You can be the best player in the world, the best player in your town or even simply the best player on your league team. Once you reach a high level of proficiency, you are going to have a letdown. The telltale signs are slips in your work ethic and taking things for granted at the table.
Thatís the dangerous things about playing the best pool of your life; you put in so much work to get to that point, and once you reach a high level, you make the assumption that you are now going to continue at that level, regardless of changes in your work ethic and focus at the table. Players get into a comfort zone. It happens all the time. Next thing you know, you canít make two balls in a row and you donít understand why.
Luckily, there are simple answers and remedies. The most common problems are a drop off in practice and competition. Think it is any coincidence that Shane Van Boening stays on top? He has never eased up on the amount of serious practice he puts into his game, and he plays in as many tournaments as he physically can year in and year out. He knows that if he took several months away from the game, his playing level would drop noticeably.
Of course, that is why it is harder to stay at the top than it is to get there. Your drive during your rise to the top is unstoppable. But you are driving toward a goal. Once you reach that goal it is difficult to maintain the dedication and commitment you made on the way up.
Not surprisingly, fundamentals are key to maintaining a high level of play over a longer period of time. Even great players can get nonchalant at the table, and when the balls stop dropping, their subconscious mind goes into panic mode. Their focus shifts from technique to the outcome of the shot. That is when players start jumping up on shots, twist their wrists, try to steer the ball and grip their cue too tight.
I have a drill that helps get my mind and body back in synch. I throw 15 balls on the table and focus on two things: I make certain I follow through on every single shot; and I stay down on the shot until all balls have come to a complete stop, no matter what the outcome of the shot is.
After practicing with a couple of racks like that, I get back in a groove pretty quickly.
If you come to me and tell me you are getting out of stroke, Iíll check your fundamentals. Iíll see if your stroke is timid at all. Iíll ask about your thought process. When you are shooting, forget about the outcome and focus solely on your technique; grip your cue lightly, follow through on a straight line and stay down until the balls stop rolling.