The Eyes Have It
The Bounce/Hit of Pool
I am an instructor who plays around 300 days a year. I am a student of the
game and the thought processes required for top performance. I also play a lot of
golf (single digit handicap) and tennis (B Player).
In March and April of 2001, I was playing the best pool of my life. In May, I lost
it - couldn’t run more than two balls to save my life. Regardless of my practice
efforts, I was not able to get it back.
Loss of pre-shot visualization, rhythm and focus - I was not visualizing
the shot or results prior to assuming my stance and found my eyes were looking
down at the general area of the object ball but were not zeroed in.
In the book "The Inner Game of Tennis", the author suggests a method to
help get in the zone. This technique has the player say to himself "bounce" when
the ball hits the court and “hit” when the racket makes contact with the ball. The
primary purpose of this drill is to help lose your mind so you can gain your senses.
Harvey Pennick, in his "Little Red Book of Golf Instruction", advises the
player to: "Take Dead Aim."
Mark Wilson and Wayne Hudson (fellow instructors from the Quad Cities)
have a similar saying: "When you get tired of missing - start aiming."
To incorporate the above into the bounce/hit of pool, I came up with the
following relaxed concentration drill:
- Set up straight in shot from foot spot into side pocket. (See White Belt
Zero Tolerance Stop Shot.)
- Visualize the shot in its entirety as part of the pre-shot routine.
(The more detail in the visualization the better, e.g. speed of cue ball, speed of
object ball, which part of the pocket ball is made in, does ball hit back of
pocket, path or reaction of cue ball, etc.)
- When assuming your stance, be relaxed in your set up, be aware of your
alignment and place tip precisely at point of cue ball you visualized in your
- Practice stroke one - As you draw the cue back, laser focus your eyes on
the object ball (ghost ball, point of aim or whatever aiming system you use) and
say to yourself “one”. As you bring the cue forward, let your eyes shift back to
the cue ball and confirm the precise placement of the tip on the cue ball.
- Practice stroke two - same as one for the backstroke, except you say to
yourself “two”. As you bring the cue forward, you again shift your eyes to the
cue ball and confirm its precise placement on the cue ball.
- Return your eyes with laser focus to the object ball, confirm to yourself
that the shot is on, and deliver your best stroke through the cue ball, coming to a
fluid finish. Let the shot and shooter become one. I have had best results with
no audio cue to myself on this. You may want to experiment with an audio cue such
as “three”, or “back and through”, or “smooth”, or something similar.
After 15 or 20 minutes with this shot, repeat the drill with a longer straight
in shot into a corner pocket (see Orange Belt Stroke Builder Stop Shot) with the same
relaxed concentration as the side pocket shot.
I am now back in stroke, my pre-shot routine now includes the proper
visualization required to play to the best of my ability, I have eliminated
the mental static, and I have regained my rhythm and confidence.
Note the above is a drill. Certainly in game conditions there are times
when more or less than two warm up strokes might be required to pull the trigger
(loose the arrow). Its purpose is to increase awareness and help improve
visualization, concentration and focus.