View Full Version : Back to Choking...

Rival Crown
08-04-2008, 09:40 PM
Hey Guys,

it's been a while. I believe last time I talk about confidence in your game. Let me update you with me. I met with a pool instructor this weekend, and told him I wanted to get my fundamentals taken cared of, so I can take my game to the next level. he recorded my shooting, and it turns out, he loved it, and told me I had solid fundamentals, everything looked great, and that I was doing a lot of things right, that he was about to teach me. Well, I got a couple of lessons from the best players in San Diego, so that couldn't have hurt. ANYWAYS. I was glad that my mechanics was damn good, I was real happy. and I still had to tell him, though I shoot well, my biggest challenge, is that I choke underpressure. It's like my game goes out the window. He told me, that when people miss, it's due to 2 things. Bad mechanics or bad alignment of site. I don't have to worry about mechanics no more, so I can trust my routine.
I also learned, when I miss, it's usually me deviating from my routine.

I digress. Knowing that my mechanics are good, in order to strengthen my game under pressure, gambling, competing, etc. SHould I just continue to enter tournaments and gamble for small games? Just gain experience?

Let me tell you. that same day, I went to a hall near my home. Played with an acquantaince. raced a couple of games for $20. He's been playing/competing, I haven't. I hate his stroke, it's weird, but he gets action on the cueball. Well. he beat me with a house stick. I choked even on hangers. I'd run 4-5 balls, and I'd miss, and he'd finish off the last 3-4 balls. I mean, he misses too. but, he's able to close the deal more often than I am.

Deep inside, I know I can beat him. I know my stroke is better, and position is better. But my brain won't let it come out for some reason. any ideas folks???

well, it's not about him. but my game isn't what it's suppose to be when the pressure comes on. frustrating.



08-05-2008, 04:32 AM
There are several possible causes of choking, but far and away the number one cause is breaking your routine. Go back and watch a video of yourself and see if you go through the exact same routine on every shot. I'm betting that things like being on the money ball, or having what looks to be a very simple shot are the times when you may skip some steps in your routine.

08-05-2008, 04:37 AM
Seasoning, play with something on the line and it will get better.

08-05-2008, 05:28 AM
Why do you choke? That is the root of your problem. Most people can walk with no problem. They can swing their arms, skip and even add a little hop now and again. Place the same person 100 feet above the ground on a six inch wide beam with nothing but air underneath and they can not walk 10 feet. Some people will freeze, begin to tremble, and literally cannot walk across that beam without falling. They really would fall when they simply need to walk across a beam.

The reason they cannot walk that 10 feet is that they do not want to die. All of a sudden a physical skill is no longer trusted. We are talking here about an ability that has been learned and used to a very high level of technical skill. Some people, iron workers to name one group, have the confidence to scamper around on the high and dangerous places. What do they do that is different than you and me?

Most of us will empathize with the person who chokes when it comes to walking that 10 foot beam but we have little empathy with ourselves when we choke while playing pool. However, playing pool up to one’s potential can mean a great deal and I would suggest that choking is first of all a sign that the game or the outcome means much to the individual. Fear of death, in its many forms, is very real. Learning to overcome it is not all that difficult for those who are committed – else we would not have so many iron workers.

There is an article on competitive anxiety in the Articles section of my web site that can be reached from the link in my signature. Many people have read it and thought that it helped. I hope that it helps you too.

08-05-2008, 05:47 AM
After considering, and learning the techniques discussed in the article, there are some quick fixes that can help you reduce the amount of choking. The primary idea has to do with concentration: The more you concentrate on the task at hand the less you are likely to choke.

Using the techniques discussed in the article I went from losing 9 of 10 matches in my first session back after a ten year layoff to winning 9 of 10 this session. That is a true story. The techniques I discussed really do work. They are not mine but a summary of what we, in psychology, know about these problems with application to the real world.

My problem was not taking the game serious and feeling badly for the other player who had so much invested in the game. Now, when I play the game it is about me and the table. There is no one or nothing else in the room and I am completely focused on the pool puzzle in front of me. I learned that it is not the killer instinct that matters it is self acceptance and a willingness to risk my self concept by playing the absolutely best pool I can play. The way to do this is to learn to refine your concentration so that everything else is tuned out. When you can do this, choking drops by the way side. A missed shot only means you have to wait for another opportunity to beat the table.

In an essay by Max Ermin he says, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain & bitter; for always there will be greater & lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.”

Take that quote to heart and realize that becoming all you can be for yourself is indeed what it is all about. In my life I have several accomplishments in different areas some physical some intellectual but never have I addressed the challenge that playing pool presents. It is another area of life that is exciting and fun becasue of the risks involved. To parphrase Max Ermin again," Be gentle with yourself, you are a child of the universe and you have a right to be here."

At times I mis-cue because I want the shot to go exactly as I have planned, However, now I know that it is my concern for making a shot that leads to the miss not my fears. When this happens I can accept who I am, and even smile, because that guy inside of me is trying so hard to help me make the shot with everything he has. I laugh a little and wait for my next turn.

I have acceped JJFstar's premise, "It is not a game, it is a lifestyle."

08-05-2008, 07:54 AM
Great thoughts, Joe. Pooltchr's post gave me an idea--you've taken video of yourself hitting balls for your instructor, so maybe you should video yourself when you're in a money game. Look for any differences in your fundamentals that you might overlook when you're in the middle of playing.

08-05-2008, 08:58 AM
I would like to suggest an alternative as to why we choke and how to change it.

When you are practicing by yourself or playing with friends, there is no stress. Therefore everything hums along just fine, so you think. But when you play for money, play in tournaments, or cause any stress, things start to fall apart. Stress is the culprit. It causes adrenaline to be released into your body. Adrenaline is a drug that we produce in reaction to stress. This stress is not in response to any logic, therefore you cannot tell yourself to not do it. It is produced by that part of the mind that we don’t have access to and operates automatically for us.

The amount of adrenaline released is not constant. With a little stress, you will get a little adrenaline. If the stress increases, so does the adrenaline. If you have a sudden very stressful moment, a lot of adrenaline can be released. So much that it may actually cause you to freeze. This happens to everyone in many different circumstances. Take for instance; stage fright. Getting up in front of a crowd of people and speaking or performing will cause stress, yet people manage it, and so can you. You cannot control stress and you cannot stop it. But you can manage it and yo may be able to use it.

I mentioned above that you think you are performing well when there is no stress. Imagine a car with a slight wobble in a wheel. Under normal speeds you may not notice any problem. But drive the car at high speed and you may crash because of it. I would like to suggest that when there is no stress, there are still some problems in your routine. You just don’t see them because you seem to be playing well.

How do you manage the stress/adrenaline?
You must perform the routine exactly the way you want to on every shot. That means that if the object ball is in the jaws of the pocket and the cue ball is six inches away, you go through the routine that you are using. Otherwise you have taught yourself that you don’t need to follow the routine. Or to put it another way, you’ve just created a wobbly wheel.

The shot routine is important, but it must be performed exactly on every shot because on every shot you are teaching yourself something. Most players I see will not follow an exact routine; instead they will shortcut it on easy shots. This is only teaching you that there is no routine. Since the shot routine is part of the automatic process, then shortcut it anytime and you teach yourself a bad habit. This also means that if you are just ‘playing around’, you must also follow the exact routine.

One other point I would like to make.
How do you insure you are doing the exact routine in the first place?
Initially, you must perform it very very slow so that it is done exactly the way you want. You must practice this over and over until you have it down. You can break it down into manageable pieces if you can’t remember the whole process or better yet, write it down. Then practice the routine in small sections, while doing it exactly the way you want. If you try to practice this while you are playing, you will not be successful. Why? Because your current routine will kick in while you are playing at normal speed. You cannot make any changes while you are going at normal speed, it must be done at a very slow speed. I could explain why but it would make this long post even longer.

So as your routine gets better, you will manage the effect of the adrenaline better. In fact, if you get your routine down so well, the adrenaline can actually help you since it enhances all the senses.

I know this is a boring way to develop your skills, but that is the price to pay if you want to improve.

Rail Rat
08-05-2008, 12:49 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Originally Posted By: Rival Crown</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Hey Guys,

...my biggest challenge, is that I choke underpressure. It's like my game goes out the window. He told me, that when people miss, it's due to 2 things. Bad mechanics or bad alignment of site. I don't have to worry about mechanics no more, so I can trust my routine.
I also learned, when I miss, it's usually me deviating from my routine.

--Rival </div></div>

I'm afraid your instructor is partly wrong. There have been some good answers here but 1poolfan hit the nail on the head.

We sometimes perform badly because of anxiety, you can feel it in your chest, its fear!... Its adrenalin pumping into your body and telling you to be afraid, its the same adrenaline that tells animals to run when prey is around.

It effects some people more, some less, but the end result is to get you away from your set routine and you slash or jab because you're afraid of the shot.

When you have doubt in your ability... you're dead. You can always tell when a player has this because they rush the shot... they don't do their set routine of practice strokes, they see the line and shoot quick to get it over with. Even pros do this occasionally.

I can talk about this because I went through it myself. I got so bad I was readdy to quit and sell my table... and this was after years of play and placing high in tournaments. Why it started I will never know, maybe because I'm older and I began to doubt my play.

I was finally able to overcome this by learning to channel my anxiety into some other mode. Then I practiced, practiced, practised. Working on the stroke basics and drilling them into my head.

You would think that after years of play we would become conditioned but thats not true, when you start missing badly under stress you have forgotten your game. Then later when you calm down in a non-stress situation you adjust back to your real game and wonder... why am I playing better now? It became clear to me I needed to get control of my anxiety.

The way I did this was to grab the cloth tight with my bridge hand and put all my tension in that hand... then I let my stroke arm swing relaxed with a relaxed grip, then I go through my routine. Now I'm free of the fear and can focus on the shot. The anxiety is still there but in my bridge arm, not my mind or in my stroke, and Just like that I could play again. In effect my brain has a task now and that's to hold the bridge hand tight which causes it to forget the outside pressure.

This may not work for others but it demonstrates you can channel the tension away from your mind and focus. Its a matter of finding your own way to do that. It shows you have the power to control your body.

My game is back even better now, and I'm holding my own against top players. My friends think I have found some magic potion!