In the last column we saw that the transition part of the shot process is a brief but crucial element. During this phase, you are moving your body from a standing posture to a lowered one, and you are moving your intention (and your attention) from the mental to the physical. It’s an easy place to fumble or be distracted because most players have not trained themselves to hold to the proper focus during this phase. Let’s look a little deeper.
On one side of the transition, you are looking at the balls on the table and mentally visualizing. You are imagining and assessing different mental pictures. You are creating these pictures and viewing them on an internal mental screen. You are comparing them to other pictures that exist in your mental catalog of shots, and you are looking for the exact image from your past that matches the envisioned outcome that you desire. You are looking for a compatible picture that tells you that your projected stroke and cueing will produce the exact outcome that you want. It’s the pool version of the famous formula: If you see this — and do that — you’ll get this.
When you recognize the shot immediately, you know exactly what to do and automatically move into position to execute. It takes only a second, and if you only confronted shot situations like this, it would be very easy to get into dead stroke. You would always know what to do and how to do it, and you would execute confidently time after time after time.
It is the shots that require you to make decisions that cause the trouble. Not because your decisions are necessarily faulty or because you can’t execute what you choose, but because the process itself has the tendency to pollute the transition phase. Thoughts and other mental activity tend to spill over into the execution part of the process.
This is a problem because the execution phase is not a mental thing. It is purely physical. All of your mental activity must take place in the standing address. Handle all mental images while standing. Deal with all concerns and doubts while standing. Make all decisions about bridge, cueing, and stroke while standing. Make all conscious adjustments while you are still on your feet.
“Acquire your target” while standing. Set your aim and move your body into position while you are still standing. Assume the same upper body structure that you want to have when you are actually down on the shot. Align your eyes and body to the shot line just like you want them to be when you finally come down on it. Once you commit to an alignment that seems congruent with your mental image of making the shot, don’t change anything. Just come directly down. Use your cue stick to keep you orientated to the shot line and keep your focus on maintaining the correct aim and hit on the object ball. Keep your head in position on the shot line and lower it like an elevator coming down a shaft. Do not allow it to veer to the left or to the right.
On one side of the transition, in other words, you are aware of the table but your attention is focused inwardly. You are essentially dealing with mental images and thoughts. On the other side of the transition, your attention is focused outwardly. You are focused on the physical aspects of the shot.
Here’s another way of looking at it. In the standing address, you are using your mind. In the execution phase, you are using your body. You get in trouble when you’re down on the shot, and your mind is still partially engaged. Please be advised – your mind is a marvelous and necessary part of you, but it can’t execute at all. Your body, on the other hand, is absolutely incredible. It can execute anything you have trained it to do, and it will respond directly to whatever mental image it receives. The only time it fails is when your mind gets in the way and mucks it up.
Work on the transition phase in your practice sessions. Train yourself to shift from the mental to the physical during this part of the shot process. Take your final, committed mental image down with you, but release it about halfway through the transition. Allow it to move to the back of your perceptual awareness, almost as if it was remaining inside the space occupied by your head when you were still standing. By the time your bridge hand hits the cloth you want to be totally in your body, completely free of all mental activity, including visualized images. Trust the instructions you gave to your nervous system with your final visualization and shift your focus to what is in front of you in the real world – the shot at hand. Trust your mind when you’re standing. Trust your body when you’re shooting. Thoughts stay standing. Body comes landing. Mind stands. Body bends.
Good luck good shootin’!