You all know me, I dove right in!
I asked her about 1,000 questions (give or take a few) to get to the bottom of what she was trying to describe. What did "off" really mean, why did she feel that way, and what was going on?
Long story short, she wasn't comfortable and she was distracted because she had some negative feelings going on. Poor girl, she had a lot of things going against her. And as we all know, it's tough enough to already play our best without distractions lol.
- She was playing in local bar that she didn't feel comfortable in (it was very small, it was crowded that night, and also on a bad side of town)
- The two tables were so close to each other, she would have to lean her butt on the other table at times to shoot well (difficult to get comfy and worried how cute our butts look, right?)
- The other team had people cheering for them loudly because it was their home bar
- She was having some issues with a teammate who was upset with her (who knows why - you know how women can be, lol)
Like I said, she had a lot of things going against her - distractions and some negative thoughts/feelings. No wonder she felt "off" and didn't play her best.
I want to right away jump into what will help during your matches in the future if this happens to you.
There is a mental thing you can do and a physical thing you can do.
The most important thing before you can implement any tool during a match to help you when you might be struggling is, is you must learn early to become fully aware that there is something going on. You don't need to identify it, but if you realize and recognize early enough that you are bothered, upset, distracted, feel pressure, embarrassed, WHATEVER, then you will know it's time for you to implement tools during the match to help you regain confidence. "Hey, I'm not playing well because something is bothering me. I don't know what it is, but I can tell I'm upset for some reason, and my arms are a little wobbly, and my heart is racing."
Don't wait til after the match is over to realize something was bothering you and that's why you played badly. I admit this takes some conditioning to learn, but once you do - your game will skyrocket. Instead of Monday Morning Quarterbacking, you will be solving problems right away! So, keep aware of your state of mind, your emotions/feelings, that your body feels "off," etc - if you can identify soon that something is bothering you, then you will have time to use tools to help you.
I actually think this a huge part of your repertoire.
Now, let's get to the tips!
So, I gave her two suggestions of what to do when you are playing badly while feeling pressure, embarrassment, or have negative emotions:
(1) I've written about this before, of course, which was when Phil Capelle gave me advice on how to handle embarrassment. I was almost paralyzed from competing well for about a year because I had intense feelings of embarrassment and judgement. When you're feeling negative emotions, how can you possibly play your best pool? The way to combat that is to get your mind busy with something else. Pretty simple, but very powerful. He suggested I focus completely on my pre-shot routine and three-ball shape. It was a miracle worker! My brain was so busy focusing on those two things, it had no time to think about the judgement I felt I was under. So I told Katniss if she notices she is playing badly and also has negative emotions or feelings, that she needs to solely focus on three-ball shape and her pre-shot routine (fundamentals) because it keeps your mind busy.
(2) The second thing, which I think sometimes is more important, is when you are feeling pressure you need to stroke the ball more. I've also written about this before as this was a huge learning experience for me as well, but the key is a lot of times when we feel negative emotions (pressure, upset, embarrassed, etc) we simply don't shoot the same. We actually rush our shots when we feel pressure. So the way to combat that is to stroke your cue more. I know this seems opposite of what we've all been taught - that you should have a set pre-shot routine and stroke the same number of times (except for tough shots). However, when we are nervous, we only take two strokes, and therefore we aren't following our pre-shot routine anyway, lol. Furthermore, when we are nervous or feel pressure we honestly don't even realize that we are two-stroking at all because our brain is distracted with these weird sensations of nervousness and pressure.
I've actually been in situations where I'm playing in a tournament and I'm nervous, and someone will tell me, "Hey, you're two-stroking; slow down, take your time, stroke some more." I was SHOCKED! I had no idea I wasn't stroking normally - I thought I was! You see? These negative feelings and emotions can affect our routines. Therefore, if you become aware of negative emotions and you also recognize you are playing badly, then immediately start to stroke a few extra times when you are down on the ball. You'll be amazed how effective this is.
So these are two important things that you can utilize to help you play better when you are nervous or feel pressure. There are a ton of other things you can do (read more here about tips I shared from 2011), but these two things are golden.
Again, to even be able to start to use these items is you have to have self-awareness that you are nervous or feeling pressure in the first place. Sometimes we don't know til it's too late why we are struggling. Self-awareness really is one of the most important things because without it, there's no way to begin to correct what is going on.
Til next time!