There is no doubt that you have been in an intense billiard match, and just could not bring yourself to mentally master the game or the concentration. This article discusses some of the finer points of mental preparation for billiard, pool, and snooker matches. Don't let your mind affect your game. Use some of the recommendations below, and you should be able to overcome any pre-shot anxiety that may otherwise hinder your game.
When you think about the mental aspect of any cue sport game, there are a few principles that should be considered.
Have a quick read through the following items.
Shoot every shot with the same consistent routine, whether it is a tough bank shot, or a sure fire pocket. Being consistent and going through the same pre-shot routine every inning should help ease stress, and help you play a more relaxed and consistent game.
Before approaching the table to make a shot, calmly survey the lay of the balls. Decide which ball you will attempt to pocket and in which pocket it shall be sunk. Ensure that you are also planning the speed at which you will shoot, and where the cue ball will come to rest as well. This includes planning the speed of the shot, your stroke-through, any English that will need to be applied, and exactly where you will need to strike the cue ball in order to make that happen. By this time, and before stepping up to the table to shoot, you should be able to visualize the full shot clearly in your head and have a mental image of exactly what is going to happen during the shot. For more on choosing the best shot, click on this article.
Because you have already chosen, planned and envisioned your desired shot from stroke to pocket, you should be able to confidently approach the table and take the shot. Approach the table in the direction of the shot, with your body facing the direction in which you intend to shoot and assume your stance. If you are not properly aligned, back away from the table and repeat this step. All the while, you should still have the vision of your shot in your mind.
The number of warm up strokes can be a dead give-away that you are nervous or that your mind is getting the better of your game. Try counting the number of strokes that you take at a time that you are completely and totally relaxed, but playing in a competition environment. Take this number of strokes, and note the speed in which you take them. Whatever the number and speed, try and stick with it and make it consistent for every shot. This may seem difficult and un-natural at first, but the more you do it, the more natural it will become. Also keep in mind that most players have a minimum average number of warm-up strokes between two and four, but use whatever suits you best. The main point here is to keep the number consistent, even for the very easy shots, and for the extremely difficult shots. This will help with consistency, and it will make sure you don't make any silly mistakes on the really easy shots.
These are arguably the two most important parts of the shot, and being consistent with them is an equally important part of your mental game. Making them consistent will help keep you from focusing on your opponent who may be purposely trying to distract you. Also, a consistency with staying down and follow through will help you when you may have a lack of focus or a wandering mind. When this happens, you will almost mechanically perform your routine, as though it was a back up mechanism; a habit. With these routines firmly in place, your mind will have less occasion to get the better of you and your shot.
Relaxation during the shot is also paramount for keeping the mental interruption at bay. We generally play a much better billiard game when we are calm, confident, and relaxed. This, however, is easier said than done when you are approaching a difficult shot that will decide the game. There are some ways that can aide your relaxation and should help in such situations.
When a persons body is forced in to a certain situation or state (tense, anxious) the mind will sub-consciously follow it in to the same state. You can gauge whether or not you are tense at the table when taking your shot by noting the tightness at which your jaw is clenched. If it is clenched at all, you are surely tense, and you should try to consciously relax at this stage by loosening it. Your mind should hopefully follow your physical relaxation thus calming you down and making you feel more at ease and less tense.
Equally important as a relaxed jaw, is a relaxed back hand while shooting. Generally, it is known that if you have a killer grip on the cue stick, your shot will seriously suffer. The reason for this is that it makes the cue a rigid extension of your arm, and does not allow for a natural shot and follow through. Relaxing your grip should improve your shot, but as mentioned in the last paragraph, it should also cause your mind to follow by entering a relaxed state of its own.
This is by no means a complete explanation of mental mastery for billiards, but it can be a start. As you see below, there have been entire books written on the subject. Some key points to take away from this article are that you should be consistent in your shot routine at all times, and that you should be relaxed. As mentioned, if you are looking for more material on the subject, try the following:
Here is a little reading material that may be of interest for the mental preparation for playing cue sports.
This book is called: "The Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards" and is written by Robert T. Fancher. In my opinion, this is the best book written to date on the mental game of cue sports.
The preparing mentally for billiards article was posted on 7/29/2006 11:21:00 PM and updated on 7/29/2006 11:21:00 PM. The preparing mentally for billiards article was edited by Billiards Forum Webmaster.
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I cannot praise the featured book "The Pleasures of Small Motions" enough. I am sure that the study of this book helped me achieve my dream of winning my regional APA finals. It is packed with advice you are unlikely to learn anywhere else, except from a fist class teacher, but of course, being in book form, you can go back and revise vital information any time you wish. It is a deep book, but still not too hard to understand if you are acquainted with the finer points of billiards. Don't expect diagrams though. This is purely mental discipline but such as I have rarely encountered in book form. You will never look at any kind of 'pressure' play the same way again once you have read it. Essential reading!
This is a very important tutorial. It is actually the key to mastering the game.