IN THE time you take between shots, you want to focus entirely on the shot that's in front of you. Here are three tips to help get your mind (and body) in line with the task at hand:
1. Stick to the Plan. The key to approaching a shot effectively is to make up your mind. Some players will say to themselves, "I'm going to hit this shot with high, right English at medium speed." But as soon as they get down on the shot, the plan for high, right with medium speed goes right out the window. They might think, "What if it's high, left? What if it's a harder or softer hit?" If you question yourself at this point, you are sabotaging the shot because you aren't trusting your abilities.
You have to say to yourself, "Hey, even if this shot doesn't go where I want it to go, I'm going to hit it here. If I don't get the result I'm looking for, I'm going to make the adjustments." You need to learn how to build that trust.
In fact, at least at this point, you will need to learn to accept the possibility of failure. If you make up your mind and miss, you will have an easier time making the appropriate adjustments. But if you switch plans while you're down on a shot, you will have a difficult time discovering what exactly went wrong. Was it your plan? Was it your execution? Were you unsure what you were trying to do?
2. Take Your Time. Make sure you step into the shot. Don't approach it from the side, as you move from your last shot directly into place for the one in front of you. Fight the tendency to go into "quick mode," where you are shooting a little faster because you are comfortable with your stroke and you're making balls. When you are quickly moving from one shot to the next, you may forget to step straight into your stance.
If you step back and line up your body with the shot, you'll avoid the tendency to have any side-to-side faults as you're stroking the ball. The thing is, if you don't line up with a shot, your body has a tendency to overcompensate, especially if you're stroking the ball with power.
3. Find a Rhythm. One of my former coaches told me to always pick up the chalk. On every single shot, chalk up for five or 10 seconds. If you think about it, those few seconds are a great way to slow down. You can reset your focus on the shot in front of you, instead of thinking about what just happened. And of course, chalking up will help you avoid unnecessary miscues.
(Check out Tony's latest endeavor, the National Amateur Pool League at www.napleague.com.)
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