How I Cool My Own Jets
Last month, I talked about my experience attempting to control my emotions while playing very poorly in a big match. A couple of readers mentioned that I didn’t really talk about how to reign in your temper. This month’s article will attempt to address that.
The short answer is: I have no idea!
We are all different people. Our emotions are triggered by so many different stimuli, that I couldn’t begin to address the entire spectrum that embodies the psychological aspect of the game. If I could, I’d write a book on it (right after I got my Doctorate of Psychology!).
However, I will tell you what I do (which works sometimes), and how I try to cope.
Step 1: Preparation
First, I remember how much I love this game. That’s why I’m in this tournament / league match / pool hall. There is something very satisfying about the smell of the room, the clicking of the balls, the chalking of cue tips, and the jukebox playing some tunes. This is my happy place.
Next, I picture myself as a well-oiled machine. I am confident, and I instill fear in all who play me. My opponent will make mistakes, because he’s putting too much pressure on himself. He knows that if he misses, I will run the table on him. And if he doesn’t know who I am, he will when we are done with our match.
Step 2: During Play
Every shot is a routine, no matter how difficult or easy the shot is. I do not get down on the shot until I am confident of the stroke, speed, and spin I will be applying. I picture the path of the cue ball and object ball. I apply chalk to my cue, get down on my shot, take the same pre-shot strokes, and I execute. Every shot is precisely the same – this rhythm is crucial, and helps me to get into the “zone.” It is within this zone that I feel calm, at peace, and relaxed.
There will be many factors that will attempt to bump you out of this zone: a badly missed shot; a miscue; a drunk patron bumping into you; a very obnoxious and loud Miley Cyrus song on the jukebox. Your opponent may even shark you by making noises or comments.
When these happen, get up. Go take a sip of your drink. Reassess the table. Then take a deep breath, and get back into your routine.
You might hear rumblings about “taking too long” during your turn. If there is no shot clock, don’t worry about it. When all is said and done, all people will be talking about is how you never seemed to miss.
Above all, learn to recognize when your blood is beginning to boil. Figure out what it is that helps calm you, and get back to the zone as quickly as you can.
Step 3: The Aftermath
When you are done with your match, don’t just evaluate how you played the game. Think about how you felt, and how you reacted. Did you pound your cue into the floor when you missed (man, I need to stop doing this!)? Did you yell at yourself or the balls when you made a bad play? Be honest with yourself, and stop blaming that person who bumped you or the crappy music. You are in control of your stick, and the balls. You chose to attempt that difficult cut instead of a safety, and you misjudged the shot. Don’t get mad at the chalk on the ball that made them skid. Instead, remind yourself that just like in many games, stuff happens. It’s how we handle it that matters.
Believe me, dear reader, I know all about this subject. I sometimes have a hot temper, and it usually gets the best of me. I am working on this aspect of my game, and I’m finding that the more I stay in the zone and keep an even temper, the better I do in most tournaments. I recently won a local tournament against some very good players, during a night when a very loud heavy metal band was playing, and their groupies were crowding the tables. I kept my cool, had a good time, and played the best I have in a long time.
I truly hope that I can continue to learn from this experience and enjoy this extremely rewarding yet frustrating game.
If you would like to share some of your success stories (or even the failures), or have suggestions for future articles, please feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can also be found hanging out with fellow billiards enthusiasts at reddit.com/r/billiards. Come on by and join the discussion!