Offensive Vs Defensive Mental Skills

Written by David Sapolis

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Article Index
Offensive Vs Defensive Mental Skills (page 1)
Offensive Mental Skills &
       Their Impact on Performance (page 2)
Defensive Mental Skills &
      Their Impact on Performance
(page 3)

Offensive Mental Skills & Their Impact on Performance

Competitive desire - Helps motivate players to improve skills and "battle" for the win in a tight contest.

Competitive desire - Assists players in achieving personal bests, keeps intensity high and constantly improves the process of learning, training and competing.

Visualization skills - Allows players to see a path to success and keeps their thoughts simple during competition. The best players are able to see the run out in their minds first, then they make it an accomplished fact on the table.

Self Talk Skills - Players skilled in self-talk are aware of the language in their heads and actively adjust it to stay positive and action oriented. They do not mentally batter themselves when things are not going their way.

Competition planning - Helps athletes make decisions before competition, so that during the event they simply can execute rather than decide. This keeps the player from wearing him/herself out mentally during the match.

Ability to commit - Allows players to give 100 percent during competition and lets them stay with new approaches long enough to see a benefit in training (such as changing a specific technique).

Comfort with risk - Players that have developed this skill understand that taking risks at certain times reaps rewards, and that a winning approach sometimes requires a willingness to lose (fear of losing may prevent risk taking).

Relaxed Competitive Approach - When athletes are competitive, they are relaxed, mainly visual, looking for opportunities rather than danger and avoid hesitation. They do not over-think their situation.

Confidence - Confidence is the offensive skill that makes it easier to set high goals, see and believe success and execute good competition plans. Always remember that confidence is the prerequisite to consistency.

The word that may best describe pool players with extremely strong offensive mental skills is predator. These players are focused, intense, athletic, looking to win and ready to take advantage of the opportunity for success that competition provides. Without these offensive mental skills, players may be good, but they will never be great, and they will never become champions.


Defensive skills help pool players succeed consistently and in all conditions. Defensive physical skills might include Efren Reyes? ability to remain calm in the most pressure filled situations. It also includes Francisco Bustamante?s ability to respond positively after he has missed a few shots. It also includes Karen Corr?s ability to respond to offensive surges in a match by her opponent. When a player?s defensive skills are strong they are consistent performers, winning big events as well as small events. They are resilient and easily adapt to changes in their environment.

If offensive mental skills are necessary for excellence, players need defensive skills to maintain excellence, handle adversity and allow them to be at their best at the big events like the U.S. Open. Defensive mental skills also help players be resilient and consistent in any conditions. A player?s desire for excellence in training results in practicing the way they should compete in an organized, efficient and useful manner.

Controlling competitive anxiety becomes more important as the significance of the competition increases. The further the player advances in the tournament, the stiffer the competition will be. This will create anxiety if the player has not experienced that level of the tournament before. The ability to control anger and frustration before and during competitions allows players to quickly gain balance and recover from errors or problems in the environment or the equipment. The best players are able to put mistakes and bad shots behind them. They do not dwell on them during the match. They understand that after the match, they can evaluate their performance, not during the match.

Control of energy levels falls into three different defensive mental skills:

  1. ability to raise intensity level,
  2. ability to recover emotional energy between efforts, and
  3. ability to adjust energy up or down depending on the competitive situation.

The skill of quickly recovering from performance setbacks is a defensive mental skill that pays dividends in lengthy competitions or competitions with repeated efforts such as pool tournaments. Flexible response to changes in the environment may be most important at big events (top level tournament) where environment changes the most.

The ability to focus, despite distractions is also critical at events where distractions increase in proportion to the size and importance of the event. It is one thing to be able to focus and concentrate well at a local 9 ball tournament, but the U.S. Open 9 Ball Championships is a completely different environment with greater challenges. With distraction being ever-present, you need to develop the ability to reapply focus and concentration when it is interrupted by distractions.

Finally, mental maintenance skills or the ability to maintain simple, effective thoughts under pressure is often the difference between having a great plan and executing it. These are phrases you can repeat to yourself that will maintain your confidence, focus and concentration. This is an extremely important skill to possess in those times where you miss easy shots, or you are unable to make a ball on the break. These phrases are designed to keep you positively focused.

The key words that describe defensive mental skills include: balance, resilience, and invulnerability. Players with strong defensive mental skills are individuals that others count on for consistent performance at tournament after tournament, big event or small.

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About The Author: Blackjack David Sapolis played professional pool for 20 years in The United States, Canada, Europe, and Asia.

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