Focus Your Mind for Maximum Success

Practice, practice, practice – that’s all there is to pool success, right?  While it is true that playing more pool will typically lead to better skill development, if you really want to maximize your abilities – and work smarter, not harder – then tune in to this month’s column on the three pieces of peak athletic development that can be immediately applied to pool for maximum success.

Whenever I work with elite-level athletes looking to improve athletic performance, regardless of sport, I always suggest we begin by examining the three pieces needed for athletic success:

1. Physical conditioning
2. Technical instruction
3. Metal preparation

As I begin to discuss how each of these components leads to athletic success, think about how you are doing in each area, as well as what you need to do to improve (and take your pool game to new levels!).


Physical conditioning relates to your strength and stamina.  Before tournaments, are you well rested, hydrated, and well stretched?  Do you typically eat something light and energizing, and not something that sits in your stomach like a rock?  If you are not paying attention to your physical conditioning and usually end up tired and sore while playing a few hours of pool, it doesn’t matter how good your shooting eye is or how cool your nerves are as you will eventually beat yourself by playing sloppy pool due to physical fatigue.

Technical instruction includes your shot-making ability, offensive and defensive strategies, and anything else related to improving your play (i.e. watching instructional videos, reading books, etc.).  Technical instruction relates to practice, and successful practice relies on you being in good physical condition to play your best.

Mental preparation is the execution piece to playing your best pool.  Mental preparation includes developing self-confidence, controlling nerves, and moderating arousal levels to maximize your ability.  Mental toughness allows players to “play to win,” rather than “play to avoid losing.”  Mental toughness is what allows players to go beyond being a great “practice player,” and play to their best ability in crucial tournament situations.


All three pieces are vital to pool playing success!  You have to be in good shape (and free of drugs and alcohol), know the game of pool, and then be able to replicate what you do in practice in tournament-like situations.  Sadly, many average pool players only focus on one thing – shooting more pool – and then get frustrated when they play great in practice but below their ability in tournaments.  In these instances things like having been physically unprepared and tired and stiff, or being mentally unprepared by allowing nerves to get out of control, never get addressed and he or she goes back to the pool hall and just shoots more balls in practice over and over again.  Do you see the problem?  The systematic approach I am discussing in this article will allow you to isolate your strengths and weaknesses – and win more games.


Next time you think about improving your game, start with the following questions – chart your progress and watch your game improve:
How “ready” am I when I play in competition?  Am I loose and limber?  Am I well nourished and hydrated?  Am I free of drugs and alcohol?
How well do I know the game of pool?  Can I successfully make shots, play strategically, and get out of trouble situations?  Do I need to get additional instruction to improve my game?
How mentally strong am I when I play?  Am I confident I can win at any time?  When I get nervous, do I know skills I can use to control nerves and regain my confidence?

Dr. Christopher Stankovich is a nationally acclaimed expert in Sport & Performance Psychology and the Founder of Advanced Human Performance Systems.  For more information on performance-enhancement products, including the popular  “Mind of Steel for Pool Success” DVD please visit