First and foremost, I’d like to apologize for any of you that really check back for updated entries to my blog. I’ve recently changed jobs and my workload has exponentially inclined more than I can explain. Suffice it to say, I’ve been a very busy old man. So, for what it’s worth, I apologize to the one or two readers who might be interested in this blog.
Secondly, I’ve been in a TERRIBLE slump lately. Everyone keeps telling me that it is in my head. I know this, I truly do. Knowing it is only a portion of the battle. Being able to pinpoint exactly what is causing the slump is the major fight. Once you can pinpoint it, then the fix should be simple.
So while I spend the next few weeks fighting an epic war with myself on figuring out what is wrong with the vast void that I call a subconscious, I’ll talk to you guys about a motto that I think applies to the majority of the sports that get played, and might or might not apply to our beloved pass-time.
This blog entry is definitely up for discussion. To fully get the benefit of my peers’ knowledge, I’m going to call on each of you that have a thought on this subject to reply so we can collectively come together with an answer.
As a player being coached and then on to coaching, a common theme always resonated from coach to coach, and that was “Practice like you play”. I personally think that this theory applies so much more to sports like basketball, football, baseball, etc., but in billiards… I’m beginning to wonder.
If you break down the theory into different aspects of the game, then I think it applies more to some aspects then to others. For instance, I was watching a really good friend practice last night before our league match. My friend is a skill level 7 and he was practicing against a skill level 5. He decided instead of walking around the table for a better shot to just try a very long range combination. Obviously it didn’t go in, and the odds of making that shot are way too high to even count. When he walked back over to me I asked him why he took that shot and he just shrugged his shoulders. I asked him if he’d have taken that shot against me and he said “No way”.
So why would you change your game play or thought process depending on who your opponent is? Did you choose that shot because you are on a practice table or because you’re playing a lower skilled player and you know you’re going to get another chance at the table?
Does effort, laziness, desire, or any other trait like that change how you practice and how you play? What if we spent the majority of our practice time TRULY bearing down and playing our best? What would our matches be like? Would they be as stressful and intense, or would we be able to manage our stress level and intensity much better because we “practice like we play”?
How “Practice like you play” applies to billiards
I think that the theory applies much more to your mechanics and fundamentals then to your strategy. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I think you need to practice like you play when it comes to strategy, but I think the scale leans more towards mechanics and fundamentals then it does to who you are playing against and how and when you play offense, defense, etc.
I think that your practice time should include at least 3 – 4 racks of nothing but stroke drills instead of just playing for “funsies”. You must perfect your stroke so much that it becomes second nature during a match. I have always been a proponent of video during practice. If you have a means of recording your shots and stroke, you will be able to critique your shot enough to perfect it. You’ve seen thousands of professional players shoot, try to pinpoint one and mimic him/her.
I for one really enjoy watching Emily Duddy play. Ok… She’s absolutely beautiful, but that’s beside the point. If you watch her stroke, her form, her fundamental mechanics… there’s nothing more beautiful than how she shoots billiards. Her lines are almost perfectly straight, which in turn makes her shot perfectly straight. Look her up on Youtube. You’ll enjoy not only her beauty, but her form. Trust me.
When I video myself playing, the first thing I notice is how unconventional my shot and stance is, but when I’m down on my shot it seems like I’m straight as an arrow. It’s one of the things that I’ve been trying to fix for a LONG time.
Working on your technique is very important during practice time. Instead of going to the local pool hall and rounding up a few buddies for some “funsies” pool, try going alone and working on your technique. If you have the ability to video yourself playing, DO IT. I guarantee you will see something that surprises you. I’ve been doing it for a while now and I still can’t believe just how far back my bridge hand is on almost EVERY shot.
Now… if I can just figure out a way to get out of my slump…