Moving Beyond Mechanics

I’ve been working very diligently over the last year and a half focusing primarily on fundamentals; the mechanics of the game.  Stance.  Bridge.  Grip.  Aiming. Stroke.  Most of my drills and practice sessions have been designed with one goal in mind: a relentless pursuit of the elimination of variation.  In my humble opinion, the key to pocket billiards is in reducing variation…being able to reproduce the same action (or shot) over and over and over again, and have the motions so hard wired that you don’t even have to think about it.  For example, here are some of the things I’ve been working on in the last year and a half: A super solid bridge with at least 3 points touching the table surface; my right forearm hanging directly beneath my elbow; my wrist completely straight and aligned with my forearm; having a balanced stance – back leg straight – front leg slightly bent; holding the cue with just my first finger and part of my thumb, kind of like holding a tea cup by the handle.  This list goes on and on.

If you have been following my blog for some time, you will notice that haven’t posted much lately.  The primary reason I haven’t posted is because I have this fear… a fear (knock on wood) that I will jinx my game by telling you what’s been happening.  I still have some reservations about saying this, but over the last two or three weeks, something has definitely changed in my game…for the good.  To put it simply, I’m just not missing that many shots any more.  I don’t really know why or what has changed.  I know this is going to sound conceited, but in the last few days I’ve been shooting so well that I know if I can see a shot, I’m going to make it.  Yeah, I told you…sounded conceited didn’t it?  It IS really weird.  I was playing a match last night in a local straight pool league, and almost all of my shots went in, regardless of distance or angle.  The only reason I didn’t string together any super long runs is because I’m just learning the game and I suck at figuring out the rack to rack transition shots.  But that will come with experience, right?  I have noticed one thing though: when I get into my stance and get ready to shoot a shot, the world around me “changes”.  What do I mean by that?  It’s hard to explain.  When I’m focusing on the shot, it’s like my perception of reality is different.  Kind of like a form of tunnel vision where everything in my field of vision greys out (except for the actual shot) and the ambient noise in the room fades away and becomes silent and irrelevant.  Freaky!

I guess the conclusion that I’ve reached is that I’ve gotten my fundamentals locked down sufficiently that I can now focus on a different aspect of my game.  Instead of thinking and drilling on mechanics, I’m now going to focus on strategies and gamesmanship.  The impact of this on my practice sessions will be immense.  No more hours upon hours of monotonous shot making.  I think I have the mechanics down.  I’m now going to be focusing on practice drills and games that develop the cerebral part of my game.  I’ll be playing a lot more straight pool (14.1), one pocket, and 3 cushion billiards in the coming weeks.  I’ll also be matching up with some of the best players in the area that I can find.  More on this later.

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13 responses to “Moving Beyond Mechanics

  1. Sounds like all your hard work is paying off. I am still catch myself thinking while shooting a lot and still dealing with nerves (even on routine shots). I would love to get into a straight pool league but don’t know of any around here, any suggestions?

    Good article

    • Hi John, if you don’t have a straight pool league in your area, just dedicate some time to practice a game called Equal Offense. You can Google it or read about it under my “Practice Games” tab. This practice game will allow you to work on the offensive portion of the straight pool game; however, it doesn’t cover safety play. It’s still a great way to practice. Regarding getting nervous on shots, that’s natural and is to be expected. One way to help overcome the nerves is to put yourself under pressure situations during practice so that you get used to it. For example, set up a certain shot that’s giving you trouble and demand of yourself to make it 8 times out of 10 (or whatever makes sense to you). If you miss one early, it really puts pressure on you. Just a thought. Thanks for the comment!

  2. that should say catching… fire the editor

  3. Hi Michael,

    I’m not a pool player but I enjoy your website very much. I’m also a big fan and Daniel Coyle and the 3 principles he listed in his book (ignition, deep practice and world class coaching). What’s your take re world class coaching in your pool odyssey?

  4. Hi Ray. My take? I wish I had it! 😉
    I don’t really have this, but to make up for it, I do the following:
    1. I study the game (books, DVDs, watching live players); analyze it, think about it, tear it down, study each piece individually, work on it, then reconstruct it.
    2. I occasionally get lessons from a pro, semi-pro, or just a really good local player that I run into. Some advice that I get I ignore because I know it’s wrong (because I understand the underlying physics), some advice I find useful so I keep it. Regardless, I’ve found that I almost always learn something from everyone that I speak to. My task is to separate the wheat from the chaff, adopt what works for me, and throw out the rest.
    3. In short, using #1 and #2 above, I know that EVENTUALLY I’ll get to the level that I want; however, the path would be much quicker if I had world class 1:1 coaching. There really is no substitute for the knowledgeable and direct feedback.
    Thanks for the comment and I’m glad that you enjoy my blog. I’m also a big fan of Daniel and the concepts that he writes about.

  5. You know it was your visit to Vegas…!

  6. Oi, love your blog and i am not even a pool player however i am doing something simalar with Poker, when u get a chance take a goggle at this book i am sure it will take u to the next level “finding your Zone” Michael Lardon, MD.

    • Thanks for the book recommendation – I will check it out. Also, thanks for the comment and for reading my blog. Good luck with your development as a poker player!

  7. Yeah, the funny thing is that once you get deep enough into your own stroke, it becomes more and more difficult to describe. Every word and phrase seems off the mark somehow.

  8. I get exactly what you are saying. Sometimes once in a blue moon I get this “tunnel vision” too. Everything gets really quiet. I asked my buddy if people were getting quiet when I was shooting or something, he said they were carrying on like normal. It is really freaky indeed, but dang is it fun shooting when you are shooting like that. The background just goes away and it’s you and the balls on the table.

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