Monday, May 21, 2007

Mind games

Thanks to some recommendations in Liz Ford's blog, I've been working my way through a couple of books on mental training for sports. Mental Toughness Training for Sports and The Achievement Zone.

Most of the mental skills described in the books are nothing new, but I thought I would try to take their advice seriously and see what happens. I've always been skeptical of the whole idea of visualizing, including the oh so trendy "Rules of Attraction" and "The Secret." I do believe that unconscious attitudes affect outcomes and that visualizing is probably a more effective was of influencing the unconscious thoughts than anything involving explicit language.....but still, can I influence muscle memory without actually moving my muscles?

If so, it would be very convenient. I often find myself with time in the mornings when I would like to practice, but alas in this town there aren't any pool halls that open before 11:30. If I could get up at six and get in an hour of practice before work, I would be a very happy girl.

With my new mental training program, I get up in the mornings and I run through my practice routine and also visualize overcoming challenges that are likely to crop up in the Tournament.

For example, I often have trouble focusing from the first shot. Sometimes I need to warm up, and other times I just don't feel the need to bear down until things get a little more interesting. So, I've been visualizing walking up to the table and being focused, doing my pre-shot routine and in the zone from the start.

I'm rather shocked to report, it works! I'm not sure one session is a "slam dunk" as far as evidence is concerned, but tonight I was "on" from the first shot. Yay me! I was shooting great, and then I started shooting faster. I wasn't being very careful about my pre-shot routine (including my aiming rituals), I was going on feel. And then I missed, but got back in. And then missed, and got back in. And then missed, and missed and missed...oops I fell out of the zone.

What I noticed at this point, was that my analytical side had popped back into gear. Why was I missing? I think it was a double whammy of losing my confidence and that image of the ball dropping in the pocket, and then my brain kicking in to think about why all this was happening. The other thing I realize is I probably need to work on my pre-shot routine and either shorten it, or just keep working it until it becomes unconcious--it shouldn't go away just because I'm shooting particularly well.

So, in my morning practice session I can work on that......its great...anytime I want and the per hour rate is a bargain!

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