This month’s question is: What does it take to reach the next level in your game and attitude?
Well, speaking from my own experience, I can share my story. When I first saw snooker on television, I fell in love with it. I don’t know why, but all I knew was that I wanted a table. I was seven years of age. When I was twelve, I progressed to a 12-foot by 6-foot table, which is the standard size for all tables in Europe.
When I wanted to improve on an area in my game, I went to the best player to learn it. Playing with the old locals, I also learned a good safety game, because they were not great shot makers. My grandfather said to me that I would never be as good as the best player in there. I think he inspired me to do my best. It became a challenge.
I remember when I made my first 20-ball run, I ran over to my dad to tell him what I had done. He told me to concentrate on the next shot, which of course I missed, but that taught me to control myself better. One time, on my way back from a tournament, my parents told me off for taking it too easy in the finals of an event. From that day, at age 16, it became a job that I was dedicated to because I wanted to succeed. My whole attitude changed, and I realized I was going from a hobby to having to make a living. I always had the desire to do well, and I still do. The desire is to try and become the best player that you can be. Not everyone wants to make a living at it, and quite frankly, it is very tough to do so. But the game is so great because it is always challenging. It is also very rewarding when you can feel and see improvements.
The best way to reach new levels is to perfect one thing at a time. Take each part of your game apart and see where the weaknesses are and then rebuild it. I can never stress enough the need for great fundamentals. If you have flaws, they will kill you under pressure. There are millions of great players in practice but very few in a match.
The other thing in your game that needs to be good is mental toughness. Try to work on putting bad shots or results behind you and learning from the experiences. Write down the shots you missed and practice them over and over. If you keep missing them, it is time to analyze your stroke and alignment. It can be something minor that is going wrong. Give yourself some achievable goals, whether in matches or in practice drills. Start building confidence and watch good players to try and learn new things. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you like the way someone does something.