Many of us have heard this line of advice from friends or fans before we play a big match or as advice from a pro in a pool magazine or book, so let’s dive right in.
First of all why do we get this line of advice? Well several things can take the place of playing the shot that you face at that point in time. You could mentally be reliving your last shot be it good or bad, or you could be anticipating your next shot be it tough or the game winning hanger.
When we are busy mentally with our previous or next shot, we are essentially playing at least two shots at a time and maybe more.
We may be feeling the emotion of the last shot and simultaneously be mentally anticipating the next shot — all while the shot that needs to be made now sits before us. It is easy to be consumed by “the run” that we are on, where the stringing together of shots feels more important that each individual shot. While the thrill of the run is indeed great, and is something to strive for, allow yourself the vacation from “the run” on each shot onto the individual island of the single shot that connects those shots that came before it with those shots that lay ahead.
After all, each shot could potentially be the last in the run you are on, or the badly played safety that costs you the match, so there is urgency to execute this shot properly now.
Each shot could also be adding to your run, or landing that great safe that wins you the match. So bear down in the moment and make each a work of art to the best of your abilities.
When you play the one shot in this manner, your future shots have a way of becoming better and better as your session goes on. The one shot at a time philosophy makes your game become like a super strong chain that can handle anything the table presents.
Yet when you allow sloppiness to creep in on a shot here or there, your game weakens and is only as strong as those shots where you do not pay attention to what you are doing.
It is ok to miss or to fail now and again, that is part of learning and part of sports. It’s in the focused effort that we forge ourselves into champions. It is in the commitment to try our best to make each shot, to try and play perfect as we can on each and every shot that will separate us from the pack.
The word try is often given a bad rap. When used in a weak sense I can see how people don’t like the word. What does try actually mean though?
Try: verb. make an attempt or effort to do something; or an effort to accomplish something; an attempt.
When I say try, I mean to make a legitimate 100% effort, not a weak halfhearted motion to possibly maybe make the shot you are playing.
To me it means try, and try hard to make that ball and get the cue ball where you want it to go. We really don’t know for sure if we will do exactly what we want, but we sure as heck can try our best to do so! Like Michael Jordan said, “I can’t accept not trying.” To me that means to try with every fiber of your being.
Another reason we must shoot one shot at a time is because there is no shot so easy that does not require our full and present attention.
If you are seriously trying to play pool at a top level, you’ll need to pocket the object ball and get that cue ball where you want it for your next shot. As easy as some shots look or seem, I want you to go out tonight and set up a super easy shot and land the cue ball on a very small target just a foot from the object ball.
How close can you land the cue ball to a pea sized target? Can you stop it directly on top of that pea, and if not, how many tries does it take?
When you realize that even easy short shots are just as difficult as all the others in which to achieve perfection, you’ll treat all the shots with the respect they deserve and you’ll begin to stay in line and run the table with more consistency than you’ve ever been used to. Playing more than one shot at a time is difficult when you treat every shot like it’s your last, or like it’s the tournament winning ball.
Raising your standards of acceptable outcomes makes boredom in practice disappear. Perfection is so difficult and time consuming that who has time to get bored when you’ve got something to handle?
Isolate a shot you want to work on in practice and then shoot it over and over until you make it just as intended with perfect shape.
This practice/work habit alone will give you a level of focus in your games that will become legendary in your playing circles. It’s tough to mess with the player who knows what he wants on the table and directs his energy into each shot in order to achieve that, or at least legitimately try.
The good part is that when you go for perfection, being very close is usually good enough to play a great game of pool and win most matches.
Immerse yourself in each and every shot… play one shot at a time.