fcsnooker - Top Quality Snooker Coaching and Instruction in association with Mr Frank Callan - The Mind Game -
"Dealing With Tension"

Everyone suffers from tension or the butterflies, right from the professional down to the club handicapper.

To cope with it, I always advocate getting some free movement with the cue, because tension is mostly reflected in the cue arm. After all, it is what you do with the cue that matters. Recognize tension for what it is and get moving with the cue rather than cut down the waggles, as in the end this often leads to a quick, jerky action.

If you are almost frozen or locked up with tension, you will find it all the more difficult to move out of those short, preliminary addresses into a substantial backswing and the shot itself. Some good players have felt their knees or legs twitch under pressure, but one of the most common causes of missing under tense circumstances is holding the cue too tightly.

It is sometimes difficult to keep physically relaxed when mentally you are well wound up, but you have to try to discipline yourself to do this. If you grip the cue too tightly, the muscles of your wrist and forearm will also be tense, and this will prevent you from delivering the cue smoothly through the ball.

Anxiety and tension can make players who usually keep still on the shot move all over the place. So anxious are they to see whether the object ball has gone in the pocket that hey are up and looking before they have completed striking the cue ball. There is less tendency to move if the pot is straight or nearly straight, because the cue ball, object ball and pocket are all in the player's natural line of vision.

The greater the tension, the more pressure there is on a player's technique and self-discipline. The game is full of players who can make centuries in practice almost without trying, but put them in an important match and they're struggling to make thirty. Because of their anxieties, they end up using a poorer technique in matches. You will be prevented from getting the necessary wrist cock into your action.

Everybody feels tension or lack of confidence at certain times. Take the 1988 world final. Steve Davis and Terry Griffiths were 8-8 at the start of the second day's play. The first frame of the session was psychologically very important, because Terry was feeling good while Steve was feeling a bit unsure.

In that frame Steve missed at least three balls which normally he wouldn't miss in a month of Sundays. When it came down to it, though, he took all the colours to win on the black. At the time this seemed very difficult for him, but it was in fact a case of his technique being so ingrained in him that it held up under pressure.

During the championship, Steve said that the ideal mental state for a snooker player was to be able to play as if it means nothing when it means everything' - in other words, to play a match as if you are enjoying a few practice frames and just trying to play the game as well as you can.

This is very difficult but always remember that your first opponent is always the game itself, the technique, and the position of the balls. If your technique is in good order, you won't be worrying all the time about what your opponent might do if you miss. If your technique is functioning well, there's a chance you might get your opponent worrying about you.

Be philosophical. Some people think it a tragedy if they lose and in believing this they put more pressure on themselves. But remember that all anyone can do is try to give the game one hundred percent.

The worst thing that can happen is you LOSE.

Frank Callan Suite - 282 Ribbleton Lane, Ribbleton, Preston, Lancashire, England - PR1 5EB - tel. + 44 (0) 1772 702211 - info@fcsnooker.co.uk

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