Busting Out of a Slump
Eventually, you are going to go into a slump. With a game as dependent on mental precision as pool, you will hit a rut. You can, however, prepare yourself for the inevitable rough patch, so your slump will be as short as possible. Here are three tips to get you back to your best:
1. Make a Fundamentals Checklist: I’ve said it before, but it is so important to have a strong grasp on the fundamentals of the game. By working on the basics of a proper stroke, you are limiting the possibility of incorrectly executing any particular shot. So, if find yourself in a bit of a slump, I suggest creating a fundamentals checklist — staying down on a shot, keeping a firm bridge, always following through, etc.
This list will give you a frame of reference, a way to figure out what is amiss with your game. Often times, a player will go into a slump as the result of the slightest tweak. Running down a checklist will help you identify anything that might be throwing your whole game out of whack.
Even if you are playing well, this checklist will help you keep yourself in line as a reminder of all the little things it takes to play your best.
2. Keep a Journal: One thing I started when I joined the pro tour in 1996 was that I started keeping a little journal. I would keep notes from one match to the next, jotting down what I did well and where I struggled.
When I would look back at my notes, I would discover things I called “little gems.” When I reviewed at my notes from particular matches, I reminded myself what needed special attention. This journal gave me a history of my successes and failures, so I knew what was happening with my game over a period of time.
3. Remember Your Goals: Finally, you cannot sabotage yourself. You set yourself up for failure by approaching a shot saying you are going to miss or going into a match thinking you’re going to lose.
As a mental exercise, I ask myself two questions. First, do I want to win? If the answer is yes — which it always is — I then ask myself, do I want to win badly enough that I will make this shot?
I scream the answer in my head. I tell myself, “I am going to make this shot!” This is an amazing boost. Try to tell yourself that you are going to hit every shot with confidence, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.