Self Talk - Are You Talking to YOU?

Written by Bryan Mitchell

I once coached a player who was struggling quite a bit on game night. He was by my estimation a decent player, at least average, but I watched his ranking drop from 4 to 3 to 2 in just a few short weeks. Other teams would watch him shoot and say out loud, "There is no way that guy should be ranked a two!" For this article we will refer to this player as Lee. Lee lost matches week after week. He lost to players he should have been a major favorite against. But he almost always found a way to give the game away at the last minute.

Most of Lee's loses came as a result of missing an 8-ball shot, or if the 8 was not a challenge, he would miss a key ball shot that he needed to make in order to shoot the easy 8 ball shot. There was a ton of theories around as to why Lee could not close. Some said he had a bad stroking technique. Some said he could not see straight. Some said it was his shot selection. He himself would tell you, "I don't get enough practice time during the week." Well, the theories were all right and all wrong at the same time. Lee did have a stroke that could have used some work. He did only get to practice a couple of hours each week, if even that often, and there were times that his vision was not clear. All of this was simply the result of a deeper issue; Lee's brain was the bottom line problem.

If you are outplaying your opponent in match after match and end up missing on key balls or the money ball over and over, do you really have bad vision? Maybe you have bad visualization. Can you see yourself winning in your mind's eye? Do you "think" you are suppose to lose because you have lost so many games in a row? What are you saying to yourself while you are shooting or when you are about to start a match? If you are thinking that you might lose or you might miss the shot, then yes, your vision is blurry, your stroke is bad, your shot selection will be weak, because you WILL find a way lose.

Unless you have been on a desert island since motivational speaker Tony Robins was born, you have heard at least something about NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) or the power of positive self talk. But do you use this idea in your game and do you really know how to have this internal talk with yourself in a productive way? When you start a match, do you say to yourself, "I have to win" or "I don't want to lose". Do you say "I'm not going to miss this shot" or "I'm not going to shoot this ball too hard like last time"? If you have these conversations with yourself, and you have them in this syntax, you are setting yourself up for failure.

For reasons too numerous to list in our limited space, your subconscious can not recognize disclaimers such as "not going to" or "don't." Your subconscious does not hear "I'm not going to miss this shot" or "I'm not going to lose." Your subconscious hears "I'm ___ going to miss this shot", and "I'm ____ going to lose". And the subconscious is where the messages are coming from that cause you to give away a game. This is why you should never tell your kids "Don't cry" or "Don't be afraid." You should say, "Calm down" and "Be brave". You are planting a message in the deep regions of the brain, so watch how you deliver the message. You have probably heard someone say to their opponent in pool, football, basketball or any number of other sports, "Don't choke!" Well, this is as good as saying to the person "CHOKE!"

If your goal is a positive result, your messages to yourself and to others you are trying to influence must be in the form of affirmative statements. When you start a match, think to yourself, "I am going to win. I have won so many games in my life." When you shoot that money ball shot, think "I will make this shot like I have done hundreds of times" or "I will shoot this with perfect speed". And when you are talking to your team and encouraging them, use the same positive phrasing. It's all almost like magic. It really works.

About The Author: Bryan Mitchell is a highly skilled player/instructor from the Northern Delaware area.

Related Articles

Author Info - Bryan Mitchell