The main messages in the first video above can be summarized with five words with a snappy single-syllable acronym: Focus, Enjoy, Reset, Visualize, Inhale, Diagnose (FERVID).
For more info, see: “Mental Game” (BD, April, 2020) and the mental game handout.

Here are some cool T-shirt designs related to the mental game of pool:

The most important advice concerning the mental game is:

  • Have a consistent and purposeful pre-shot routine, being sure to visualize and plan successful execution of each shot before getting down.
  • When down on a shot, don’t “pull the trigger” until the alignment and aim looks and feels perfect. Then, with a clear mind and still eyes, execute the stroke. There should be no uncertainty whatsoever just before or during the stroke. If there is, you should get up and re-start your pre-shot routine.
  • Give every shot the respect it deserves in terms of attention and focus, even the “easy” shots.
  • Quiet your mind while in your stance and during your stroke. If your mind is not quiet, get up and restart.
  • Be confident and trusting in your skills and abilities, relying on well-practiced pre-shot routine and shot techniques.
  • Work hard in practice to improve your skills, working on all important technique fundamentals and techniques. That will create more confidence.
  • Take deep breaths when necessary to fight nerves or break tension.
  • Learn from your mistakes and treat mistakes as opportunities to improve later in practice (working on weak skills or missed shots and positions during matches). Always do post-match analysis asking what went well, what needs works, and what is needed to improve. Don’t just be critical. Also praise your personal strengths.
  • Be aware of, recognize, and deal with negative thinking and emotions, replace them with positive energy. Also replace negative self directions (e.g., “Don’t drop the elbow”) with positive ones (e.g., “Keep the elbow still). Remember: “You can’t don’t.” The sub-conscious mind that performs actions needs simple and positive action commands (e.g., “Keep still”) and will sometimes drop the negative words in a command (e.g., “Don’t) and just do the action word (e.g., “Drop”).
  • Be aware of your mindset and use positive self talk to try to stay calm and in the moment, always focusing on the important task or shot at hand.
  • Practice under pressure as much as possible (in leagues, tournaments, sparring, streamed online videos, challenge or gambling matches, etc.). The only way to become good under pressure is through a past history of successful experience under pressure.
  • Make sure your practice is “deliberate” with with clear objectives in mind. Use drills designed to improve performance, making sure they always push you just beyond your skill level and comfort zone.
  • Never give up, even if you are far behind in a match.
  • Work to control only the stuff you can control. Don’t linger on stuff out of your control.
  • Always remind yourself why you play pool (for the fun, social connections, relaxation, challenge, competition, etc.), and try to enjoy the game, even when things are not going well.

For more information, see The Compete Instructional Works of Tom Ross – Volume II: Mental Aspects and Joe Waldron’s collection of articles dealing with the mental side of pool.

The book “Pleasures of Small Motions: Mastering the Mental Game of Pocket Billiards” by Bob Fancher provides good coverage of the mental side of the game. Important messages from the book include:

  • Focus on and enjoy process, and focus less on goals or outcomes.
  • Do not try to deny your fears. Acknowledge and accept them, and do your best to address and manage them (e.g., by being aware and taking deep breaths).

The books “The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey and “The New Toughness Training For Sports” by James Loehr also provide excellent coverage of the mental and emotional sides of conditioning and peak performance (in any sport, including billiards). See also: other good mental game books.

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