View Full Version : Dealing with pressure

08-10-2003, 10:39 AM
I have some real problems with pressure. Whether I'm playing for money, playing my father, or playing in a tournament, I seem to have trouble finishing out matches. The last three weeks in my dads weekly 9-ball tournament, I've choked in the finals and finished second. Last week I ran out a nice rack in the deciding game only to miss a 9-ball I'd make 90 or more percent of the time. A few nights ago I played my dad in a race to 11 and should have won. I was at one point up 8 games to 4 and then couldn't make two balls in a row to save my life.

The most hurtful incident was at the BCA Junior Nationals, where after playing a good tournament I fell apart in my last match. I was up 8 to 5 in a race to 9 and playing great, and then I missed a few shots and all in a sudden I was a different player. At 8-6, I had a three-ball runout with ball-in-hand that I would normally have to miscue to screw up. Needless to say I found a way to screw up and lost the game. Then at 8-7, I was so nervous, so confused, and so pissed off at myself for losing my edge that I could hardly hold the stick. At one point I was shaking so badly that I completely missed a ball. It was awful. My heart was thumping the fastest it ever has, I was shaking and trembling so badly that I could barely hold my stick or much less make a ball, and I had to hold myself back from crying (not because I was playing bad, but because the pressure was so bad!). Considering pool is only a game, that was one of the worst feelings I have ever felt. Do any of you have advice on how to hold together to finish matches, or on how to stop that awful feeling I never want to feel again?


08-10-2003, 11:02 AM

I know that feeling.. almost there, getting closer, just need a few more shots, then the WIN...

It takes some players a life time to learn how to deal with pressure, some just push it aside and blow it off.

The shot is one that you've made a 1000 times, BIH with 3 balls on the table.. I'm out, if I don't blow it... and then I blow it. I read a bood called "Golf is not a game of Perfect" and this helped me handle my distractions/pressures better than I have ever had in the past.

It's not easy to keep all those distractions out of your head... I don't even try anymore. I just think about all of them (distractions/pressures) as long as it takes me.. usaully, all the time I am standing up, walking around the table, looking the OB into the pocket, the cue ball aiming line, my stance and then I don't get down until I am sure of what I am going to be doing.

Think about all the distractions, give them time to be acknowledged, then get down to business.

One shot at a time.. and not until you're ready.
Do all your thinking standing up.
Don't get down on the shot until you are ready.
Get up if you are distracted. This requires desipline.

08-10-2003, 11:07 AM
Very complex subject. There is a ton of sports psychology stuff out there. Golf probably has the most. If you are really serious, really serious, you should spend the money for both psychotherapy and a sports psychologist. The best sports psychologist guys probably do basic therapy too, since you have to address everything, but I don't know. I have never gone to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

One thing a lot of the psychologists or inner game people, or "Zen and the Art Of [insert activity here]" folks say is to stay in the moment and stay focused on process, not results. You need to develop a preshot routine and stick to it. Just go through the routine when the pressure hits. But you can't be thinking of outcome when you do this.

My cynical answer is to grow up. Pool is a very low stakes endeavor. I used to choke in things like golf or pool, and may again in the future. But as I get older and have actually done things where the outcome matters-has real consequence, I have gotten better able to cope w/ this stuff. Here again though, a lot of this change in attitude is simply because of a change in perspective as to the outcome. Since I'm not as concerned with a particular outcome, I can let myself perform. That doesn't mean I don't get mad or anything, I do. But I am better able to get out of my own way.

Now watch the golf tournament on TV this afternoon and see how each player has a strict routine. They follow it always. Whether they are leading or struggling.

Rich R.
08-10-2003, 11:37 AM
Dragon, you are getting some very good advise from others. My advise may seem simple and a little stupid, by comparison. But it has worked for me in areas other than pool, as well as pool.

My advise -- Always remember that it is not life and death, you are dealing with. In the case of pool, it is a game and it should be fun. Nobody dies, if you miss a shot and/or lose a match. You will get to play another day.

Hope it helps.

08-10-2003, 11:40 AM
Here's something simple and easy to try in pressure situations. It has worked for me (when I can remember to use it!). Pick some aspect of your fundamentals that you can focus on. Me, I pick STAYING DOWN ON THE SHOT. Then, when faced with an important shot, I tell myself that I am going to make STAYING DOWN ON THE SHOT a higher priority than making the shot. In other words, I may say to myself, "I may or may not pocket this shot, but I WILL STAY DOWN ON THE SHOT, NO MATTER WHAT." I tell myself that my main goal is to stay down, not make the ball. Somehow this seems to relieve some of the pressure. You are giving yourself something you can control and achieve and something to focus your mind on. Maybe you would pick a smooth final stroke or following through, or relaxing your arm or something else. There is always some uncertainty about making a shot, even an "easy" one. If it's an important shot, then the uncertainty produces anxiety and choking can occur. Try giving yourself a goal that you can CERTAINLY accomplish and see if it helps. Hope this helps.

Keith Talent
08-10-2003, 12:48 PM

Those are some painful experiences. I hope you don't dwell on them, but just learn what you can from them and move on.

I think it's important to try to keep from going negative when a match seems to be slipping away. Maybe think for a second of great comebacks YOU'VE made on other occasions ... and you probably have more of them in the memory bank than blown leads.

Think about how you would have felt to have been the guy who was down 8-5, where one mistake could put him out. Remember, he was probably more nervous than you ... until he started to see you losing it.

And remember how it feels to be playing somebody who's not in your league, somebody you'd skunk 9-0 without even trying. How boring is that? You WANT the competition, you WANT the battle, making the big shots is what you ALWAYS have to do to win any match worth winning ... start thinking that way when the game's on the line, and enjoy the competition, without worrying so much about losing, and you'll probably do better.

08-10-2003, 01:36 PM
Man does that re-surface memories. I remember the first A+ level league teams I was invited to join, fun summer league, BUT get me down on a three ball run-out with ball in hand, everybody watching, and I too was an absolute basket case. Cue shaking? Yea that too. About all I can tell you is that you are not alone, and it does get better, thing you need to do is to seek out that exact pressure which makes you shake the most, and "ride that horse" again, ASAP. I still shake some, especially in money matches cuz I know I really don't have cash to be losing, so I play cheap now, and forget the money either way it goes. I don't condone gambling when you are conscious of losing money,,,you don't get tougher in those cases, just poorer and less confident.

It is also beneficial to associate everything in the room as friendly,,,the lighting, the sounds, the people. Do this consciously upon getting inside the room. At the danger of sounding cute, "pool nerves'" biggest infection, is fear. Forget there is any possible reason to be afraid, think friendly, play friendly, and trust your stroke.

If this doesn't work you can always try imagining that everyone at that pressure moment (besides you), is naked. I understand that works for the fear of public speaking, and yet it could damage you forever. There are usually STRANGE types of people in the room, imagining everyone could partially blind you, and if you happen to find yourself in Arlington, buy yourself a seeing eye dog before you go. Dem people over there be needin' to all keep their clothes on ;-) ....sid~~~just funnin'

08-10-2003, 03:35 PM
Forget winning and losing.

Just clear up, everyime.

1 to 9 , every time.


08-26-2003, 12:15 PM
Hi Tom:

Tap, tap, tap. -Good advice.


Fran Crimi
08-26-2003, 04:33 PM
Drayton, it sounds like what you experienced in the Jr. Nationals was panic. First it starts out as nervousness and then escalates very quickly to where you feel light-headed and even disoriented.

It's actually a chemical reaction that your body is having to oxygen deprivation. When you feel nervous, what happens is that your breathing becomes quick and shallow. If you don't take control of your breathing, your brain will start to become deprived of oxygen and then your heart will start beating faster, you'll feel weak and even dizzy. Once you're in a full-blown panic it's really really hard to stop it, so the secret is in stopping it when you start to feel the first signs of nervousness and shakiness.

As soon as you start to feel nervous, start slowing down your breathing. Take long, slow and very deep breaths. Give your lungs plenty of oxygen to process. Breathe in through your nose very deeply, hold it there for a few seconds, then blow it out through your mouth.

Do this for about 10 times and you'll feel yourself starting to feel calmer.

You can definitely fix this if you take control of your breathing.


08-27-2003, 02:47 AM
I hate the word 'pressure'. Pressure is man made , it doesnt really exist outside your head.
Most understand the word 'pressure' as Fran described it , a set of phyisical reactions and sensations that you experience whilst playing such as , heart pounding, sweating , shakey legs etc. This is normal.

You panicked because you do not know how to deal with what you are feeling , here's my advice.

Pressure can make you play worse, but you need it to excell. It can make you play better than you have ever played before.
ACCEPT it, be aware of what you are feeling and see it for what it is..
Dont FIGHT it , let this 'buzz' pervade your whole body and use it. Make it your friend , it is your 'turbo boost'. This may take a while to master , but persevere.

Next time 'Mr Pressure comes along, you will know him and your fear will be less because you know him .

Shake his hand a say "Hi baby ,ready to shoot some pool ? " /ccboard/images/graemlins/smirk.gif


Fred Agnir
08-27-2003, 06:23 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote TheDragon:</font><hr> I've choked in the finals and finished second. Last week I ran out a nice rack in the deciding game only to miss a 9-ball I'd make 90 or more percent of the time<hr /></blockquote> Along with everyone else's advice, I'll add two thoughts to chew on.

First, going with what Tom (Sacracincy) said, rather then trying to dismiss the pressure and thoughts, somehow you've got to be able to work with them. For me, if I don't feel the nerves, I'm not in the game. It's not easy. Everyone feels it. Everyone has lost the same way.

Secondly, I am part of a yearly high school robotics competition. We spend 6 weeks building a robot, and compete with other schools across the country. It's culminated at the end of the "season" with the national championship. A few years ago we won the New England Regional Championship. Winning of course gave the students and the mentors a taste of the highest highs. A month later, we lost in the National Competition due to ... well... an unfortunate down turn in driver skill level. And, the loss gave our students that feeling of the lowest lows. Tears abound.

To experience and still move on from the lowest low. To strive for and to attain (and remember) the feeling of the highest high. That's why we compete.



08-27-2003, 01:58 PM
My advise -- Always remember that it is not life and death, you are dealing with. In the case of pool, it is a game and it should be fun. Nobody dies, if you miss a shot and/or lose a match. You will get to play another day.

Dragon, this is about the best advice you can get on the subject of overcoming pressure. I've played a lot of games/matches and I can tell you from experience, if I'm not having fun, I don't shoot worth a S#%* ! Think about it. If you're nervous, and/or not having fun your body automaticaly tightens up and/or becomes shakey and your game will fall to pieces. Also, you start thinking negatively about the results that you will get. I bet when you had ball-in-hand with only three balls left on the table, you weren't thinking "Man, I'm out!", you were probably thinking "Man, I hope that I don't f@#$ this up!" I've been there plenty of times myself. And usually, when you think about what COULD go wrong, it DOES go wrong. When the pressure hits you, just remember that you've been here before and will most likely be here again many more times. You have got to let the pressure work FOR you, or it will most certainly work AGAINST you. With that in mind, I let it work for me and have as much fun as I can on every shot, easy or difficult. I know I'll be there again soon. So, have fun, stay calm and the best of luck to you!

08-27-2003, 10:19 PM
when you come up to the table just shake your right hand and wrist, let it flop around, then take some nice deep breaths.