It is one thing to miss a shot, but you need to find out why.
There is a big difference between a reason and an excuse for missing shots. When the balls don’t drop, you need to find out why. The why will usually fall into three different categories:
Category 1 – Physical Error
Physical errors are caused by weaknesses and deficiencies with your fundamentals—your stroke, your stance, your sighting, etc. Many beginners don’t realize when they are popping up out of their stance or when they are taking their eye off of the ball. Usually, minor adjustments and fine tuning with your stance, head alignment, and stroke could alleviate some of those problems.
Never forget that the game of pool relies upon perfect application of the basic fundamentals in much the same way a chain depends upon the strength of its links. Weaken one link, and the chain becomes useless.
Category 2 – Mental Error
Mental errors are evident when you are taken completely out of your normal shooting rhythm and either over-think or talk yourself out of certain shots. There is no quick fix for mental errors. Remember that confidence is the prerequisite to consistency.
If you believe that you will make the shot, you have a better chance of having the ball drop in the pocket. If you tell yourself that it won’t go, chances are that it won’t. This goes back to self-talk—that conversation that is going on in your head while you are shooting.
If you listen to the negative—your outcome will be all negative. If you decide to listen to that little voice that tells you that you can and will make the shot, good things will happen. It is like listening to the radio. It all depends what station you tune into. If you hear that negative stuff creeping in, take the time to start over. Walk away from the table. Change the channel and begin your evalu- ation of the shot, your approach, and your pre-shot routine all over again.
Category 3 – Tactical Error
Many players get themselves into tough situations because of tactical errors committed earlier in the rack. Usually, a tactical error will have a snowball effect as you proceed through the rack. If you miss position on the 7 ball, you will have to overcompensate to make it and you may still be out of line on the 8 ball. If you miss the 8 ball, it is a good idea to look back and see how you got yourself into that position in the first place.
Reading the rack is just as important as running the rack. Planning then executing eliminates that “I don’t know where I’m going but I’m getting there fast” brand of 9 ball that you can see every day in the local pool hall. Unless you figure out which of the three categories your misses fall into, you’ll always be running east looking for a sunset.
Never underestimate the effectiveness of organized, goal-oriented practice. Practices should be centered around accomplishing short term goals and turning any weakness into a strength. The more organized your practices are, the more organized you will be when you are in competition.
If you simply toss the balls on the table with little or no purpose or goal in my mind, you will not improve very much. However, if you take the time to evaluate these three areas of your game on a constant basis, you will be able to identify and attack the parts of your game that are holding you back by focusing your practices on specific deficiencies instead of merely putting in your time, or merely banging balls around.
Photo: Tim DeVore/846 Studios Editor: Dana Gornall