World No1 Mark Selby Opens Up On Serious Battle With Mental Health

The four-time world champion bravely spoke out about his own difficulties that resurfaced during the recent Masters tournament
20:05, 27 Jan 2022

Mark Selby admits that the gruelling demands of snooker on the mind are so great that it is impossible to play to anywhere near the best of your abilities while battling with serious mental health issues. 

The world No1 and reigning and four-time world champion bravely spoke out about his own difficulties that resurfaced during the recent Masters tournament at Alexandra Palace. 

The 38-year-old Selby is already a legend of the game with his many achievements and titles – many of those secured through a trademark iron-clad will to win and an ice-cool temperament in the crucial moments of contests. 

But one of Leicester’s favourite sporting sons faced a huge decision after recognising and fronting up to a challenge of a very different sort – whether to continue to compete in the hothouse of top-level snooker, or take a complete break from the game. 

In the end, at least for now, Selby decided that operating in tandem with new professional help he would carry on competing – and hence played both in the quickfire Shootout, and now at the German Masters in Berlin. 

After a 5-0 win at the Tempodrom over Barry Pinches on Thursday, Selby said: “It was okay today, I played all right. I didn’t feel like my concentration was great and I missed a couple of easy balls through that being in and out a bit. 

“But I am resigned to the fact that is how it’s going to be for a while and I have got to live with it until I sort things out. 

“In snooker there are so many highs and lows at the best of times, if you are not in a good state of mind then those highs and lows can trigger other emotions which can be difficult. 

“So overall I am placing snooker second in the priorities, concentrating on myself, carrying on playing while trying to enjoy it if I can, and if I lose realising it’s not the end of the world.

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“For years I have been going out there and playing and keeping it all inside and only my wife Vicky and close family and friends really knew how things were. 

“And now I have someone who when they ask ‘Are you feeling okay’, whereas normally you just say ‘I’m fine’, I can say ‘Well, actually I’m not feeling great today’. So I can not hide behind the mask, and be myself. I hope I can get myself better, and if by speaking out it helps others address things, then that’s good too. 

“There may be a lot of people out there that no one knows about who are suffering but are scared to ask for help. You can feel you’d be a failure if you admit it, that’s how I felt. 

“And men can be worse, wanting to be all strong and hard, not crying, or this and that – which can be very damaging and wrong. I don’t feel better at the moment, but I’ve started. 

“It was certainly a big decision whether to carry on playing while getting some help, or to actually take a break from snooker altogether. I have been speaking to a specialist since the Masters, and I have had two sessions so far and another one later today on Zoom. 

“He has asked me a lot of questions and I said ideally I would carry on while getting the help, so that’s the way we’re going at the moment. 

“And at any time if I feel it is getting too much then I will step back and have a break from the game to sort myself out. But for now, with the help, I’m carrying on. That’s a couple of tournaments so far since making that decision, with the Shootout and now the German Masters. 

“But to be honest I feel just coming out and speaking about things was half the battle won having been holding things in for so long. And now I feel I have got someone to turn to that is an expert in the field, who understands what I am going through. But I know it isn’t something that is going to be sorted overnight. 

“It’s good we have been able to come over here to Berlin and Germany after two years not travelling overseas. It is a great tournament, and I love Germany as a country. 

“And it would have been a real shame to have had to play this event again back in Milton Keynes in front of no one. The Tempodrom is a great venue with wonderful crowds. 

“I have ultimately got to put myself first for a while, and had I not spoken to the doctor before the Shootout in my home city I probably wouldn’t have even played in that, or this. But we were able to come up with a plan of one step at a time. I still love the game and want to play, ideally. 

“But snooker is such a tough sport and hard enough at the best of times, that mentally you have to be in the right place. If you aren’t, you will get found out because that’s a massive part of it. 

“So I have to listen to what I am being told and take it all on board. And to be honest it isn’t really the snooker that is the reason why I am where I am. I can accept losing snooker matches, you are going to get that. It is more my past experiences, my upbringing, all of it that I have not really let out. 

“Even though I grieved after my father died when I was still pretty young, with a lot of it I think I just bottled it all up. 

“I felt as if I couldn’t really talk about it without getting emotional or turning it into a negative, rather than remembering him in a very positive light. That’s something we’re working on.” 

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