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)

Defensive Mental Skills & Their Impact on Performance

Desire for excellence in training- Pool Players should train as they compete, practically and efficiently, avoiding the problems of over-training and under-recovery.

Controlling - Allows athletes to stay in control, which is especially critical as the events get bigger and athletes become vulnerable to anxiety.

Controlling competitive anxiety - Allows athletes to stay in control, which is especially critical as the events get bigger and athletes become vulnerable to anxiety.

Controlling anger and frustration - Allows athletes to save energy for competition, control thoughts and stay on task, even when real problems exist.

Energy management(raising intensity) - Allows athletes to "ramp up" energy when the situation calls for it.

Energy management (recovery between efforts) - Allows the player to use the recovery time available so they have needed mental and physical energy throughout the match/tournament. This is especially important during tournaments where you have breaks between matches that will vary in length. Top players understand that what they say or do in between matches (either mentally or verbally) is just as important as what they say during the match.

Energy management (adjusting energy) - Allows players to be aware of the correct energy level needed for a given situation and to make quick adjustments, up or down, for physical and mental readiness. The player is able to maintain mental energy by remaining simple, yet flexible in their approach.

Recovery from performance setbacks - Allows players to quickly "bounce back" from mistakes, defeats or bad luck and yet retain positive and useful thoughts. This will keep the player from dwelling on missed shots, missed position, or scratches. The focus remains positive and the player is able to leave the self evaluation until after the match/set/ tournament.

Flexible when environment changes - Allows players to quickly adapt to change, tolerate disruptions to routine and see all changes as opportunities. Flexibility and adaptability to playing conditions and environments prevents the player from performing well ONLY in certain conditions, situations, or environments.

Focus despite distractions - Allows players to stay on task, keeping all five senses oriented only towards useful signals, even when all five senses could get pulled away from the task. Many players can be easily distracted by someone walking by the table during their final stroke, or by loud music, or an unexpected noise. The best players have a rehearsed focus recovery routine that they will perform to reapply their focus.

Mental maintenance skills - Allows players to be self-aware, noting changes and variations, making adjustments needed to keep thoughts simple and effective.

What does the Offense-Defense Model add to the usual list of mental skills needed for competition? An important item is the way to explain the behavior coaches see in players. Here are a few examples:

A player with a strong desire to dominate expects and plans to win and is dominant at the local level, but he/she always makes big errors in higher level competition. This player may have excellent offensive mental skills, but his/her defensive mental skills probably need some work. He/she may lack control of competitive anxiety, in part because of the overwhelming desire to win or because the energy level gets so high at big events that thinking suffers, and he/she makes basic errors. This player may be resistant to working with a sport psychologist or a coach because the strong offensive mind perceives discussing anxiety as a weakness. This is VERY COMMON among pool players. He/she needs to understand that anxiety is normal, and the unwillingness to deal with it is a weakness.

A player gets in a rut. His/her playing have not improved, and he/she always loses to the same players over and over again. This player never plays terrible, but observers know he/she has more potential than is shown in active competition. This may be an player with good defensive mental skills but he/she may be missing offensive mental skills such as confidence, comfort with risk or drive to set and achieve goals.

A player is unbeatable when on a roll, but he/she can also go into the tank for months at a time. He/she may have deficits in defensive mental skills, making him/her vulnerable to distracting thoughts and unable to do mental maintenance. This player is probably also lacking offensive mental skills and needs to improve in the areas of competition mental planning, self-talk and confidence.

Offensive mental skills allow players to achieve greatness. Defensive mental skills gives them consistency and resiliency. Combine the two, and you have a dominant player. Players that are missing one or the other of these skills are tremendously frustrating to coaches and instructors, because you know they can perform so much better than they do. If this model of mental skills is useful to you, talk about it with your coach/instructor. By tying these invisible mental skills to visible results and using the simple Offense-Defense Model, you will no longer resist the idea of developing mental strength. Taking the plunge and actually taking an honest, objective look at your mental game is the first step towards greatness!!!

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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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