In flying a Cessna 172, there’s one crucial split second where everything changes. At one moment, you are in the confines of a four-dimensional environment and subject to the laws of that universe. You can go to the left, to the right, and forward and even backwards. But you can’t go up or down unless you run it into a ditch or over a curb. In addition, you can use the brakes to control your speed, and if you decide to change your mind about flying, you can do so immediately.
On the other side of that split second, however, you enter a five-dimensional world, and things that didn’t matter a second before quickly become important. All of a sudden, the wind, for instance, takes on a whole different role. Instead of pushing against the airplane, with you adjusting surfaces to keep from blowing over, the wind is now carrying you along with it. No matter what else you do with the engine and the controls, you are simultaneously traveling with the wind. If you don’t compensate, you’re liable to run out of fuel over Lake Michigan instead of landing in Chicago. It’s that important.
This transition is called rotation, the split second upon take-off when the wheels separate from the concrete. One second you’re accelerating down the strip at an awkward 62 miles per hour, pulling back on the yoke, and in the next second you’re flying like a graceful bird. Now you can go up and down at will, but backwards is completely out of the question. The brakes no longer work, and if you want to change your mind about flying, it’s too late.
There is a similar transition in the shot process. One moment, you are in the standing address, planning and visualizing your shot, seeing it from a standing perspective, and remaining physically separate from it. In the next moment, you are down on the table, physically engaged and seeing it from a completely different perspective.
This transition is also an extremely crucial moment. You are moving your body from a standing attitude to a lowered attitude, but you are also “passing the ball” of your intention from the mental to the physical. It’s an easy place to fumble or get distracted.
Think back to the last time you were sharked by a crafty opponent. When did the sharker raise his arm suddenly to draw on a cigarette? When did he or she suddenly squirm in the player’s chair or call out to a spectator? Didn’t they make their move just as you began to move down on the shot? Why? Because in this moment of transition, most players are vulnerable.
The reason for this vulnerability is a combination of ignorance, lack of training, and the natural curiosity of the mind. Most players have not trained themselves to concentrate during this section of the shot process because they don’t know where the focus is supposed to be, which leaves the mind undisciplined and vulnerable. When you are in stroke and everything is going smooth and natural, the process works fine, but when the “wind” of competition blows unexpectedly, it knocks you off course. The only solution is to discover how to compensate – to learn the crucial focus of the transition and train your mind to hold it.
We can demonstrate this by looking at another important aspect of flying. At some point, in every flight, you have to bring the aircraft back to earth. You have to land it. To accomplish this, every airport has a particular flight pattern around it, and the last leg of this pattern is called the final. The major focus during this phase is to keep the plane directly lined up with the runway. If you veer to the left or the right, you are in danger of losing the runway.
It’s the same in pool. You set your eyes and body to the shot line during the standing address, and you keep your attention during the transition on coming directly down that shot line. You don’t want your body, and particularly your eyes, moving all over as you come down. If you do, you are in danger of “losing” the shot. There is a huge advantage in “seeing” the shot from a standing perspective, but if you lose it on the way down, then you’re starting over after you’re already on the ground, so to speak, which might be too late.
Once you commit yourself to a specific alignment that seems congruent with your mental image of making the shot, you don’t want to change anything except to bring your body directly down on to the shot. Don’t change your head and eye alignment, and don’t change your mental image on the way down. Just touch down. Enjoy Chicago.
Good luck good shootin’!