This week in The Snooker Gym Community, we had a client who wanted to know how to escape from the agony of playing rubbish… so I thought you may be interested in my answers.
I cover some ideas on what do if playing on your own, if playing a game, as well as the philosophy of our playing standard. My reply is below:
First of all, I am not sure we are ever can 'not pot a ball' for an extended period as that will be quite an achievement!
If 'playing rubbish' on our own then just spontaneously hitting (or even smashing!) balls around for five minutes is a good option and can blow the cobwebs out from your game.
I got this idea from Tim Gallwey's awesome books 'The Inner Game Of' Golf / Tennis / Skiing / Music / Work, where he coined the term 'fun-o' for this drill.
You can perform this with the idea that you do not intend to pot ANY ball in this five minute period, as you will be playing with the following fun guidelines:
1. The wrong / more difficult shot of those available to you.
2. Playing the first exhibition shot that comes into your head.
3. No pre or post shot routine.
4. Using a deliberately terrible technique or cue action.
5. Excess / maximum side spin.
6. Excess / maximum power.
7. Playing too slowly that the ball does not even reach the pocket (this way, we cannot actually miss!)
Any ball you pot is a bonus, but more than this is the therapeutic effect of just letting your hair down and viewing the game as fun rather than a target we cannot reach.
In a game, however, fun-o is not the ideal strategy! Instead, just focus on delivering the cue straight above all else for three shots in a row and then if you do that do another three. Even if you miss 99 shots in a row (which is impossible if you cue straight!) then the target is to keep focusing on delivering the cue straight.
As a reference for this, just stay down on the shot one second longer than normal and notice if the grip hand is finishing or not finishing in the correct part of your chest for a straight delivery.
Think of this as less a snooker challenge, and more a challenge to the ego: Are we able to persuade our ego to drop the expectation of potting and replace it with the sole intention of delivering the cue straight even if you do not know whether you will pot the ball or not?
Sometimes, neither of the above will work and we will still choose to hold onto our expectations and frustration in the game. In this case, there are three thoughts I like to share with players:
Firstly, to ignore the best 20% and also worst 20% of our performances and focus on making the middle 60% more consistent. Easier said than done, but I see players get equally destabilised when playing badly as when they play well... and start dropping the good habits that got them playing well in the first place!
Secondly, that learning how to get out of playing badly (or a 'rut') is a vital snooker skill in and of itself. If someone tells me that they want to make a 100 break, I will often tell them that they need to have gotten out of 100 ruts before they are eligible for the ton. By that time, the average length of time in a rut will be ten time less than it was when escaping your first ten ruts. Ideally, we want to aim to get out of a rut by the end of the frame we are in... but even with the top players this is not always possible.
Which leads us to the third and final point: Every snooker player is not seeking perfection - they are only seeking to miss better and reduce the size of their mistakes. The game cannot and will not ever be mastered, and even Ronnie O'Sullivan when playing at his best makes tiny errors that we cannot often see... this humbling fact should join us all in humble respect for our great Mount Everest of a game!
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