Sports psychology is now becoming a major part of success in snooker as being able to control your mind under pressure is sometimes the difference in winning or losing. Remember all players lost at the start, before they learnt what to do in how to win. Practicing your mind fitness is vital if your true potential is to be realised as every player practices their potting and break building but how many players practice their mind fitness. The skill of maintaining Concentration and Focus will only help a player become a better player so please read the programs I have used with 147academy players.
- Positive Mental Approach
A positive mental approach can perhaps best be characterised by saying that your thoughts are strongly focused on the here and now, and also in how confident you talk to yourself and everyone about your overall Snooker Game and Technique. “An example of Negative versus Positive Mental Approach can come from negative predictions of the future. Have you ever heard a player saying ‘’ The Table was terrible or pockets were too big or my opponent fluked a ball in the second frame and then went on to win the match 3-0. These thoughts are often in the beaten player mind long before the end of the match. Its far better for the player to ignore the fluke or the Conditions and perhaps even better, to rehears the “match report” that they will be telling everyone ‘’Although the table was tough and my opponent got a few big flukes in the match, I didn’t let it unsettle me and I went on to win the match 3-1.” Talking positive about yourself and your game is the most important factor in keeping a positive mental approach as without it, you will always find a way to have them excuses to lose the big matches.
Relaxation is the next very vital part, if you want to play at a high level. This is where you can control the tension and anxiety that happens during matches. The five breath technique will help you achieve total relaxation before, during and after matches. Breathing Technique: The five breath technique removes tension and clears the mind. Once mastered, this technique will help you to relax. It can be used at any time you feel yourself tensing up and will be effective even in highly charged situations. First, you will need to spend time perfecting this technique. This is best done in quiet surroundings where you will not be disturbed. Just five minutes a day practicing this technique should enable you to relax at will, in about four to six weeks. In order to avoid the reading these instructions and get in the way of the relaxation it is best either to learn the steps off by heart or record onto your phone to replay each time. Sit comfortably, arms by your side and make your thumb and first finger touch to form a ring.
- Take a deep breath. Concentrate on allowing muscles of your face and neck to relax as you breath out.
- Take a second-deep breath. Allow the muscles in your shoulders and arms to relax as you breathe out.
- Take a third deep breath. Allow the muscles in your chest, stomach and back to relax as you breathe out.
- Take a fourth deep breath. Allow your legs and feet to relax as you breathe out.
- Take a fifth deep breath and focus on relaxing your whole body as you breathe out.
Aim to build up to staying in this relaxed deep breathing state for five minutes. When you are to finish the session, count slowly with each breath from five back to one and you will be in a state of relaxed alertness. Yoga is now becoming very popular for all sports and snooker players are now finding the real benefits of relaxation as it helps players in playing and training to their maximum. Remember all the champions I have coached over the years used this, or something similar to help them relax in their training and in their preparation for major Championships.
- Holding an Image
The next exercise of holding an image develops the skill of maintaining concentration on a specific object for extended periods. Find a comfortable chair in a place where you will not be distracted or disturbed. Sit upright, feet flat on the floor, and both hands resting in your lap. Spend a short time relaxing using the five breath technique. Visualize something in the room. Notice every detail, its texture, its size, any reflections. Once you have the image in your head, maintain the clear image. If the image fades or your attention is drawn to any distracting thoughts or sound, then your concentration has been broken. With practice you will gradually maintain concentration for longer and longer periods.
- Video Imagination
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a video playing a few shot, take a few moments to experience the shots in your mind from your “experience of playing”. Try and use as many senses as possible. Imagine checking the potting angle, making your shot approach, getting down into your tip to ball position, cueing and making your pauses. Get a mental rehearsal of the strength of the shot; see, hear, and feel the delivery of the cue going through your bridge. Listen for the sound of the ……
- Cue striking the cue ball
- Cue ball striking object ball
Object ball going in the pocket and the cue ball finishing in position for the next shot. How many times have you heard a player say……? “I knew I was going to miss that”. The more often you make this video in your mind by seeing yourself playing, the easier your mind will remember it when you need it. Visualization is largely about developing muscle memory of the intention of what you want to happen in the reality. Listening and reviewing your mental video over and over again is a great mind set to achieve the exact techniques you want. Remember your brain does not know the difference from imagination to reality so work on developing shots and skills that you feel are letting you down. This is not an easy aspect to learn but with practice you will see and feel the improvement each time you do it.