When I was in a slump last year, around February, I realized I needed to desperately change my game. I had the ability to win, I had the knowledge, and I had the skills — but I was lacking in the mental toughness and stamina. So I made 3 changes not to my game per say, but to my playing habits:
First, I stopped drinking soda while playing, which I noticed was making me dehydrated, caused me to sweat and shake during some matches, and generally affected my physical well being while playing.
Second, I began keeping a close record of all my tournament matches, including wins, losses, weight given/taken, players and their ranks, etc. I still keep this up, and it motivates me to raise my numbers, sort of like an Accu-stat.
Finally, I changed something fundamental in my game: I am known for breaking and running 6 or 7 balls, then dogging the final 2 balls. This was not because I lacked the ability to make those balls, but because I mentally dogged the shot, doubted myself, or didn't focus enough. So, I decided that when I got down on a critical shot (money ball, key ball, final ball), I would 'dog' the shot in my mind, thus getting it out of my system, get up from the shot, chalk up, get back down with a clear mind, and pocket the ball confidently.
Since making these changes to my game, I have won dozens of tournaments, leveled up 3 times, won many more money matches, and increased my confidence. Before the changes, I hadn't won a single tournament.
I noticed that when playing league AND tournaments alike that if I "dogged" a shot, or even worse —if my opponent dogged a shot and got lucky shape from the miss, that I would become timid with my shots. I found that approaching those shots like my opponent had played a great safety and really concentrating on "turning the cueball loose" greatly helped my confidence level. After hours of drills and practice, I just trusted my stroke and my first instinct on each shot and could usually rebound from my mistakes or kick out of whatever situation my opponent had put me into.
Cathy Jo Sawyer Almanza (player and tournament director):
Many players start out by playing in a league and once they get better they start entering tournaments. Since tournament rules usually do not allow "group party socializing" during a match, my prep advice is for all players to recognize the differences in singles competition and group play, and to always conduct themselves appropriately for the type of event that they are participating in.
-- R.A. Dyer