One of my weekly email clients is a semi professional nine ball pool player from Asia. He voiced this week a very common complaint I hear from players, and which is a great self challenge to over come in our path towards cue sports joy.
“I tend to focus harder and perform better against tough opponents and play terrible and lose focus and get lazy against weaker opponents. I think it is a problem because I end up losing matches which I am not supposed to. Is there anything I can do about this?”
My reply was from my own playing and competition experience:
I struggled with this for quite a few years in my game, and threw dozens of potential solutions at the issue. The half a dozen or so ideas which helped me most to overcome this issue almost completely are listed below.
- With weaker opponents you could write down in a diary EVERY frame you play against them (and in fact every player you play). Then every frame takes on a different context because you have your own personal stats to keep high which you can review at the end of every month / year. You can also note down ideas in this results journal about what helped you play against a weaker player as you would against a stronger player.
- In fact, you could use a weaker player as practice for a tournament final – just pretend they are your biggest competitor (or Ronnie O’Sullivan!) and that you have to concentrate on every single ball to even have a chance of winning…
- Also you can set a target of beating them 3.0 / 5.0 / 9-0 etc and put a star next to each 0 victory in your diary.
I remember once that I was beating a friend of mine 2-0 in a best of five – I was about 70 in front in the last frame with one red left and was looking forwards to beating him 3-0 without him scoring even one point . Because I was thinking about how great this would be, I MISSED the last red, left it over the pocket, and he potted it - I was so angry for days afterwards!
- I actually had a goal once of destroying someone so comprehensively that they gave up the game. In a pro game I think I achieved it once when I was 3-1 down in a qualifier. I did not miss a ball to win 5-3, and I never saw the player again… so I hoped back then that it had worked!
- Also when you are in front 7-2 (or even if you are 0.0 at the beginning of the match), you can just pretend you are 2-7 behind to help you get into a determination mind set.
- You could also view playing weaker players as practice at getting better at playing them. This will give a bigger purpose to your performance than just the match itself. It could help prevent you losing perspective and getting sucked into the complacent (rather than determined and focused) version of the: “I am definitely going to win this match” mind set.
- I remember Jackie Stewart wrote in his autobiography that when he sensed his opponent had a weakness, he would double his effort – like a lion smelling blood. He said this helped him guard against letting a weak opponent come back and win. I remembered this when I was playing Doug Mountjoy in a qualifier once. We were at the beginning of the match and he was struggling with the glare in his new glasses, but made the mistake of mentioning it when he missed a basic pot. I become very focused )over coming my fear of playing who was a big name back then) and played solid stuff to win 5.1
Please comment below if you have any questions or feedback…
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