Many players over the years have come to me staking a claim to the greatest case of the yips the world has ever seen. Very rarely, though, are they any good at demonstrating the yips! 90% of the time, there is a hidden cause in technique or thinking they are not aware of, which is where a coaching session is useful. On the assumption their technique is set up correctly and they still cannot hit the ball smoothly, then it is likely to be shot anxiety that is the cause of imperfect cueing.
A client of mine emailed this week to express concern at his ‘yips’, and I offered a couple of ideas which I have seen help others over the years….
“To get the release of the cue working to your satisfaction I would say will need a quarter of your total playing time devoted to drills that focus only on delivery.
Ultimately, if you can deliver to your satisfaction with no cue ball in the way, then the only reason the release is not to your satisfaction is that you are anxious about the result. So instead of being committed to delivering the cue on a line/height/speed combination that we have guessed as correct, we try to hedge it and ‘make sure of the pot’ by steering the cue - amongst other anomalies.
Remember – every shot is a win, but only if you have executed the line/height/speed you have guessed and committed to because you will then know if your guesswork is right or wrong. That feedback and learning is the reward you get from every shot you play – potting the ball Is simply a bonus that gets more frequent over time.
In the case above, the practice would focus mainly on escalating your exposure to this anxiety – ie practice delivering with the cue only, then with cue ball, then cue ball and easy pot, then increasing the potting difficulty. At each stage, if you notice the delivery is not smooth and controlled you have to go back to the previous step and build in or train the smooth delivery.
There are very successful youth tennis academies which train kids to swing the racquet perfectly but with no balls until they are a certain age. Only if they pass the swing quality and age threshold are they allowed to progress to striking balls.
Like an engine on a test bench, you are just trying to increase the power and speed it can withstand before it explodes (and many of us have seen videos like that on Youtube!).
You can also try changing your focus. I mentioned last week in The Snooker Gym Community on Facebook that players in your position should commit to missing 1,000 pots with a straight delivery, and staying in position after the shot, and watching the ball properly to the pocket / cushion. By the time you have missed 1,000 pots without any variables in your cueing or post shot routine, your aiming will be so good that you will wonder what all the fuss was about.
Your priorities should be ordered in the following sequence:
MOST important: Commit to, and mentally rehearse, delivering smoothly with your stated line/height/speed before you approach the table. Without this step, our delivery is just guesswork and will never be consistent.
SECOND most important: Watching the ball all the way to the pocket or cushion – especially when you miss.
THIRD most important: Delivering the cue straight.
LEAST important: Potting the ball.
PS you are wrong that you are yet to meet someone who can help you release the cue to your satisfaction… as that is the man in the mirror! What you need to find is the positive intention your body has to not releasing smoothly. EG is your body / subconscious trying to avoid failure and looking or feeling stupid, trying to make sure of the pot, correct any potential errors at the last minute? Find this positive intention, even if you have to guess what it may be, and you are half way there. One thing is for sure, the body is ‘twitching’ the cue for a reason, and it is up to us as players to find or hypothesize what the positive intention for twitching is.
If we insist on feeling that an imperfect release ‘is a bad thing and there is no reason for it to be happening’ and my experience tells me we will never move forward from where we are.
It is interesting that all your language is about ‘getting rid of the problem’ rather than ‘getting the solution’. Talk not of ‘yips’, or ‘getting rid’ of things because you cannot have enough of what you don’t want. So shift the inner dialogue from ‘Why do I always twitch?!’ to ‘How can I strike smoothly?’, and from ‘How can I get rid of the problem?’ to ‘How can I get what I want?’. This will take a lot of practice, but is the equivalent of an F1 driver looking at the gravel trap to make sure they avoid it, instead of looking ahead into the corner and where they want to go.”