Actress Keri Russell once said, “Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.” Over the years, you have probably made enough poor decisions to believe this is true. Why, then, do we associate our playing ability with our physical skill? It’s because our physical abilities are easier to see than our thought processes.
The best players in the world are often much more deliberate in the way that they think than amateur players. Professional players build their decision making process into their pre-shot routines. In fact, professionals are masters at separating their thought processes from the physical aspects of executing the shot at hand.
So what is the correct decision making process? The first step is to stand far enough away from the table that you can see the entire layout of balls. If you stand too close to the table it becomes impossible to see the relationship one ball has to all of the others. Standing too close to the table often impairs your ability to make good quality decisions.
The second step is to separate the actions of your conscious mind from your subconscious mind. One way to do this is by using your chalk as a triggering mechanism. Each time you approach the table you should pick up the chalk as you begin making decisions about how you will attack the layout of balls you are facing. The best way to do this is to pretend that your chalk is your brain (you must have it to think). Make it a rule that you are not allowed to make any conscious decisions or think about anything game related unless you have chalk in your hand.
With chalk in hand, you will need to answer the following four questions before you get down to shoot:
1. Which shot am I going to shoot and why?
2. What are the various position routes available for position on my next shot?
3. What speed does the shot need to be struck with to get my cue ball to the desired location?
4. What spin do I need to strike the cue ball with to execute the shot properly?
5. How could I mess this shot up? In other words, if I make a position error, am I better off sending my cue ball a little too far, or am I better off coming up a little short? Or should I not worry about position and devote 100 percent of my concentration into pocketing the ball at hand?
Once all of your decisions have been made you should place the chalk back onto the table (or put in in your pocket). This will act as a trigger to your brain that you are now ready to stop thinking and physically execute the shot subconsciously.
Once you are down on the shot, you should try not to think about the decisions that you made standing with chalk in hand. Your only job is to execute your plan of action subconsciously with the proper mechanics. If at any time you start to second-guess yourself or any part of the plan you developed, you should stand up, pick up the chalk and start the entire process over again.
Being able to stay focused, composed, and maintain a high-level of self-confidence sums up to what great pool players seek to achieve every time they approach the table. When you learn to control your thought process, you can execute the mechanical aspects of the game more precisely. And when the two work together in harmony at the correct tempo, you experience a positive, pure, and effortless performance. Players often refer to this state as “Dead Stroke.”
Article by Anthony Beeler