The ability to separate what you are seeing and thinking about is a powerful skill for pool players!
The good news is that your perception and attention span are two separate brain functions. Pool players who say they can’t visualize often let their sight cloud their visualization, especially when fixating on the shot that is in front of them. If you think about scratching in the side pocket or getting hooked behind a cluster as you stare at the cue ball you ARE visualizing and you know where the cue ball often goes as a result. So it’s not an inability to visualize which is the problem but it is what you visualize!
It’s important to know that your ability to learn how and when to focus your attention is not a result of your mechanical skills but your ability to concentrate.
Your eyes and attention span are not bound together within your brain. If you’ve ever watched a movie and found yourself daydreaming, you’ll recognize this separation. Your eyes go quiet and your mind wanders. What you may perceive at the time as your inability to focus on the screen in front of you actually leverages exactly the same mental skill you can be using when trying to pocket a ball on the pool table. If you can daydream you can play pool. The critical difference being that you must direct your day dream to shoot a pool shot, not leave it to chance, then you will be focusing your attention. This mental skill is not a function of the eyes but your brain.
Pool is a challenging game. We have to look back and forth from the cue ball to the object ball in order to execute a shot.
Pool players have to look at the cue ball but maintain their attention on the object ball. Pool players also unwittingly switch their focus to the cue, body, stroke, or potential pitfalls that may interfere with successful execution of the shot. The target is nowhere to be seen. There is little point visualizing your shot before you get down to shoot it if you are thinking about something else while executing it.
It is not a coincidence that players complain of inconsistency, but how many of them actually take the time to get trained with this type of psychological skill? From our very first pool lessons on grip, alignment, stance and posture our attention is on everything but the target. It is actually possible to spend a number of years believing your technique is never good enough.
So where do you choose to focus your attention when shooting a shot? How do you achieve this focus consistently? Maybe, you think both the cue ball and object ball is the target or that it’s important to be thinking about your stroke?
Is this working for you? If you don’t have a clear answer to these questions, take the time to learn how to focus your attention in the right place, at the right time consistently when learning, practicing and playing.
I think you will discover that your pool stroke isn’t as bad as you believe it to be! When you learn how to lock your conscious mind on your target, you’ll find it can’t interfere with your stroke. To borrow from the powerful words of John 8:32 — Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
Anthony Beeler is the 2017 Pool Instructor of the Year and is a former BCAPL National 9-Ball Champion. He has numerous top 25 national finishes and is one of only 8 ACS Master Instructors in the world. He is the primary author of the National Billiards Instructors Manual and has also authored the book Unstoppable! Positive Thinking for Pool Players. Anthony currently has the highest established Fargo Rating of any Master Instructor. He has won over 300 tournaments and has defeated numerous professional players in tournament competition.