Sensory pool is about playing in the present moment and staying connected to the feel of shots– not what happens after the shot is struck or the mechanics of the stroke. This is a far more effective way to play than using mechanical stroke thoughts or thinking about the score of your match.
Most pool players I work with usually have an issue of “thinking too much” while down on the shot. They’re focused solely on the consequences: “if I make this shot then, maybe I’ll win…or if I don’t, I’m going to probably lose!” They can also be pre-occupied by what they think they should do in their stroke. Sensory pool is a good solution to this particular kind of problem.
Billiards isn’t like a lot of other sports where the ball is moving and you don’t have time to react. In fact, there’s plenty of time to plan in pool. But thinking is not usually a good thing when it is related to some sort of sports related physical movement. So what we focus on during our pre-shot routine is a key part of accessing the best mechanics for the shot we have decided to play.
During the “conscious phase” of the pre-shot routine the player’s mind needs to be switched on. Players need to decide on the angle they have, the speed the shot needs to be struck with, and the spin necessary to attain the desired position for the next shot. Players should be thinking at least 3 shots ahead.
Once a player is down on the shot, the only “thinking” that needs to be done is getting set up properly. Most professional players will aim from a standing position, then aim again and again during their practice strokes. The final aiming checkpoint is the “set position” where players take one final look to be sure their alignment matches the shot that they’re about to shoot. After this, it’s all about connecting (engaging) with the feel of the shot and focusing on that.
HOW TO PLAY SENSORY POOL
During the creative phase of the routine you will have mentally and physically rehearsed the shot. Focusing on “feel” involves imagining the feeling of the shot while over the cue ball.
Seeing the shot as vividly as possible in your mind’s eye – the cue ball and object ball’s action visualized in your mind just like a movie (outcome visualization). Seeing yourself stroke the shot and what the action looks like (process visualization).
What will the shot you’re about to shoot sound like? What sound will be made when the tip hits the cue ball and it rolls across the cloth? What will the pocket sound like when the object ball goes in?
WHY IS THIS EFFECTIVE?
Firstly, when you are imagining a sensation (feel), you’re keeping your mind free of other possible distractions. You’re immersing yourself in the process and not thinking about possible consequences. This is important when you are playing under pressure, when your mind can easily wander and create tension or doubt.
During the engagement phase, you’re giving the subconscious mind instructions using sensory pool (what it needs to do to reproduce the perfect stroke). During a fluid stroke, it’s your subconscious mind that’s the primary catalyst. You’re not thinking about how to move your arm, it’s moving naturally. Stroking without thinking (playing sensory pool) is always far better than trying to give yourself feedback during your stroke.
As part of my pre-shot routine, after I’ve made a few rehearsal strokes to finalize the shot line and pace, I “hold on” to that feeling and try to imagine it in my mind, right before I start my stroke. That’s when I know I’m ready to shoot. When most players talk about the consistency of their pre-shot routine, they are referring to the time it takes to go through the process. For me, it’s about the consistency of the “engagement.”
It’s far more important for me to feel the tip’s interaction with the cue ball before I shoot the shot, and really connect with that feeling just a few seconds before starting my stroke. Other players might prefer the visual or some combination of both. However, feel is very important to me.
During practice sessions work on developing your senses and try to find out which ones will give you the best results during match play. Make shot engagement one of your “process goals” and incorporate this into your pre-shot process.