How to Avoid Choking under Pressure
Posted 14 May 2009 - 12:21 AM
From the February 2009 Scientific American Mind | 8 comments
How to Avoid Choking under Pressure
Afraid of crumbling when it counts? Try not to think so hard.
By Elizabeth Svoboda
* We choke under pressure because such conditions thwart the normal brain processing of tasks that are so well learned they have become “automatic.”
* Trying to concentrate on monitoring the quality of your performance is counterproductive because the cerebellum, which controls complex motor tasks, is not consciously accessible.
* Ratcheting up the pressure at your practice sessions is the best way to avoid failing when it counts.
You’ve practiced your big presentation a thousand times. Your last rehearsal was perfect, and you’re ready to go. You tell yourself that for the real thing, you will focus on keeping your voice up, smiling, and enunciating clearly and slowly. Suddenly, at the podium, you freeze—all your preparation is for naught as you stand there like a deer in headlights. What happened?
And we all have had the experience. But why do we sometimes, without warning, inexplicably screw up just when it matters most? The answer lies in the way our brains are structured. When we have practiced something so well that we no longer need to think about it, subconscious processing systems are at work. When we then slow down to focus on these “automated” actions, we can thwart those processes, tripping ourselves up. And a raft of recent research is revealing who drops the ball and when, yielding surprising insights that could help frequent flubbers leave their self-sabotaging tendencies behind.
Since the early 1980s researchers have been studying in earnest the question of why we choke. In 1984 Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister officially defined “choking” as “performance decrements under pressure circumstances.” Ongoing research in the past 25 years has established that factors such as audience pressure and high performance expectations make us especially vulnerable to choking—just as perennial chokers might surmise.
But in recent years, scientists have started arriving at more counterintuitive insights about the circumstances that court choking. Well-meaning experts often advise performers to take their time—slowing down delivery, the thinking goes, helps to quell nervousness—but it is actually better just to get on with things if you are well rehearsed, says psychologist Sian L. Beilock of the University of Chicago.
In a 2008 study she divided novice and skilled golfers into two groups and instructed them to perform a series of golf putts. The researchers encouraged members of the first group to take their time, whereas they exhorted members of the second group to swing as quickly as they could. Novice golfers performed less accurately when speed was emphasized, but skilled golfers showed exactly the opposite pattern: they performed best when told to execute quickly and faltered when advised to take their time. (This result adds weight to the long-held notion, confirmed by previous studies, that some experienced golfers develop “the yips”—muscle tremors or freezing up—when they assume a position for a prolonged period before putting.)
Beilock speculates that this pattern occurs because taking extra time to perform when you have already practiced ad infinitum can encourage too much conscious thought. “These golfers were really hurt when we asked them to pay too much attention,” she says. “What happens under stress is that they do start worrying, and in response to that they start monitoring their performance.”
The idea that too much self-monitoring hinders performance aligns with the well-established theory of how the brain learns to perform complex motor skills—anything from speaking to typing to cradling a lacrosse ball. The part of our brain that is most involved in learning a new task is the cerebral cortex, which controls higher-order, conscious thought and is adaptable to novel situations. But as we play a piece of music or practice a speech over and over again, we gradually transfer the control of that activity from the cerebral cortex to another area of the brain, the cerebellum, which orchestrates the lightning-fast motor activation needed to perform complex actions. “The cerebral cortex is very good at general-purpose stuff but not at intricately timed things,” says Boston University neurologist Frank Guenther. “You want to get the better-equipped part of the brain doing the job for these tasks.” Thus, when people are learning something new they show high levels of activity in the cerebral cortex, whereas when they perform a task they already know well they show more activity in the cerebellum.
The wrinkle in this system is that the cerebellum, unlike the cerebral cortex, is not consciously accessible. As a result, Guenther says, it is when chokers try to check their progress as they are performing that they run into trouble. “Let’s say you’re trying to play the piano. If you were relying on your motor memory”—just letting it fly—“your motor command would automatically read out the next note in about 50 milliseconds.” But consciously monitoring your performance brings this superfast sequence of motor commands to a screeching halt, resulting in a choking incident of epic proportions. “The feedback from the first note takes 100 milliseconds just to move from your cochlea up to your brain. So if you’re saying to yourself, ‘Okay, I just finished the C, now I have to go on to the D,’ you’re going to have problems.”
But how much monitoring is too much? Obsessing over every little detail can be perilous, but daydreaming might leave you without sufficient focus to complete a task at all. To find the happy monitoring medium, psychologists Daniel Gucciardi and James Dimmock of the University of Western Australia recruited 20 expert golfers and instructed them to perform putts in three circumstances. Players in the first group focused on three words that stood for aspects of their physical technique (such as “head,” “weight” and “arms”); the second group focused on three words that had nothing to do with the putt (for example, “red,” “blue” and “green”); and the third group focused on a single word that encapsulated the putting motion (such as “smooth”). Initially, the golfers putted in a low-pressure situation, and most of them did well. During a second trial, however, Gucciardi and Dimmock ratcheted up the tension by offering the top performers cash prizes.
The players sailed through the second trial with flying colors—except the ones who focused on multiple aspects of their putt, according to the results published in the January 2008 Psychology of Sport and Exercise. “When they were focusing on the three representative mechanical processes, that was when their performance dropped,” Gucciardi noted. Similarly, in 1999 psychologist Lew Hardy of the University of Wales found that performers who think about a concrete, detailed set of rules during their moment in the spotlight (“keep skis high in the air” and “keep body streamlined” for a ski jumper, for instance) are more likely to succumb to pressure than are those who do not have such a specific set of rules in mind.
On the other hand, the golfers in Gucciardi’s study who focused on holistic single-word cues actually performed best in the pressure-packed putting round. Gucciardi thinks the degree of focus involved in fixating on a one-word mantra—not too much, not too little—could account for the difference between the three groups. “Our thought is that if you use the one word, it prevents you from regressing into conscious control, but it’s still enough to activate the schematic cue to get that motor program running,” he says.
The upshot? If you scrutinize your performance too much—trying to control, for example, the natural inflections in your voice as you present an important finding to your office mates—you will be priming your cerebral cortex to trip over your cerebellum, leaving yourself at a loss for words. But if you focus on a single word or idea that sums up your entire presentation (“smooth” or “forceful,” for instance), you will be best equipped to prevent your brain from getting in its own way.
Pressure Makes Perfect
Steering yourself away from conscious monitoring is easy enough when you are reciting a speech or playing a piece in your living room, but keeping optimum focus in front of a crowd or review board is another animal entirely.
The best way to make a performance situation feel like rehearsal, says Raôul R. D. Oudejans, a psychologist at Free University Amsterdam, is to subject yourself to the same anxiety-packed conditions during practice that you expect to encounter during your moment in the spotlight. In a 2008 study Oudejans rounded up a group of Dutch police officers and asked half of them to practice their marksmanship skills by shooting at a cardboard target; the other half trained by firing shots directly at one another (the cartridges contained soap, not bullets). After three one-hour training sessions, the “performance” was on: an officer-on-officer shoot-out using the dummy cartridges. The officers who had practiced on cardboard targets caved in this new tension-filled situation, whereas the group that had trained under the same stressful conditions thrived, notching much higher accuracy ratings than the other group did.
These results indicate that turning up the heat from the very first day of practice may be one of the most effective ways to immunize yourself against blowing it. “Performers train and train, but it’s not that common to specifically train under these kinds of psychological constraints,” Oudejans says. “They’re trained in how to play their game, but they don’t train under pressure, so they fail.” Training in such situations minimizes the possibility of freezing up for the same reason that letting spiders crawl all over you makes them less frightening: your brain gradually adapts, so that circumstances that once would have made you uneasy no longer feel novel or threatening. “The more exposure you get to these high-pressure situations, and the more you succeed [despite them], the less likely you’re going to get that whole affective experience,” explains Art Markman, a psychologist at the University of Texas at Austin. In other words, the more comfortable you feel, the less likely you are to be affected by pressure.
The Choking Conundrum
To reap the same performance benefits the Dutch officers did from their trial-by-fire training, Oudejans recommends devising a high-tension practice regimen appropriate to your particular performance situation. If you are on deck to give an important business presentation, he says, have someone film you as you rehearse: “Your self-awareness increases that way—you get confronted with yourself in the same way you would in performance,” Oudejans observes. If you are prepping for an important sports match or musical recital, try enlisting a few friends or family members to serve as an audience during your practice sessions.
These kinds of antichoking strategies grounded in empirical data are reassuring when you are up at bat and your stomach starts to churn. Still, researchers who study choking are the first to admit that figuring out who whiffs and when is far from an exact science. Many studies conducted to date focus on how and why people fall short in highly constrained situations such as making a putt or shooting a free throw. But in real-world situations, Markman points out, a plethora of factors—some under your control, some not—work together to determine whether your performance is successful. “It’s a very complex interaction,” he says. “Your performance is going to depend on whether the situation is going to reward you or not, and it’s also going to depend on the nature of the task.” In other words, if something unexpected happens (for instance, the laptop battery fails during your PowerPoint lecture), you might still flub despite a strenuous antichoking practice regimen.
But that does not mean such a regimen is not worth undertaking. The most effective strategies, notes Trinity University psychologist Harry Wallace, are the ones that imbue performers with the assurance that they can deal with any eventuality. This mind-set proves helpful even (and perhaps especially) when something goes wrong. “Part of the key is not being overconfident in advance and recognizing that you may feel more anxiety than you expect,” Wallace says. “You want to address any concerns far in advance of performance. You don’t want to have any second thoughts about your likelihood of success.”
Posted 14 May 2009 - 11:48 AM
This book is written for the Pool Player, Golfer, Bowler or Tennis player. I play all four sports at a scratch level, and I know the principles in this book will work in any sport. This is a book on the inner game, the inner mind. Once you master what we will be teaching you, it crosses over into all or any sport, Basketball, Baseball, Track, Hockey, and Football it does not matter. Most sportsmen play a variety of sports. A lot of pool players love to play Golf. A lot of Golfers love to play pool. Nicklaus loves to play Tennis. This book is going to take you inside the heads of the legends of sports to reveal to you how they think and why they win and dominate.
In sports and usually in Golf, when a players really blows a hole, you will see him sometimes make light of his disaster by taking both of his hands and putting them around his neck to make a joke that he is self choking him self. Yes it always gets a laugh from the gallery because he admitted what actually happened to him. It is really close to the truth, for in that vital clutch situation, when de dogs and blows the shot, he did grab virtually him self by the throat and began to choke so hard he became crippled, blind and disabled.
He could not breath or see well. Therefore the term, he choked. He choked him self. Nobody else grabbed him and choked him. He had the free choice to play fast and loose and uninhibited or to choke and lock him self down. Why would one choose to perform an act of self-destruction that always leads to an ugly defeat and humiliation? Why do you see this happen in all sports?
Of course no one chooses this course. It just happens to him from time to time. Usually he does not have a clue how it occurs and does not know how to prevent it from reoccurring in the future. He fears it badly. It’s like this great demon that lurks behind him, ever present, just waiting to strike at the worst moment and destroy him. It’s like one of Murphy’s laws that just hit you between the eyes when every thing is rolling great.
(1) In any field of scientific endeavor or in any pool match for money
Or for tin cups, anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
(2) Left to them selves, things always go from bad to worse.
(3) If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will go wrong is the one that will do the most damage.
(4) Nature always sides with the hidden flaw
(5) Mother nature is a bitch
(6) If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
(7) If a jelly donut is dropped it always lands on the jellied side down
(8) The less important you are to the corporation the more your tardiness or absence is noticed.
(9) Any pay raise has to be just large enough to increase your taxes and just small enough to have no effect on your take home pay.
(10) Any new insurance policy you take out covers everything except what happens.
(11) Any food that starts out hard will soften when stale, any food that starts out soft will harden when stale.
(12) When leaving from work very late at night you will go totally unnoticed. When leaving one minute early you will meet the boss in the parking lot
All sportsmen fear Murphy, but winners deal with it when Murphy hits, losers collapse and fall apart. Winners have a heart of a Lion; losers have a heart of mush. Winners do not eat jelly donuts. A zen person would be one with the jelly donut and never drop it, he would catch it in mid air jelly side up.
A great golf champion and proven winner of major championships Greg Norman performed one of the worse and ugliest choking performances of all time on the back nine of the Masters Championship at Augusta. He had a lead so big any one could have walked it home. I could have got it into the clubhouse. He blew it so big, he just handed the championship to Faldo. To Faldo’s credit, he did put on the pressure that led to the collapse and shot a great closing round in the 60’s. Any body can play great when no heat is on them. Norman should have won 4 or 5 green jackets and was robbed of one by Mize. He wanted to win it so bad, he ended up with out one and shot him self in the foot many times. He just tried too hard to win there; he just did not let it happen.
How many times at pool have you gone into a match and tried hard to win only to play like a dog and are now losing badly. You get so far behind you just give up and then relaxed and accepted your fate that you were going down. Now your game returns and your performing once again. Sometimes you even play so well you pull the victory out of the fire. Do not try to win, just play your best and allow the wins just to happen. Usually the harder you try, the worse you perform. Don’t push, it changes your emotions, it changes your feel. When you do that, all you are doing is putting pressure on your self and setting up the choke to occur.
The true test of a champion is when they are being caught from behind. Nothing creates more fear than sitting on a lead knowing your are supposed to win and expected bring it home. You then panic and fear hits you when somebody from behind appears to be about to take it away from you. Mentally at that point you either understand the emotions involved in this and keep calm, or you panic and allow your self to lose, that is your choice.
That is why you rarely ever see a Golfer go wire-to-wire, lead all 4 days and win. Nobody but Tiger really likes being in the lead the last day. If you go back and study most of the golf wins in the past, you will find most were in range, but rarely in the lead the final day. Most players favor going into the final day a couple back. Nothing they hate worse is sleeping on the lead. They know they just can’t stand up to and handle the pressure. The final day comes, the opponent makes their move, the leader panics and chokes and falls back. Tiger comes along and loves being in the lead the last day by 5. He is not waiting for somebody to birdie two holes and make up two on him, then he panics and bogeys and then double bogeys so the guy is even and then can pass him. Tiger does not think or look backwards, Tiger only looks forward. Tiger shows you no mercy.
Tiger begins the day saying I am 5 ahead, by the end of the day I will be 10 ahead then nobody can even get close to me. Tiger does not sit on a lead like Nicklaus did, Tiger expands the lead constantly always being cautiously aggressive and always being on the attack. All will give up early and then just protect their position and play for 2nd or 9th and try and cash a check. Nobody is going to take the gambles necessary to catch him because they are all thinking like losers and he is the only one thinking like a true winner. Others get ahead and then begin to coast by sitting on the lead. All that does it take the heat off the chaser so he can now mount his attack on you. The great lesson from Tiger is stay on the attack, keep the pressure and heat on the opponent. Don’t ever let up on the guy; just keep burying him deeper and deeper. Don’t let him breathe. Tiger is playing in a perfect Golf Zen mind, his opponents are not. Tiger has said almost nothing about his mental powers and how he manages his game mentally. His mental control of his game has allowed him to win 38 times and he is #1 in the world as of 2003. He is on a pace to eclipse Nicklaus and become the greatest golfer of all time. He now has 8 majors under his belt. If he stays healthy, everyone agrees he wins over 6 green jackets and over 20 majors. Time will tell.
Why should he tell his secrets, too much money is at stake. Why should he give his winning secrets away to the losers who he now has totally mentally defeated before they walk up on the first tee. His father who was a Green Beret trained Tiger as a boy. All of the advanced mental techniques used by them were drilled into the child. When he practiced and was in his back swing, his father, Earl, would move or dangle a chain that made a noise. His dad worked on his mind and turned the kid over to the best teachers in Golf who built him a sound mechanical swing. Tiger dominated junior golf winning 3 championships against kids 2 or 3 years older than him simply because his thought processes then were on a pro level and his competitors were not.
Tiger proves my point, any game, must be learned as two games. One must learn the inner game and advanced metal Zen thinking on one side, while learning the mechanical how to perform the other thing on the other side. Both must develop, side by side, equally and each skill must advance evenly with the other one. You can let the beginner think he is a loser and a choker; or you can imbed in him he is a winner and the ice mon from the get go. All you have to do is program his brain into thinking it is so.
The problem with pool is they are telling you don’t worry about it; you can always work on that later. The stupidity of that is so wrong. You let the guy go through a decade of faulty thinking and grooving bad mental habits. Now he’s getting good and over night some miracle is going to happen where he now thinks right like a winner. The clouds are going to open and it comes to him on a ray of light from the sky, I don’t think so. You now have to UN program all of the bad crap he let get in there. The mind works like your desk top cpu, garbage in, garbage out.
Why not just program the guys head right from the get go, does that not make sense?
The two main instruction books being read today are the late 70’s 300 pager and the mid 90’s 400 pager. The first book has nothing in it on the inner game and the mind; its total focus is on the mechanics of how to play. The latest one, the book nobody can finish because it is too long, does have a chapter on this subject. Nobody gets half way through the book without going brain dead and giving up. The mental part is of course at the end, so once more, few read it. That’s good, because what was there was pretty weak. You are told by this so called expert that in the beginning you spend all of your time learning how to play pool and the mechanics of the game and stroke and until you master that you are not ready to get into the psychological aspects. I almost fainted and fell out of my chair when I read that one. He tells you that in paragraph two. If I read that, I would not bother to read the chapter. Why waste me time, he say’s I don’t need it until I become a pro.
The problem is half of the players are going to have a choking problem and need it now. They can never become a pro or an advanced player if they don’t overcome their choking problem early on. He says the mental side will come in soon enough. Too bad he did not tell you when or how to achieve it. He admits at the pro level the game is primarily a mental game and the difference between winning and losing are simple mental errors being made. Then you get a chapter of unrelated unconnected fluff that does nothing but confuse you. If this is true, then that chapter on mental thinking should be at the front of the book and not at the end of it. It that is not true, then how to you explain Tigers success, because that was the way he was taught, mental and physical being taught at the same time, side by side which began as a child.
Players did not write the last two major pool instruction books, beginner instructors, who teach beginners, wrote them. The books are for beginners who do learn a lot on how to play the mechanical side of the game from these books. Better players do not waste their time with these books because there is nothing in them they don’t already know. When the player enters the pool world he is hit with beginner books that tell him to ignore the inner game and he sees nothing else around on the subject. That is why nobody in the game knows anything about the subject. Pool has this backwards, and this book is an attempt to reverse this method of teaching and training in the pool world.
Let’s take Ernie Ells as an example, he has the same game as Tiger, but Tiger has been whipping up on Ernie like he is his rented mule. Ernie has the ability to be number one in the world but plays far below his true abilities and his rankings were far below what they should have been. He is bigger and stronger than Tiger, with even a better and smoother Sneed like swing. Ernie is like the other top 10 in golf, they all drive the ball the same distance Tiger does. Frankly they play the same game, their irons and putting is just as good. Then why does one guy dominate and stand out? Success does breed success and failure does produce more failure.
When a player’s confidence becomes supreme, he can go on a tear and it can last for several years. Examples of this are Jones, Nelson, Hogan, Sneed, Palmer, Nicklaus, Johnnie Miller, Trevino, Casper, Player,Watson and now Tiger. The more pressure you are exposed to, the better you get at dealing with it. The guy at the top is there because one day that pressure now has no effect on him any more. He learns to love it, thrive in it. Every thing he does is in this protected cocoon where he is insulated from these outside distractions. Curtis Strange was the only player other than Hogan to win two US Opens back to back. The US Open probably has more pressure on it than any other event in Golf. Curtis says he practices every shot like it is the shot needed to win the Open. On every practice putt he is saying this needs to go in to win the US Open. When Curtis finally faced that putt to win the open, he had rehearsed it for years, so his mind accepted it would go in. Curtis practices pressure, so when pressure is there, he does not feel it or is affected by it.
Sooner or later that guy playing on a level above everyone else, comes down to earth and becomes human once more like what is occurring to Tiger today. When you are on top, there is only one direction you can go and that is down. There is always some body on the way up. Rich and famous takes the edge off of many, as do the distractions that go with now being a super star. Trevino said a hungry dog hunts best and it’s hard to keep hunting when you become rich, lazy can set in. You can remember Mickey in the Rocky movie telling him after he became champion, you ain’t hungry no mo, youse has got civilized. Once you begin to ride on your laurels, you are on the way down.
Els finally realized he went so far and had plateaued. He was winning and had won 3 majors, but he had stopped short of what he could be. This is what happens to almost all of the club level pool players as well and when they wake up to this fact, their only solution is to do what Ernie did. Go get help on the inner game and the mind. Ernie went in to a sports psychologists. The guy listened to him talk and said every sentence has Tiger this or Tiger that in it. He made him erase Tiger and all competitors from his brain and only focus on what Ernie was capable of doing. When the fear of Tiger catching him from behind was removed, Ernie began 2003 by going on a tear like has never been seen before since Johnnie Miller in the Desert in the 70’s.
He won the first 3 events of 2003 in record scores, playing at a level rarely seen before. In his 4th appearance, Tiger ducked out, which was very wise, not to allow Ernie to beat him while he was on such a run. He went 100 under par in his first 20 rounds and was averaging a score of 67.
He won 6 of his first 8 events and won 13 times in 22 months. What is even more amazing is he plays on two tours, in the USA and world wide, so he is running back and forth across the ocean doing this. As of 7-2003 he is now #1 in the European rankings and now #2 on the USA tour and #2 ranked in the world. All of this success came from his mind and not from his physical mechanical swing. Ernie’s big mistake was working on his swing early on and not working on his mind game as well. Why wait until you can’t win and then wake up to it. A beginner needs to win just as a pro does. Winning must begin on the beginner level. Holding up and playing solid can be done on any level. That is how you advance, by knowing you can play and win that is what breed’s confidence. Choking destroys confidence. Choking is like a cancer, slowly eating away at your confidence. Choking is caused by a lack of proper mental control of your emotions. This book will teach you how to control them and your game.
Ernie’s results were beyond his wildest dreams, once he was taught the inner side of the game. The only difference is his game was his mind, which now operated in a Zen like manner. His mind had prevented him from playing on Tigers level. Once his mind no longer interfered with him, he is now where he wanted to be, on Tigers heels. Ernie still today admits that as hard as they have tried, he still has not been able to totally get Tiger out of his head and losing to him to stop bothering him. Els is a perfect proof statement of what this book can do for you, it can UN chain you. It can set you free from the locked cage you are in. You put the heat on you; this book will show you how to remove it.
This July of 2003 a rookie no body is playing in his first major, the Open in England. He has never won before and has only had 12 events in which he did little to distinguish himself in. He is a giant nobody now in the thick of it surrounded by the top 6 players in the world including Tiger Woods. Talk about pressure and the chance to bloody choke. Nobody wins their first time out in a major; you can count the ones who have done this on one hand since the turn of the last century. He said to his girl friend before the final round began, I am going to go out and win this. He believed he could and would occur, that it would happen and he freed his mind to allow that.
All the big names as usual are there waiting to win it and for him to choke. He misses the last green and faces a 10-foot putt to hold the lead and make a par. Of course he is supposed to choke, miss and open the door up. But he drains the putt it in the heart of the cup and all of the winners who are supposed to overtake him make no charge and whimp home weakly. Several of them choke instead. Ben Curtis’s win stunned the world, nothing since the turn of the last century and Oimet has been seen. Ben was not that surprised, he said he was going to do it, and when he did, he just smiled, little other emotion showed. Later when the reality of what he had just accomplished hit home, then it impacted him. Dare to dream the impossible, dreams do come true. You can’t fear winning, you can’t fear losing, and you cannot fear any opponent. All three demons must be banished from your mind. All fear must go, no fear is your new rallying cry and motto, no fear. Every tense situation or shot you face, you say quietly to your self in your mind to calm yourself, no fear, then you relax and smoke it. FDR said it best, all you have to fear, is fear, it’s self. Banish fear.
Winning and losing is mental. How bad you want it, do you deem you’re self-worthy of it, and do you have the guts to grab it and run with it? When you get close, do you grab the bit in your teeth and run for the roses knowing nothing can catch you from behind. If you develop those positive mental powers, you will win more than your share. If you think negatively and like a loser, waiting for Murphy to strike, you will have more than your share of losses. Pool and or golf, at the top, is 90% mental. You are asking why all this golf when this is a pool book. This is a sports book on he inner game and inner mind. It is for any sport. So much can be learned from other sports and their stars. Choking is choking, it does not matter what sport you are choking in, the results are the same, you lose. If a golfer finds a way to stop choking, that method will work for the pool player.
Golf and pool are very close in many facets of the game. The mental demands of pool are far greater than Golf. If we can show you mental techniques being used in golf that lead to winning, they will also work in Tennis, Pool or any other sport.
Why I use the Golf examples is because I have been a scratch player all of my life and I know a lot about the game. I have been trained by some of the greatest teachers in the game of Golf, Nelson, McSpadden and Ballard. I would like to pass on to other sports many of the things I learned that will work for you. It is not uncommon for a Golfer to be playing for a Sunday championship and a purse of one million dollars and an equal amount in endorsements. The pool pro is playing for ten grand and no endorsements. The more the money, the greater the pressure and the chance for choking. If this works for a million bucks, it will also work when you are playing for a beer in a pool hall.
To hold up and stop choking, you must be mentally trained on how to do that, it is not just one day going to come to you out of the blue. You must train your mind and your swing as two separate things. In Chess, you must learn the mechanical side of the game, how to move the pieces and where. The winner spends most of him time learning how to win developing superior mental powers and mind control. Almost all of their efforts are in the mind. In pool, they spend all of their time on their swings and almost no time learning any mental functions or powers. Everyone agrees pool is 90% mental at the top. The only game that requires more mental concentration and focus than chess is pool. The mental requirements to win at pool are totally far greater than what the pro Golfer faces. We now have to ask our selves, given all of that, why have the pool players ignored this vital side of the game and or are afraid of it. The answer to this is they just have not been educated in it as players in other sports have. This book is going to be an introduction into this world to most of them.
Billy Casper put the heat on Arnold Palmer in the US Open in San Francisco and Palmer blew a Hugh lead to choke and lose. A Palmer does not lose a 6-stroke lead with only 9 holes to play. Casper’s perfect play and run up from behind panicked Palmer who had no fear of winning; he only had fear of losing that defeated him. I saw Palmer blow an unbeatable lead in Atlanta once at my home country club of Horseshoe Bend and lose to a nobody called Mawary. Palmer actually hit two ground balls down the final fairway. He was so choked and locked up he could not even get the ball airborne. Gofer heads were lopped off and laying everywhere. Yes, you bet, Mawary put the heat on Arnold, kept it on, and when AP blew a head gasket, it was awful. Palmer has always been a generous winner and accepts defeat like the champion he is. He is a gentleman on either side of the coin and a role model on how a pro should look like and act like. This is one of the reasons everyone agrees he is the most popular golfer of the century, he is the King. He wins like a pro, he loses like a pro.
To AP’s credit, he won over 60 championships and was the legend of the century. A true winner if there every was one. How do you explain a winner like Palmer falling apart and choking like a 25 handicapper in his club championship being pursued by a rookie nobody who had never won before? Because that was AP’s worst nightmare. It’s Ok for a Nicklaus to beat him, but never a nobody. A legend, does not blow an 8 shot lead on the final day, that can’t happen, and when that does begin to happen, panic takes place. If panic can cripple an Arnold Palmer or a Greg Norman, think what it can do to you.
The answer to that is every one chokes. Nobody is immune. You see the best in the world of Tennis, Golf and pool choking now and then. Winners seldom choke, losers choke a lot. The sports world is basically divided between two types of players, winners or losers. Winners will buy this book to better understand what choking is and how to prevent it. Losers need this book as a form of self-preservation and a way out of their problem.
Palmer tees off with a 6 shot lead, then eagles the first hole for an 8 shot lead. How can the man lose, he’s played great for 3 days before. He is the man; everyone who can beat him is out of the race. All he has is a walk in the sun with a rookie nobody non-winner. Before the day is over, the man is playing so bad he is bringing tears to your eyes. Somebody makes a bold move, does something spectacular followed by you performing a disaster; there is a big swing in fortunes and momentum. That is all it takes.
He made a great shot, you just blew a hanger. He just gained a lot of ground on you. If you allow panic to set in, then adrenalin drops, it can set off a chain of events that can simply run away from you. It’s an ongoing train wreck you just can’t stop. Anyone who’s played any sport for any length of time in serious competition against serious players knows what this is like. Find somebody who says they don’t choke or have never choked, you just found a liar. Just about all of us have crashed and burned real ugly more than once. It’s called SIAC, that is a term NASA pilots use, spam in a can.
Tiger Woods chokes, but after a couple of holes when he realizes what is going on, he has the mental strength to whip him self out of it and mounts a charge that usually erases the bad shots just lost. Willie Mosconi choked now and then. I saw him choke a straight in shot down the rail to win and close out Minnesota Fats. Instead he choked and rattled it in the pocket-allowing Fatty to have his only defeat ever over Willie. Mosconi was so upset, he was almost crying after the miss. Tears were in his eyes; I could not stand to look at the guy because of the pain I saw. Baseball manager Lew Derocher said, show me a good loser and I will show you a loser. Never like or accept losing, but be nice and cordial to the one who won, then shut up and go lick your wounds at home. Don’t show temper or your ass. Don’t be giving any excuses or reasons why you lost. It sounds like sour milk, even if it’s true. Just say a couple of nice things then leave. Nobody wants to hear about how lucky the winner was or about all of your back luck and lousy rolls. Put a sock in it, you lost, take a hike, they want to listen to the winner, not you. Save your speeches for only when you are holding the tin cup.
The next time you shoot your self in the head and go down like a dog, just remember you have a lot of good company. The greatest players and pros in the world are doing the same thing on prime time TV; so don’t be too hard on your self. You will have your good days and your bad days. Some days you eat da bear, some days, da bear eats you is the saying. No matter how bad the defeat, no matter how bad you blow it, it’s a turned page, there is no turning back, so just let it go and don’t dwell on it. Sure, you try to examine and understand the collapse and then try to work on the cause, but never hold on to one of these more than 24 hrs. Move on, life is short, life goes on.
It was pointed out recently that Nicklaus said he’s never 3 putted the last green when he needed a par to win. It was found out later he in fact has done that several times. Jack does not think he’s ever choked, but he has. What is remarkable about him is he has erased these bad things from his memory so completely, that he thinks today, they never occurred. He actually has no memory of them or past recollection. He is not lying about them, to him, it’s real, and to him he swears that they never occurred. You can say Jack I can show you a film where you 3 putted on a lead at the Hartford and he will say I don’t need to see it because it never happened. That is a tremendous lesson, he just erases the collapse, and then it never happened. He never thinks about it ever again or allows its memory to surface. If it worked for Jack suppressing them, maybe it can work for you. This is proof Jack is programming his sub conscious mind.
A lot more players in pool make startling come backs and catch up performances in Billiards than you see in Golf, which may account why you see more choking in pool. In Golf you cannot run the table, you have equal opportunity to match every thing your opponent does. In pool you just have to sit there for long periods of time watching the other guy catch up and then run over you. It leads too much more fear and panic than what occurs in Golf. Many times I have opened a match to run 3 racks and miss, then my opponent matches my run or puts 4 racks back on me. It’s a startling thing and it’s really hard not to be affected by it. Nothing panics soldiers at war more than being over run. In pool, you get over ran all of the time.
The big key to this is to expect it and to be looking for it. You need to be saying good, I ran 3 racks, but I am playing a real champion and I expect him to play at whatever level I set, so I am sure he’s putting a big run back at me. When you get far ahead and are close to putting it away, you need to be saying again to your self, this is a champion, he is going to rally and make a fabulous attempt to steal this victory from me. He is going to try and catch up and run out on me. I know it’s coming, I expect it to come. When it comes, I will study it and admire it. Once on the PBT 9 ball tour a player had his opponent 12-l in a race to 13 only to see the opponent win 11 in a row and go hill hill 12-12 with him. To his credit he held him off to win, but that had to bring on a hugh panic.
Emotionally I will not allow it to affect me. I just pray he makes that one little mistake that gives me one chance to put him away. When I do, I will feel like a great racehorse. I will imagine I now have the bit in my teeth and I am running for the roses and the wire. I will not slow until I cross in victory. I can feel the wind in my hair now, I can smell the finish line, I can smell the victory, I love that smell. A winner does not look behind to see who is gaining on him; a winner can only see the finish line and the string breaking on his chest.
With that positive attitude now no matter what this guy does to you, it’s now been prepared for in advance, no panic takes place, no adrenalin drops, you are calm and very cool about it. If you stumble and mess up at the same time he’s making his move, same thing, you remain totally calm and feel no emotion about the sudden change of fortune. No fear, No panic is what you are saying to your self over and over, no fear, no fear, you will prevail, and you will win. Just keep pounding that message home over and over. It’s the panic, the sudden rush of emotions that causes the choke and the collapse. It tightens up the hold and the entire feel is lost. The game always goes south at once. All you are asking for is one shot, one turn at the table, and then you will drop this bum. One shot, one chance, then you wont miss, and you will run out. You will run out and leave him sitting in his chair. No mercy on the guy, he must lose, you must win. When that shot comes, you leap out of your chair and run to the table in a great show of confidence.
Playing in a pool Zen state, having constant total control over your emotions, eliminates choking. You are always calm, cool and collected. You work on keeping your emotions on this level plane, never allowing them to rise above or below this imagined level bar. You go though your match with your emotions never changing, no matter what occurs to you, good or bad. This means you have to learn to shut out what your opponent is doing since you can’t tackle him or stop his runs.
You have to be numb to him. You only focus on what you can and will do making the best of your every opportunity to score.
I had an opponent open and run 6 racks in a row on me once in a race to seven at 9 ball. I said, that’s nice, but I have ran 10 racks in a row twice before, I think I can still win, I have came from behind further than that before. I walked up and ran 7 racks and out on the guy. I have been on both sides of the coin. I had a guy once down 6-0 in a race to 7. I break on the hill, don’t make a shot, he runs out, then makes the 9 on the break four times in a row, then runs two racks and out on me. I am sitting there in a state of shock. Pool can be a brutal game and things like this can gut you. I cant tell you how many times I have been down 0-5 in a race to six at 8 ball because the other guy played perfect. I was famous for coming behind and pulling these out. I was amazed at how many of these opponents just folded on you when you put the big charge back on them. I soon learned to never give up no matter how far down you are or how hopeless the situation is. Any thing is possible.
You first have to put some serious heat and big time performance on the opponent, and then he needs to panic and give you some help. You have to scare him and rattle him. Winners learn that and always mount an attack. Winners expect another winner to do this and are not affected by it. Losers fold and run when they begin to get run over. Losers are knocking on the door to victory and cant put it away. Winners are experts on putting it away. In straight pool, there has been a lot of players who have opened the game to run l48 or 149, one or two points away from victory only to lose the match. This has happened several times. Can you imagine that, run 149 and on game ball lock up and choke. Your opponent comes up and runs 75 and misses, you have a 2nd chance and on game ball again you choke. Your opponent runs 75 and out. If that happened to me, they would have to hogtie me so I would not cut my wrists. Those are the kind of chokes that happened in pool, you just cant see how they are possible.
In 1939 Irving Crane was the first player to run over 300 balls on a 5x10’ pool table. He ran 309 and got in the Ripley’s believe it or not column for that UN believable feat. Later on Mosconi trying to better it played perfect until his run got to 308, when he faced 309, the pressure got so great he missed, proof even the greatest pool player of all time choked. Willie later went past that barrier and set the all time high run at 365 which still stands today on the 10’ table which is now extinct as is the game he played, 14.1 which is also fading into obscurity. Players hit barriers and can’t punch through them. I had a client I played golf with several times a month and his game was high 70’s, but the poor man had never shot in the 70’s. This was his big dream to just do that once. One time we were on an easy last hole and he hit the green in two. All he had to do was 3 putt from 10’ to shoot a 79. You guessed it; he four putted and he wanted to die. Just mentally remove these barriers so you can now shoot any score you choose to.
Losers find a reason to lose in any sport they play. They get called born losers. I don’t believe any one is a born loser. Some people just don’t feel worthy to be a winner. They have allowed them selves to take a number and be ranked. If they are #25 in a field of 200, then they are not supposed to win, they are ham and eggers. Their role is to lose. They lose every time they go out; soon they get good at the role. They consider it a victory and are happy making a top 10 and earning a living. They are usually comfortable at being a middle of the packer. There is no pressure on them to perform. There is no media attention on them.
Some of the left-brain shy players like being left alone. One day they get hot and lead after the first day of the golf event, then lead day two and three. They go into the final round with a nice lead, which would be easy to put the event away. Everyone knows the guy is going to blow it and shoot 78 and the established winners and stars are going to come up and take it away. The first big rush they put on the guy, he is toast. The poor guy just cannot take the reality and the impact of becoming a winner and a champion; it’s all too much for him. I have seen this scene play out a zillion times in Golf. It’s all over Tennis and Pool as well. People put imposed barriers on them selves and then those barriers just cannot be crossed. It’s a wall so high the poor guy cannot crawl over.
Can one of these losers learn to become a winner? The answer is yes, we can take the worst choker you ever saw and eventually turn him into the ice mon if he works at it long enough. Losers just feel that crunch time, when it’s time for them to go and to begin to choke. Usually the winner feels that same time, when he knows he’s put himself in a position to win, and he knows all he has to do is step up and take it. The winner assumes control, puts on his patented charge. The loser responds with his patented choke. Winning is easy for the winner. He knows if he gets himself in range, he is going to win a lot of the time. It’s like most horse races, the front-runner tires and falls back, and the winner is up front and will pull forward when the time is right.
I grew up in Kansas City and watched Tom Watson become the top junior golfer in the country. I remember the headlines in the paper, Nicklaus and Palmer come to town to play young Tom and tie him. Tom was 12 yrs old at the time. Having the finest prep schools and then golf teaching at Stanford when he turned pro meant he was marked for immediate greatness. He had the great game, but his mind was not so great. He won here and there, but every time he got into contention in a major he faltered badly. He was in worse shape than Els was a few years ago. Finally he got into the final round with a Hugh lead in the US Open and all he had to do was shoot par and nobody could beat him or come close. He choked and shot a 79. It was a loss that was not only embarrassing but now had him branded as a choker. He had the handle before then, it was now branded across his forehead for life. Tom Watson, choking dog.
Byron Nelson was walking through the clubhouse and saw him sitting in the corner of the locker room crying like a baby in shame. He went over to console him and said come down to Texas; I will try to correct your problem. Byron was the greatest winner of his generation and he got young Tom’s thinking cap on straight. Soon after that, Tom dominated the game and was number one in the world for almost 5 years. He was the dominant player for a decade. Tom is now playing in the over 50 seniors tour and as this is being written he is dominating there today and recently opened the US Open with the lowest score in round one eclipsing all of the younger players half of his age. Tom just won his 10th major, the Sr British Open in Turnberry Scotland. Tom shot a great final round trying to pull it out, but bogeyed the final hole in that attempt and it looked like 2nd place for him. Shooting a 64 is putting the heat on those chasing you. A journeyman had a 2 stroke lead and only had to par or even bogey the final hole to win his first major. Yes, it’s now becoming an old song and dance, he double bogies and chokes and lets Tom into a play off and he chokes again to let him win.
He could not imagine winning it, Tom could.
Tom went from the biggest choker on the tour to the ice mon over night, once he got his mental attitude straight. His swing or his game did not change one bit, it was all in his mind. I tell pool players, walk over to the mirror and take a look, you have met the enemy, and it is you. Put your two index fingers in each of your ears, there is your problem, the 6” between your ears. Until you learn to think right, you will continue to choke and lose.
Players also put unrealistic expectations on them selves. They want to beat the best when they come out, or feel they should win the big ones right away. The truth is most have to pay their dues and get used to playing at the highest level. You have to learn to win and to play under pressure. Because you do not become an immediate winner, does not mean you will not achieve that later, so just be patient. Hogan and Mosconi were both losing so badly over a 10-year period they both were on the brink of quitting their games. Both went on to be the greatest players of their generations. It took them time, to learn how to win.
Winning on the golf tour today keeps getting tougher because the competition keeps getting better. A few years ago ten guys could win, now it’s 30. It takes the average golfer 100 events before he wins. Since most play 25 to30 events a year, the lucky ones take 4 years to win, most take 8 years until they win, putting in 200 events before victory. Pro pool players are lucky to see 12 events a year, so if the golf thing holds true in pool, it could take the pool player 8 years also before he wins a pro event. If you are a pool player with a job and you are coming out and trying to compete in a 4 or 5 events a year under the pressure and against the best, don’t expect to have great success against the people who are playing in events every month or every week. The more time in the pressure cooker, the better you get. There is also an opposite side to that coin, play too much, you mentally burn out and then under perform. You can get into a rut of playing badly and it can under cut your confidence.
Golfers are free of financial pressures; you can place way back and still make several hundred thousand a year. A pool player may have to play every day just to eat. Golfers could enter and play in 52 events a year, but most newbies enter 30. Most stars play in less than half, 20 to 25. They like to play 3 in a row or whatever that tour is in that region, then go home and rest. Any time you dread playing, are in a slump, or have a bad attitude it’s time to stop and quit. Get away from the game, don’t touch a club or even think about it. Wait for your mind to get hungry to play again, when you get that itch or urge, its time to come back out.
HAVE NO FEAR OF THE KING
Most of Jack Nicklaus’s big wins occurred because he did little more than par out on very tough courses. Everyone was so scared of him, knowing he was not going to make a mistake or back up, they just all shot their selves in the foot coming home. If a Watson pushed him, he would respond to that challenge and some great confrontations took place between them and also with Trevino and Nicklaus. The duel in he sun between Jack and Tom in Scotland is such of an example of two greats trading great shot for shot down to the wire with one winning by a nose.
Jack lost more of those that he won, but it did not matter, in the end, he won the most majors. He did not let a single big defeat every stop his momentum no matter how heart breaking it was. He could lose big one week horribly and come back and win the next week. Arnold Palmer was the same way. That is how a winner works and thinks, he never gives up, he has the heart of a Lion. He has courage, he never whimps out or begins to make excuses for his play. He never gives his mind a reason how he could possibly lose. He always expects to win and is frankly surprised when he does not.
If he plays good enough to win and when somebody gets red-hot and runs by him, what can you do about that? There is always next week to win and achieve victory. There is always another day to win.
In pool on the club level, when I played in the leagues before turning pro, I had a lot of pro level shots. Ok, I was sandbagging badly. What amazed me was how in so many cases I would be playing even with a guy who was playing very well and make one spectacular shot that he could not make that was beyond him.
His mouth would drop on the shot and he would be very impressed with it, but what it did to him was cause panic. Usually I would make a Masse when he thought he had me hooked, a big jump shot, or a table length jump then draw back out of the pocket. Big stroke shots panics these people. They usually collapse right there on the spot. They fold faster than a $2.00 Kmart blue light special card table. Just because I pulled off a shot they don’t have. It causes panic, this guy is much better than me, and I can't beat him. Ok, so I will just now go into the tank. It’s crazy, but you see it all of the time. Bad thinking, terrible mental attitudes. No matter how great the shot the guy pulls off, never let it affect you, stay calm. One big shot means nothing. Most big shot makers are good at these things because they are not good at shape and controlling the cue ball well. They are making miracle shots all of the time because of their poor position play. Most of these players are very inconsistent. Don’t let them scare you with a few dazzling shots, usually they are easy people to beat and they will give you many chances to beat them, just hang in there and keep the heat on them.
Joe Comancho the great Mexican 3-cushion world billiards champion was out on the road and walked into a local room and asked for a game. He was told Slim in the corner was the best around. He began a casual game with Slim just wanting to practice and Slim beat him badly for over an hour making one nice long run after another. Finally Slim said you shoot a good stick mister, who are you, and when Slim found out he was playing the current champion of the world, he locked up so bad he never made another point. He went from playing world class to a total disaster once his mind interfered with his game.
I was very close to Jimmy Caras who was one of my pool teachers. I talked to Jimmy once a week up to his recent passing. Caras and Irving Crane both told me that 90% of the people they ever played, the match was over before the first ball was struck. In Mosconi’s case, that was probably 98%. They said winning those matches was easy because the opponent was so scared of them they played far below their abilities so they had a walk in the park, usually even backing off at the end so they would not embarrass the guy by beating him too badly. Think about that, 90% just give up before the match begins, they allowed their mind to defeat them before the first ball was stuck. I though this game was called pool; we should name it Choker Hari Kari.
Playing big names, people in your room who are the top stick, best gambler, or best in the state, can put you into a state of paralysis. If you get scared, you get tight and you cant hit your butt with your cue. You must face this with the no fear concept. Talk to your self; ask your self, why am I scared of this guy? Is that not down right silly? So what he beats me, nobody expects me to win any way; I won’t be sent to a pool concentration camp and shot if I lose. I won’t be deported to Poland. I am scared because I may look bad or do poorly so I have allowed fear to cripple me. I will just have fun and play fast and loose, how ever the match comes out, I’ll accept it. No fear that is how you sell it to your self. Show them no fear in your mind, in your face and in your body language. Don’t start shooting off your mouth, be quite but have a confident look on your face. Look at him and smile, show him, you are a winner. Begin to act like one now.
Play them with reckless abandon. Attack from the get go. Play totally fast and loose and let it all hang out, you just might get on a roll and it might startle the other guy and suck him up some. It’s frankly the only chance you have to win, so what do you have to lose. Mentally, you show him no respect, you take it to him. You of course show him respect at the table and before and after the match, in a winning or losing situation. You show him no mental respect, or fear; you come after him with the same respect you show a ball banger, you attack with no mercy. You try and run over the guy. Always be a gentleman at the table, always show every opponent respect.
If I am playing my granny a match to 150 points, I am going to try and run over her 150 and out, no mercy. In competition, attack immediately, be bold, run over people. Try and scare and intimidate them up front. In a social or he haw match, that is different, I will let Granny win a couple so she looks good. In competition, no mercy.
I played Willie Mosconi twice in he early 60’s. He had retired in 1957 and was about 25% off of his old AAA game. The first time out I mentally showed him no respect and he usually gave you the first shot. He had no fear of anyone. I opened and ran 75 and faced a decision, I had a 5 ball combo in the rack I felt would go, but I was not sure. I had such a big lead I played safe hopeing to sit on it. Willie went into the stack like I should have and made the shot and ran 100 and out on me. After he made the combo he winked or smirked when he went by saying there is usually a shot, you usually just don’t see it or are afraid to pull the trigger on it. I only got one shot and inning at the table. Had I been bold I could have beat him. I chickened out, I was on a run and on a roll, I should have kept shooting. I had never had a century break at that point and the thought of running a hundred and beating him was just too much for me to handle, I could not imagine it, even though I wanted it, I was not ready for it. I had equaled my previous high run of 75 and somehow my cpu just shut me down, I hit my barrier and it would not let me go past it. 75 were my wall I could not cross at the time. In all sports, we have those walls we set up that we just cannot cross over.
The 2nd time I played him I really knew who he was and what he could do. This time I went into the match scared to death of the guy. My leg was shaking so violently I had to hold it down with both hands. I opened and ran 12 and missed an easy shot, once more he ran 100 and out on me again. Losing was not the problem, falling apart during that match so badly physically and emotionally was shattering to me. Mosconi taught me a valuable secret, attack and run over people badly, it causes panic. You want people fearing you, fear is what beats them. Just run out on the opponent, then there is no way you can lose. Keep the other guy in the chair. Mosconi kept more people sitting in their chairs than any other player in history. That was the fear, if the guy got a shot, he could and usually would just run out and win on you.
I went to my teacher Minnesota Fats upset saying I choked like a dog, why, am I a loser. Fatty said this:
Quote “Only a sucker or a sausage puts heat on himself. Why would you do that, lock your self up so now the only thing you can do is lose. You want to win, and the only way to do that is play fast and loose. It’s a feel game, once you tighten up, you are out the door. Lose your feel, you lose your sock.
Chokin is for losers, winners don’t choke. Only you can put the heat on you and only you can take it off, so stay calm and don’t put in on in the first place. When you are on a run and on a roll stay on it and don’t sell your self-short. The best way to beat the other guy is to not let him get out of the chair. If you just run out on the other guy, then there is no way for you to lose. Every time you see the money ball come up and your shootin at it I want you to make a big smile and say out loud, pay days come, I never miss the money ball, then drill it right into the heart of the pocket. A big show of total confidence rattles a lot of players” end of quote.
I never watch my opponent play; I have my head turned halfway away looking at another table. Yes I am watching him out of the corner of my eye keeping him honest, but when he makes that DF11 big stroke shot and everyone lets out a gasp and he looks over to see my reaction I am looking out the window. If he asks me about it, I go what shot, sorry I missed it. Yes I saw the damn thing, but I will never let him know I did. This bothers the player with the big ego or the big name. You are supposed to be hanging on every great thing he does with applause on his every wonderful move and play. Never play homage to his ego. He is your enemy, you must defeat him, do not admire him during competition. You can do that at the bar after the event is over. Then and only then you can tell him how great he is; never do that at the table in competition. If it’s a casual match I’ll watch and when the guy makes a great shot I’ll thump my cue butt on the floor several times in a row or tap my cue shaft with a piece of chalk as applause.
I was taught to play Golf by the Gold Dust Twins, Byron Nelson and Jug McSpadden. Jug was like my 2nd father and I helped him build his dream course in Piper Kansas and was a charter member of his club Dubs Dread. Jug gave me my request to caddy for Hogan. He tried hard to talk me out of it and said what ever you do, do not talk to him, and only speak when spoken to. He said don’t be surprised if he never says a word to you during the round and he was right, he didn’t. If you try to club him I will pull out a gun and shoot you, of course he was just kidding. I just wanted to see the man work up close, with 15,000 people on both sides of us. It was like seeing a robot in action. Down the middle, hit the middle of the green, 2 putts, repeat that by 18, typical Hogan round. A damn human machine in action. He was like Robocop, is the guy really human or what?
There is a famous golf story about Ben, playing a long par 4 with Lew Worsham. Hogan hits a 7 iron first ten feet away. They walk up to Lew's ball, he hits a wedge into the cup for an eagle two, a virtual hole in one. The crowd goes nuts, hooting and hollering. They walk up to the green, Lew removes his ball from the hole, Hogan drops the ten footer for his birdie and they walk to the next tee. They both keep each other’s scores and Hogan asks Lew what did you have on the hole?
15,000 people knew he had a deuce and only Hogan did not. The questions always has been was Hogan messing with his head, trying to not give homage to the great shot by acting like he did not see it. From what I have seen of Hogan up close, I think he was so deep into the zone, he had everything totally blocked out and on that next tee, he actually did not know Lew had an eagle. He was that deep into his focus and deep zone Zen like trance. That is just my personal opinion. I think Nicklaus played that same way, which was why he had that scowl on his face and never smiled much like Hogan did, he was too deep in the zone to notice anything going on around him. The 15,000 fans, what fans, he did not see you.
POOL PLAYERS ARE CHOKERS…their game is pool Hari Kari…
We have done surveys of club players in pool halls that tell us the guys they are playing choke about 50 to 75% of the time. That is a stunning figure. That means the problem of choking in pool is immense.
It means 75% of the players in pool need to buy and read this book at once and learn it’s lessons well. How did this come to be? What if the figure is 50%, which is what I think it is, that is a staggering figure. What if it is 25%, and I know the number is higher than that, then it means we have a major big time problem on our hands that needs no longer to be ignored. It is time you all wake up, come out of your closets and seek help on this problem. It means the method of teaching pool is wrong and the mistake that was made was not teaching the mental game to the beginners when they begin play. The mistake made is not teaching that in the books that were written.
The majority of the people playing pool today have never had a professional lesson from a real teacher. A lesson from your local roadie gambler does not count. That guy teaches you only how to lose money to him or how to rack the balls. A lesson from a teacher who has graduated from a teaching school and videotapes the lesson is a pro lesson. The vast majority of Tennis or Golfers takes regular pro lessons and has been doing that for years.
Most pool players don’t read books on the subject; fewer yet even read the pool magazines. It is said 46 million people play pool and only 15,000 read the pool magazines. Most have about one book on pool instruction and that’s about it. When you talk to them and say did you ever finish that boring 400-page instruction book, did you even get half way through it, most agree they did not. People in other sports have large book libraries. They all read their sport magazines and are getting lessons in them every month.
Pool players will have some videotapes, but they are usually on pool matches or trick shots, rarely are they on how to play correctly. The ones they do have on that subject are usually not that great and are badly over priced. What is taught on them is a bunch of fluff. None of the tapes touch on the inner mind.
Few pool players know anything about Zen or the inner game, the Zone or dead stroke. Other sports have a lot of books on this subject and the better players are deep into these studies since the early 70’s. Players in other sports have a keen interest in the inner game; most pool players have no interest in this subject because nobody until now has came out and told them how vital this is.
The teachers out there are taught and put on the street teaching only the basics and mechanics of the game. The guy who trains them all knows nothing about the inner game and he sends all the new teachers out with nothing on this subject. Not a single word of it is covered in the teacher’s school. Everything taught to the new teachers is on how to stand; hold the cue, stroke, run patterns, etc. Nobody taught them how to teach the inner game, so they don’t offer it to you. They don’t teach it, because they no nothing about it. Then these beginner teachers begin to write books.
Look at the books that have published in the 20th century on pool, the subject of the inner game was almost totally ignored. Most of the great instruction books that became famous did not address it at all or only lightly touched on it. Those in pool who did try and write on it did not have a clue what the inner game was or how to teach it. Those that did play in zone just talked about it, they never gave you a method on how to cure the problem and make it go away.
Every ones is teaching you how to play mechanically, and everyone just assumes you will know automatically how to play without choking. Guess what, this is not working, and has never worked. I have been teaching for over a decade that the mental side of the game and the mechanical side of the game are two subjects. Both have to be taught at the same time and both skills must advance at the same pace. Nobody else is doing that, they teach you how to stroke and play but put you out on your own to find your own mental game. If that game could be found, then 75% of the players today would not be chokers.
Imagine you are a Hawaiian boat, you are the middle of the boat, you need two outriggers for the boat to float and not tip over. You need one on each side. If you have only one on one side the boat will flip over. If one gets longer than the other one, you sink. You need both outriggers to be the same size and length, and if you grow one longer, you need to grow the other one the same length at the same time. That is the way you must now see your game, you in the middle, your mental game on the left of you, your mechanical game, on the right of you, both must be balanced. Both must grow at the same pace, one cannot get out in front of the other.
The player becomes a choker and becomes ashamed of this. He hides this from his teacher or even from his friends. He just goes in the closet with it. Having nowhere to turn for help, seeing no advice on the subject, he just assumes he is a lousy player and will always be that way. His self-esteem hits rock bottom. He does not work at the game because he knows he stinks at it. He soon realizes he is a loser with no talent because all he does it lose and choke. He never dreams he could be a potential world champion that only needs to be mentally trained now to stop the choking, and then his game can soar to the top. He never dreams 75% of the people around him have the same problem that he does, they don’t hold up well at all either.
Just go out to any local pool hall and spend an entire evening watching a league play their matches. The choking that will go on in the sl 3-4-5 ranks will astound you. Then it will hit you like a ton of bricks, holy cow, the book is right, over half of the players in pool are chokers and they don’t admit it and are doing nothing to correct it. They are all playing pool Hari Kari.
I am blowing the whistle on this problem. All of you chokers can come out of the closet; I will cure you of your affliction. I will give you a course of action that will stop your choking the cheese and dogging the money and game ball. I will take all of you chokers and turn you into winners.
Step one in AA is for the poor guy to get up in front of the group and admit he is a drunk or at least that is what I am told as I have never been in a AA meeting. I am a drunk and drunks don’t go to the meetings. Just kidding, bad joke.
You need to do that now, lay down this book and go over to your mirror and say I am a choker, I am looking at the enemy and it is I. Stick both index fingers in your ears and say, this is where I will become a winner, in the 6” between my ears I will now learn no fear.
With that admission and confession out of the way, come back and pick up the book, lets now set out on curing you of this problem.
That is the name of the disease that millions of you have. I invented the name, so you can put the bounty on my ears. Others have also called the disease Contenderosis before me. If you are a pool contender, and you choke your throat, that is your disease. You can’t contend, you will choke and dog. How can you win if you have both hands around your throat choking your self so hard your eyes are bugging out and you are about to go blind and pass out? Yes bubba, I am taking about you, don’t be looking around the room, you have lot’s of company who are just like you.
The bad news is the disease is incurable. Those of you who have it will carry it for life. The good news is we can arrest the attacks and outbreaks of it to a bare minimum. We can manage the disease for you, so you can live your life with small and bearable embarrassment from it.
We will explain the disease then write you a prescription of action you must take to cure it. It is then all up to you. You wish to be a winner. You wish to stop falling on your sword and gutting your self in public you will take your medicine and get well. We realize you are tired of shooting your self in the foot coming down the stretch. You no longer want to be a choking dog. You want to be a winner. You want to play for money and win. You want to win your league matches and star in a clutch situation in Vegas. You want to be a big stick and winner in your home poolroom. Who wants to be a loser?
You can do this. This is easy to do. Just do it, allow it to happen. Most of the time you will not be playing in the zone, especially in casual games where you are talking, drinking and having a good time. Your main interest there is to be cordial and friendly with your pals or your girlfriend if you are on a date. In that mode you don’t want to go into a trance and begin playing like a robot with no emotions and cease talking to everyone. You can still achieve dead stroke and play lights out without being in the zone. What you do is when you face that 5 ball run out in 8 ball to win the game; you say I will run out and give him no shot or opportunity to win. As you begin the run just keep saying calm mind, no fear. This will help occupy your mind and shut off voices chattering to you. This will also help you to keep your emotions from rising or you becoming excited or nervous when you face the tougher shots of that run out.
You now blow the shape on the 8 ball and instead of the short straight in shot you planned, you have left your self a long tough cut of the 8 into the side pocket and your cue ball is almost on the rail. You tightened up and just did not let the cue ball flow into the perfect spot. You left yourself in a position that in the past you would choke and miss from. You now say no choke, no fear, I will win, the 8 will go in, I never dog the 8 ball, never. You get over the 8 and as you stroke you are saying calm mind, no fear, just roll it in and that is exactly what you do. When you do that, hold up tight under pressure, you are now a winner and no longer a choker. Yes you will still miss shots like this but those misses will diminish as your confidence grows. You got out and won, even when you blew the shape and set up the choke. You overcame this mistake by shooting your self out of it. You remember this mistake. You write it down or diagram it. In your practice session the next day, you shoot that shot, over and over, dozens of time, even a hundred times, so you will never ever blow that shape again when it comes up. You groove and master that move and pattern.
You now know the reason you do not usually get close to your work and leave you self an easy shot on the 8 is you are feeling and showing pressure on the last game ball. You are playing perfect shape on every shot until you face the 8 or 9 and you blow shape on this ball the majority of the time. You keep leaving long tough shots that even decent players are going to miss half of the time. Even if you don’t choke, half of the game balls you are shooting you are missing. Your mind sees you as a choker because that is exactly what you do on the game ball the majority of the time. In the future when you come up to the game ball you now say calm mind, no fear, no pressure, I will relax and hold the cue lighter on this shot. I will not grip it tighter, then twist through the shot and miss, or lock it down and roll up short.
I will shoot this shot fast and loose with no fear and roll right up on the 8 with no fear of running past it. Even if I do roll past my shape, half of the time I will get lucky and end up straight in looking at another pocket. If I don’t, I am a great shotmaker, I’ll cut it in or bank it in. If I run up too close or past and cause a miss from having no shot I’ll take that 10% of errors. Now I am causing my self to miss the 8 ball 75% of the time because I am showing fear about running up too close and leaving long choker shots. Fear is beating me, so no fear, I am coming up tight on that 8 ball from now on. I will leave a close up straight in shot I can make dead drunk and while choking like a dog. If I don’t get there, no problem, I am going to make it anyway. I will just stop leaving long hard shots on the game ball. Begin now leaving one or two feet straight in shots that cannot be missed. If you can do it on the other balls, you can do it on the 8 ball as well, just free your mind to allow it and will it done. Now you are making the game ball every time you shoot it, success breeds success and your confidence about you as a winner sours.
That is the main thing you just won, confidence in you, confidence in the fact, the 8 ball was going in the pocket and you were winning that game. Once you establish that, each future pressure situation you get put into gets easier. Each pressure shot is performed not under pressure but with this calm relaxed mind and under no fear.
You wake up one morning and then realize, the book worked, what Larry said was right and it has now made me the icemon.
End of this composition…13 pages
"Fast Larry" Guninger
The Power Source Traveling Pool School. To see my web page come alive click here: www.fastlarrypool.com
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