A pool player gripped by ‘yips’, back enjoying playing again . . . in a matter of weeks!

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 When fear stops you playing the sport you love . . .

Tony, a pool player had risen to become a regular and relied upon team member at his local club in only a couple of years. The game and the team became a big part of his life and yet all of a sudden he struggled to play freely.

Each shot became an ordeal demonstrated by him holding his breath, long delay between each shot, locking of shoulders and tightness within the muscles. Hitting comfortably through the ball was not only a rarity it was an impossibility. The stress and embarrassment of standing at the table attempting to play became too much, as the dreaded yips took hold. Tony stopped playing and would now only visit the club as a spectator.

I started working with Tony* at the end of August this year.

 Bring in the detective

From my experience of working with struggling players from a variety of sports, the problem at times I’m sure seems insurmountable. Conventional ways of solving this problem – more practise, changing grips, and stances etc. often do not provide the solution.

Commonly this isn’t a mechanical problem, it’s often the ‘trauma’ of past experiences stored in our mind/ body that constantly trigger the fight or flight response to stress.

One of the key elements to providing a solution is to discover and determine the negative turning point. When does a routine action become so complicated?

Tony’s initial negative experience was during a match when he mistakenly played the wrong ball (potted the black before a colour and was penalised for it).

He then remembered a separate occasion when he was beginning to struggle with the tension in his hands which affected his feel and control – his opponent claimed he’d accidentally touched a ball which means a penalty shot. He denied it, but was embarrassed as he knew he cheated. His world began to change as that part of our brain that keeps us safe, decided that when Tony played pool – he was in danger!!

It’s not safe

The accumulation of stress/ bad experiences often results in the underlying program (that runs our lives) developing faults which lead to poor performance. The negative thinking triggers the fight, flight or freeze response in our body. Classic symptoms are tightness in your chest/muscles, shortness of breath and moisture build-up in the palm of your hands as your body doesn’t feel it’s safe. The result is the fear of poor performance means you begin to struggle to play even the simplest shot. The ‘freeze’ response literally takes control of the muscles in your body.

Each day you are almost stuck in the past as the negative programme of feelings, thoughts, emotions and expectations take control and create a continuous loop.

The turnaround

By releasing the destructive negative vibration from a past memory/ experience helps calm the body’s nervous system and allows your body to feel safe.

 I began to help Tony by using Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) to help release the trauma of those past experiences, combined with performance psychology to help create a more positive outlook.

 Following our first session he played pool for the first time in a while and felt a little better – still work to do, but able to play. Over the next few weeks we worked on releasing any of the ‘interference’ that may trigger the fight or fight response. As Tony began to play more regularly, we took the decision not to add the pressure of playing for one the teams just yet.

 In our sessions I asked Tony to imagine playing shots, if he struggled to see himself playing freely we would use tapping to calm the body’s gatekeeper (the amygdala) down. We also worked on the future by asking Tony to imagine different scenarios: playing pool at the club with a friend, then an opponent he may play in a match – even someone he particularly wouldn’t like to play. He began to notice subtle changes as the underlying sabotage began to lessen.

I received this text from him a couple of weeks ago . . .

Hi Sean, big turnaround last night! I went to watch my team play a match and got thrown in for a frame late in the game – no prep and played well!’

 I spoke with him today, he feels great and is back to playing regularly and in his last match beat the opposing teams captain.

With his mind free he is able to step up to the table and enjoy playing again – normality has resumed.

The key is that we are able to release the faults in the underlying programme that runs us. By identifying and removing the internal negative chatter, we can relax the part of the brain that triggers stress and allow more positive feelings to flow freely.

 What’s your story? If you’d like help, contact me for a free initial 20min consultation at sean@confidenceontap.com or alternatively call me on 07818851643. We can discuss your challenges and formulate a solution. From there we can arrange a one-to-one session on Skype, Facetime or Phone. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

*Tony is not his real name



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