Grady “The Professor” Mathews once said, “Pool is 70 percent mental.” Over the years, you have probably made enough poor decisions to believe this is true. Why, then, do we associate our playing ability with physical skill? Honestly, some players are more definable by the way they think than by the way they stroke the cue ball.
Take the big breaker who crushes the rack but throws a temper tantrum every time he scratches: Yes, he’s got a powerful stroke, but before long his emotions are completely out of control. Next, consider his polar opposite, the guy who strikes the one nice and solid with a firm speed: He has roughly half the physical talents of the big breaker, but he knows his limitations and plays within them. Physical abilities only create potential in pool; it’s application that makes the difference.
So why are some pool players measured by their physical talents? It’s because their physical abilities are far more visible than their mental ones. You never hear someone say, “It was the right decision to play safe from there,” or “You never shoot until you are ready.” These factors get little recognition, yet they often pave the way to success, sometimes having a greater effect on a shot’s outcome than the stroke itself.
In fact, by thinking positively, you may be able to immediately play a stronger, more effective game of pool. One thing is certain: Without a strong mental game, you will never reach your true potential as a player. No doubt, it’s hard to play “in the moment” and stay focused. In pool, there is a natural tendency to look ahead or dwell on shots you’ve missed.
If you have trouble putting mistakes behind you, it’s probably time to take a hard look at yourself. Many players are shocked by the errors they make; for instance, they may miss a shot and let their negative emotions consume them for five games. If this sounds like you, look at your past. If history shows that you occasionally miss a ball, then don’t blow up when it happens.
For many players, the game consumes their life. It’s what they do in their free time, what they read about and watch on the Internet, what they dream about at night when they go to sleep. Take a moment to ask yourself the following questions: Does a bad tournament ruin your day? Does your last match affect your relationships with family and friends? These could all be serious indicators that pool controls your life. If this is the case, I suggest for you to take a short break. Sometimes, getting away from the game can give you a fresh perspective.
On the other hand, maybe your perspective is fine, but when you play, you try to be like someone you’re not. For instance, you may want to shoot like Earl Strickland, pocketing ball after ball at a blistering pace. But if your personality is more conservative, shooting fast can throw your game out of balance. The key is for you to be honest with yourself. Figure out what your game should look like, and play within your limitations. Moreover, you must understand that your limitations are based upon your individual ability and your pool game has to fit with your God-given talents.
Every match you play has its ups and downs, whether it be pocketing an impossible bank shot or playing a safety that comes back to haunt you. This sets the stage for bumpy road, which can completely take you out of your game.
By reading and understanding this monthly column, you can learn to get away from negativity and play pool with a positive outlook. You can also learn to improve your game by benefitting from your nervous energy. Above all, you will learn that a positive mind will figure out a way to win, while a negative mind looks for all the reasons that you can’t. Don’t limit yourself with negative thinking. Be unstoppable…even from yourself!
Author: Anthony Beeler
Editor: Chris Freeman