Just One Thing

This is my seventh column on the shot process for InsidePOOL Magazine, and so far we have looked at some very important things. We have examined the standing address in great deal. We have broken the transition phase into minute parts and put it back together. We have analyzed and worked diligently on the set-up phase. Everything we have been looking at contributes to the development of a masterful game, but guess what? None of this stuff matters at all. It doesn’t count.

Preparation in pool is important, but you don’t get any points for it. You only advance in a tournament if you win the match. You only get to mark up another game if you win. In terms of any particular shot, it only counts if you make it. In terms of the shot process then, the only part that really counts is the execution phase.

By the definition we started with, the execution phase begins with the final backstroke and ends when the final forward stroke is complete. We can break it into parts and polish it until it shines, but in action, the essential success of this phase is affected mostly by what you don’t do, not by what you do. In other words, once you get to the execution phase it’s too late to do anything. It’s too late to change your mind. It’s too late to make an adjustment. It’s too late to change your aim or shift your weight. It’s too late to change the hit on the cue ball or take a little power off. Anything you “do” during this part of the shot process is an error.

Why? Because there’s nothing left to do. Everything has already been prepared and confirmed in an earlier step of the process. No doubt, question, or adjustment can come up in the execution of a shot unless it has been neglected or overlooked earlier. It reminds me of a sales training demonstration I once saw. On a chalkboard, the trainer drew an overhead picture of a hallway with several open doors on both sides. “The customer comes in here,” he said, pointing to one end of the hall, “and the only way out at the other end is for him to buy. You have to close every door as you walk him down the hall and confirm with him that it is shut and locked. If you leave even one door open or unlocked, he’ll be coming back. When he is faced with the fear of making a purchase at the end of the hall, he’ll run back and out that door.”

It’s the same with the execution phase. If you left something unresolved in the address, transition, or set-up parts of the process, it will show up again at the execution. It can cause you to “let up on the stroke.” It can cause you to attempt to “steer” the cue ball, hit it with hesitancy, or over-hit it. Some times you will even scratch or knock the cue ball off the table. Your energy, instead of being focused confidently on a committed and expected outcome, is allowed to run back to that open door and escape. The end result in both of these scenarios, the sales example and the shot, is wasted energy. Nothing constructive is produced. Nothing is forwarded.

In the movie “City Slickers,” Curly’s great advice was, “One thing…just one thing.” What he meant, of course, is that the secret to a successful life is to find out what really matters. For Curly, it was moving cattle, and for the character played by Billy Crystal, it was his family. We can broaden this concept and use to come full circle on this initial examination of the execution phase. Maybe it isn’t really the only part of the process that counts after all. Maybe it’s only the other ducks we lined up that really count. Better yet, maybe it’s just doing one thing at a time that makes the difference.

Good luck good shootin’!

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