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Recently one of my students asked, “How can I erase the memory of a missed shot and not let it create self-doubt for the rest of my match? Whenever I play a bad match I immediately start to think about how much it has affected my chances of winning that particular event. Negative thoughts start to creep in…it’s hard to rebound from a poor performance.”

As a coach, I usually tell my students that thoughts are just thoughts and to treat them as such. When your brain produces negativity, a single thought doesn’t have the power to become an emotion that will affect your overall performance. However, the more time you devote to that particular thought, the more you empower it to change your overall mood. Negative thoughts generally lead to performance anxiety, which can dramatically decrease your overall level of play.

Below you will find 4 ways to eliminate negative thoughts you are likely to encounter after missing a ball or making a costly position error.

1. Respond to the challenge:

Professional players tend to respond to the challenge after a poor performance. On the other hand, losers react. It is important to become aware of your feelings and not let them overpower you. If you miss an easy shot, you can expect a negative thought to enter your head. This is actually very normal. Good pool players pay attention to their negative thoughts, and give themselves time to respond, instead of just reacting.

2. Keep your thoughts in the present moment: Many students have found that trying to clear their mind and focus on their breathing can help. Other options include concentrating on your pre-shot routine or focusing on one of your 5 senses (because your senses only exist in the present). Good players understand that negativity only exists from memories of past performances or the fear of future ones. If you embed yourself into the present, then you will be more likely to exhibit a positive attitude throughout your match.

3. Display good body language: There’s definitely a relationship between good posture and mood. If you continually frown and put yourself in a hunched over position while you are sitting in the chair, you will eventually start to embrace negative thoughts. Conversely, if you sit with your shoulders back and smile, you’ll feel more confident. When you think you are a slump, notice your body language and correct it as the need arises.

4. Start over:

· Replace negative thoughts with something positive. In between matches, focus on something completely unrelated to pool, like your favorite sport or restaurant.

· If you feel uncomfortable while you are down on the shot, get up and restart your pre-shot routine.

· Focus on one stroke thought (for example, you might focus on putting a really good pause into every backswing).

Try these mental game techniques and I believe you will be able to rebound from a poor match performance! Another thing to remember is that your first match does not have to set the tone for the entire tournament. Many great tournament performances have started with a loss. How you finish is the most important thing.

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