consequences. There were no concerns of getting snookered, choosing the wrong pattern, or losing the match or tournament. You were fearless. All you knew how to make balls and that’s exactly what you did.
In the next chapter of your development, you’re introduced to the faces of the cue ball. As you discover the possibilities, you find yourself winning more and more games. With this new confidence, you take the show on the road and decide to join a league. This new taste of competition can be sweet but the experience introduces a new fear of missing. Without knowing it, you’ve lost your innocence. The days of free-stroking carelessness are now behind you.
Once you’ve attached value to the shot, it immediately holds new meaning. That difficult cut shot in the corner that used to be so fun to shoot now means the difference between winning and losing. All of a sudden, a little anxiety creeps up on you. Without realizing it, your new fear of losing begins causing you to avoid competition altogether. “I can’t beat these guys,” you start thinking, “Jimmy has my number. I can’t beat him.”
How do you overcome your fear of competition?
The answer is simple. You keep competing.
If you’re learning to surf, you have to expect that you’ll get a little wet. It comes with the territory. Thus, if you want to become a great surfer, you can’t be afraid of getting a little wet. The same can be said about pool. If you allow the fear of losing to keep you from doing what you need to improve then you’ll never become a great player.
You can’t expect to win the first tournaments you play in. And, when you don’t, you can’t give up. The only way to learn to handle playing under pressure is to continue putting yourself in that situation. The more you face your fears the less and less scary they become. You cannot learn to win without first learning to lose. Again, it just comes with the territory.
Losing is no fun. Nobody enjoys losing. But, the worst thing you can do is give up. If you quit trying then not only do you decrease your chances of possibly winning but you’re also depriving yourself of all those countless chances to reinforce that muscle memory and toughen your skin a little. This is what champions are made of. They all had to start from somewhere.
Choose to play in tough tournaments where you know there will be better players. This forces you to play against different people and step outside your comfort zone. Anytime you create an uneasy scenario for yourself and you’re able to overcome it, it only builds your confidence. Find the learning opportunity when you’re not at the table. Observe your opponents and notice what they do.
Take your losses with dignity. Nobody likes a sore loser. If your opponent outplayed you, think about the steps you can take to improve so you can change the story next time. Shake your opponent’s hand. Don’t pout and whine. Your poor spouse doesn’t deserve the silent treatment because you lost. Accept the loss and move on to the next match or tournament. There will be more matches in your future.
So, the next time you’re wondering whether or not you should play in that weekly, regional, or national tournament, just say yes. Accept the challenge. The only way to pocket more balls is to pocket more balls. The more you play under pressure, the better you’ll learn to handle it.
The next time you’re in the mile high area and looking for a Denver billiard instructor, be sure to look me up.