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P O O L    S H O O T E R

The Adventures of FastMikie
in search of Truth and Beauty in the art of pocket billiards.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

FastMikie teaches - Lesson One

Recently, a player asked me for help with his game. That caught me off guard because I have had the self-image of being a Student for the last 5 years. I was surprised that someone would think that I might be able to Teach something of value. But, hey, I've learned some good stuff from all the great player/teachers I've had... and I like to help. I'm a Giver, so I said OK, we'll take it one step at a time... let me see you shoot, and if there's something I think might be able to help, I'll let you know. So I watched him shoot some balls for a rack or two, and here's how the session went:

He was shooting fast and too hard, and missed a few shots, which seemed to get him shooting faster, and so it went until I stopped him to ask why he's nervous.

Of course it was because I was watching...

And so began Lesson One.

The game is only a little bit Physical, and a lot Mental.

The Physical game consists almost entirely with what happens when you hit the ball, at what speed, angle, spin, and stroke. Physical also includes equipment, and personal conditioning, the ability to endure long hours of competition and still stay sharp. The Physical game is, at the most, about 20% of what must be learned and perfected for success at a high level. Optimum results can be achieved if we focus on the 80% of the game. Therefore, we never discussed any of the Physical aspects of the game.

The Mental game consists of virtually everything else, including Focus, Concentration, Relaxation, Self Image, Self Talk, Strategy, Rules, Pre-shot routine, match preparation, etc. Here are the Mental things we discussed.

  • Relax. Stress causes all sorts of problems, and solves very few. You are either in control, or out of control. Control your physical state and you will perform better. Relax by controlling your breathing, and by slowing down your actions. Walk around the table to help relax. It gives you time to breathe, and pays a dividend of better perspectives on your next shot, and position for the one after it, and the next, etc. Consistent pre-shot routine will help condition your mind, and establish the rhythm which builds confidence.
  • Focus. There is no world other than what is on the table, there is never anyone watching, never any TV or other player, or spectators, or any other thing whatsoever. There is only the table, the balls on it, and especially the shot at hand. If some element of your environment breaks into your focus, (pretty girl, spectator talking, obnoxious drunk, TV too loud, etc), then you need to get back into focus before you shoot. If you think that some distraction is bothering you, then you give yourself permission to fail, and you can not win with that attitude. Do not interact with your opponent in any way. Show no emotion, no reaction to either good or bad shots.
  • Positive Self Image. When you are playing, you are not a "C" (or whatever) player anymore, you are not "in a slump", you are not "trying to figure out what is wrong". You must become your favorite pro player! Move like that player, chalk like that player. Use the same number of warm-up strokes. When your opponent is shooting, and you are in the chair, then sit in your chair the way your favorite pro player sits in their chair.
  • Positive Self Talk. Speak to yourself only in positives. The student du jour missed a cut on a 4-ball, and said to me: "That's the angle I have trouble with, I almost always miss that shot." And of course, when you tell yourself such a thing enough times, and especially before you shoot at it, you are giving yourself permission to miss, permission to lose. So there is only one thing to say to yourself when faced with such a shot: "I love this shot! I love having this opportunity to play better than ever, an opportunity to make the shot, an opportunity to learn..." I reminded him of the words of Henry Ford:"If you think you can, or if you think you can't... you're right!"
  • Simplify: 1. Limit cue ball travel. The farther it must go, the more it can go wrong. 2. Don't play for position if you already have it. This is a common costly mistake. 3. Take care of your trouble situations early. (clusters, railshots, loners, etc.). 4. Play 3 balls ahead. So you can set up the right angles.
Consider these 3 elements to success in this game:
  • Study. This involves assuming the spirit of the Student, and to seek out all possible knowledge which will help your game. This includes learning from teachers, reading, videos, etc.
  • Practice. Long hours of focused practice must be done in order to build the eye/hand coordination and muscle memory and to develop a personal style and rhythm and to confirm what is discovered by Study. Practice must consist of drills which test the skills and offer a way to quantify results. Records must be kept to demonstrate improvement. This builds confidence.
  • Competition. Only competition provides the opportunity to put it all together. It gives you the reward for Study and Practice. You will learn what truly works, and what doesn't, and what you need to Study and Practice.
On the nature of the student/teacher relationship:
  • Take notes. A student shows readiness to learn by carrying a pen and paper. It is an affront to the teacher for a student to appear without a pen and paper. Notes must be taken to be sure you remember what you need to Practice. If a student shows up the first time without pen and paper, I will give them a pen and some paper. If they do not take notes, I will tell them what notes to write. If notes are not taken, there will be no further lessons. Likewise, if lessons are not practiced, there will be no further lessons. The reward for the teacher is that the student demonstrates that the lessons are learned. Behavior must be modified for success.
  • One of my favorite quotes is: The danger of communication is the illusion it has been achieved. It would be easy for a Teacher to think that he has actually taught something, that the student has actually benefited from the teaching. It would be easy for the student to think that he has actually learned something that has been taught. In the great majority of student/teacher situations, both people are under the ILLUSION that the communication has been achieved. The fact is that the great majority of student/teacher situations are a waste of time, because of one simple fact: most students don't do the work needed to benefit from the lesson.In the words of Paramahansa Yogananda: "The results can not be achieved unless the experiment is made." There are very few students who want the result enough to do the work.


Blogger Ted said...

HI Mike very well said, the best I have read .

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 12:09:00 AM  

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