HAVE YOU EVER TRIED to thread a needle? When you tried for the first time, did you notice that you could hold the thread steady until you approached the eye of the needle, and when it was almost there your hand shook and the thread missed the eye? Attempting to pour liquid into the mouth of a very small-necked bottle may often result in the same kind of shaky muscle behavior. You can hold your hand perfectly steady until you try to accomplish your purpose; then, for some strange reason, you quiver and shake and spill the liquid. In medical circles this is called “purpose tremor.” It occurs in normal people when they try too hard, or are “too careful” not to make an error in accomplishing some purpose.
In playing pool, these purpose tremors may lead to a missed ball. It may occur in a pool player if he is being excessively careful or too anxious not to miss a shot. Excessive carefulness and anxiety both have to do with too much concern for possible failure, or doing the “wrong thing,” and making too much of a conscious effort to do right.
You can avoid “dogging it” by training yourself to stop “trying” too hard or being overly-careful at the moment you deliver your stroke. You must learn to trust your stroke.
Do your best to position your body into the stance with your center of vision and cue stick on the stroking line, and have keen focus on the contact point before you begin your stroke. Now, with your body perfectly still, your eyes focused on the contact point and not a thought in your mind, freely swing your arm forward in a pendulum motion.
When you are first learning your stance, it will require much work just to get aligned properly for each shot, and may feel awkward. Yet the more you practice good form, the more natural it will become, and getting into your stance will also be like threading a needle.
You develop a trust that your body is lining up to what you are looking at, and with trust comes confidence. The trick is to keep your body still as you relaxingly and confidently throw the cue with your shooting arm.
So many times a dogged shot is accompanied by a sudden jarring of the body at the time of the forward stroke or a stroke that obviously deviates from its usual relaxed and straight path. Again, this often comes from being overly careful and anxious.
It may help to remind yourself to “trust your stroke” or that “I’m just going to move my arm” before you get down on a shot. Also, taking deep belly breaths to ease possible tension in your torso and to get more oxygen to your brain can be helpful.
Try hitting some long straight-ins and angled shots with your body perfectly still and your eyes glued to the contact point. Then move only your arm with no concern for the outcome, just detached observation to the feeling and results of the shot.
If you have a habit of moving your body on your stroke, you may not even notice it when you do move. Even if you have someone to alert you when you do move, try to develop that body awareness so you will know without someone telling you.
Even though you will be looking at the contact point on the object ball, you must focus on keeping still as you deliver your stroke with perfect trust.
Do not “try” to stroke straight, do not “try” to make the ball. Just swing your arm forward and keep your body still and see what happens. You may discover incredible powers to make difficult shots look easy, even in pressure situations.
Copyright 2006 Max Eberle