Over the last ten issues, this column has been devoted to an in-depth look into the shot process. Since we essentially finished in the last issue, let’s use this month for an overview.
In the beginning, I defined the shot process as the steps you go through after committing to a specific shot. I asserted that there were four major sections: the standing address, the transition, the set-up, and the delivery. The standing address began the moment you committed to a shot and included how you aligned your body and visualized the shot. The transition began when you completed the standing address and ended when your bridge hand touched the cloth. The set-up included everything you did to prepare yourself down on the shot, and the delivery included the final backstroke and ended with watching the object ball and the cueball go to their targets.
By the time we got to the last couple of columns, however, my understanding evolved, and I realized there was so much going on in the delivery that it was best to look at it as two separate sections. The execution, then, includes the final back and forward stroke, and the stay down lasts from there until you start to rise up. Let’s look at each phase of the shot process in terms of the three most important points and how to tell when to move on.
The most important thing in the standing address is to create a vivid mental image of what you want your body to do. You must “see” the shot without confusion or doubt. The second is to stand in proper alignment so your eyes are positioned over the imaged path of the cueball to the object ball—just where you want them to be when you get down. The third most important thing is to allow your mind to move into the present. You must be free of “thinking” before you move into the next section, and the key is to leave the mental preparation behind. If you still have thoughts, doubts, or concerns, let them subside before moving forward.
The transition takes you down and into the shot, and the most important thing is to stay focused. It’s easy to get distracted here, and you can avoid this by keeping your attention on your senses. Keep your eyes focused on the ferrule, or the cueball, or whatever is natural for you. The next most important thing is to stay on the shot line and come directly down. The third is to allow your body to adjust so that your upper torso is in the proper alignment to shoot before you touch down. You are through the transition when your bridge hand is on the cloth and your weight shifts slightly to the back.
The third phase of the shot process is the set-up. It is where you settle into your stance; address the cueball; refine your aim; confirm your stroke; and set the balance, feel, and timing of your anticipated execution stroke.
That’s a lot of activity, but if you did the first two sections properly, it all flows naturally. The most important thing is to let your body execute. If the thinking mind creeps back into the picture, you’re in trouble, so stay in the present by staying with your senses. The second most important thing is to trust your nervous system to do what you trained it to do. The third is to set the timing of your stroke by anticipating the contact of the cue tip to the cueball. When your nervous system tells you it’s ready, move on.
The execution starts with the final backstroke and ends with the completion of the delivery stroke. The most important thing is to let it happen naturally. You can work on it in training, but if you try to control it during competition, you will seriously handicap yourself. The second most important thing is to stay focused on what you are doing. Watch it happen as it unfolds. The third thing is to keep your stroke level, and that includes the final backstroke too. You’ll know it’s over when the ferrule comes to a natural stop, neither over-extended nor shortened by conscious control.
The stay down is the frosting on the cake. It is where you learn to play better. The most important thing is an attitude—to be willing to accept the outcome, as it happens, no matter what. The second most important thing is to watch the ball go in the hole—from a “down” perspective. The last of the three is to give your self a proper feedback of the outcome. A little inner joy to acknowledge a successful shot is probably not out of line. Some sports psychologists even recommend an emphatic, internal “Yes!” If the shot goes awry, however, a detached and unemotional observation will keep your mental composure at a high and effective level. Good luck good shootin’!