: Liz Ford
Shoot Pressure in the Foot! 10 Ways to Fight Nerves at the Pool Table
Playing your best game when it counts, whether it's the league playoffs or the world championships, is a skill that requires experience and patience. That pesky sympathetic nervous system - you know, the one that supplies you with adrenaline and other goodies enabling you to fight or flight in the face of a threat - has trouble differentiating between fun things like pool and hungry things like man-eating tigers. Faced with the winning 8-ball, your heart starts pounding, your hands shake and you get tunnel vision, any of which can cause you to gas the shot. Remaining calm and remembering to play your game get easier with practice, but even the steeliest of competitors feel the heat from time to time. Here are 10 simple tips to follow so that you stay icy-cool:
1. You positively must be positive.
This is the best place to start because it can take you the farthest. See competition for the exciting opportunity that it is, testing yourself should be fun and not a fearsome burden.
2. Keep your eyes on the table.
Avoid distractions by keeping your focus on the work at hand, even when your opponent is shooting.
3. Make it routine.
Try to do the same thing each time so that you introduce a level of consistency to your approach. It can be as simple as breathing in and out and chalking before each shot.
4. Don't think while shooting.
Take the time to make a plan before you get down over the ball, being as precise as possible and committing to it 100%.
5. Don't shoot while thinking.
Your decision has been made and you're committed, now is the time to rely on your body and sense of feel to get the job done. No thinking allowed.
6. If something distracts you or feels wrong, start over.
Your brain knows a thing or two, if it's telling you that you're going to miss or is distracted by someone walking by, get up, take a breathe and try again before you pull the trigger.
7. Let it go.
Everyone makes mistakes. Once they're done, they're done. Do your best to let them go in order to avoid letting one mistake become two or three.
8. A lot of matches are won or lost in the chair.
What you think about while your opponent is shooting is important - stay positive and calm, always preparing yourself for the next opportunity.
9. Timing is everything.
Managing your rhythm is key. Sometimes you'll need to slow down to calm nerves and finish out a rack, speed up your pace to fight fatigue and over thinking, or just maintain an even clip that's working for you.
10. Breathe in, breathe out... repeat.
It's the most important skill of all, and you already know how to do it! Breathing slowly and evenly will keep your heart-rate down, quell panic and supply your brain and body with the oxygen they need to perform at their peak.