From the beginning of your match to the end, you will always be in one of three physical locations. You will either be at the table, in the player’s chair, or somewhere on a break. Everyone understands the importance of the time at the table, but performances are constantly influenced and impacted by everything that happens in all three of these locations. By “everything,” I mean the actions you take, the thoughts you think, and the feelings you have.
All players come to a match with some type of action plan. For some, it is a consciously scripted outline, and for others, just a loose idea based on intuition and experience. Either way, the purpose of a plan is to manage the flow of events so you can produce your best performance. For those who scoff at such an idea, consider the following question. If you don’t assume the management role in your own game, then who does?
Great plans are built around routines, and great routines are based on the results of study and experience. When you find a successful and consistent way to relate with any variable, you naturally add this factor to your standard way of doing things. Over time, this collection of factors becomes your routines.
Have you ever noticed that the better players have more polished and consistent routines? Have you ever wondered which came first? Did their routines become more refined and that made them better players? Or did their routines become smoother because they became better players? If it’s the latter, then lucky you – you don’t have to work on your routines at all. They will simply improve if you do.
If you believe that, I have some big fat pills you can buy. They are pink, blue, and yellow and very expensive! They look and taste a lot like generic Tums, but they’ll make you a better pool player. Honest!
If you’re not buying that, let’s try the second option. Let’s start an examination of the shot process, see if we can polish yours up a bit, and make a better player out of you the old fashioned way – with work and effort.
The shot process is where you actually execute, so it’s the most important routine. It doesn’t matter if you have a great shot selection process if you can’t execute what you select. Likewise, it doesn’t matter how well you manage yourself in the chair or on a break if you can’t execute once you get back to the table.
The shot process is defined as the steps you go through AFTER you commit to a specific shot. Sometimes this process flows effortlessly from one shot to another, but at other times, it stops and starts on individual shots. It all depends on the circumstances. In this examination, we’ll take the shot process apart so we can look at it, but in competition keep it as free flowing as possible.
Let’s start with a short synopsis. The four sections of the shot process are the standing address, the transition, the set-up, and the delivery. The standing address begins the moment you commit yourself to a shot and includes how you align your body to the shot line, how you visualize the shot, and how you focus your mind. The transition begins the second you complete the standing address and ends when your bridge hand touches the cloth. The set-up includes everything you do to prepare yourself once you are down on the shot, including your practice strokes, eye movements, and how you focus your mind. The delivery is the actual execution. It begins with the final backstroke and includes watching the object ball disappear into the pocket and the cue ball go to the designated target. The delivery is complete before you begin to rise up out of the shot.
I’ll leave you to ponder these ideas until the next column, but here are a couple of guidelines you might find interesting. Each section starts with one specific physical action, and this action is tied to a specific mental activity. In other words, your body has a starting point, your mind has a starting point, and your attention focuses on one specific thing at a time. A good key to keep you pointed in the right direction is the following statement: The only thing that matters right now is…
Good luck good shootin’! Bob Henning