Going from making a few fifty breaks one night on the snooker table to making not even twenty breaks the next night can be a very frustrating experience for a keen player.
This situation usually comes down to seven things:
Dealing firstly with getting out of snooker ruts, the idea is that to get to 100 break standard you need to get out of 100 ruts (a rut simply means playing at a much lower standard than you are used to). A rut can include playing badly for weeks, or playing badly just for one frame.
The way to do this is get better at self diagnosis and self prescription. Unless we stay in position well after the shot – the worse the shot, the longer you should stay down - then we have no right to expect improvement as you cannot evaluate how you played the shot. This makes self diagnosis impossible – which is exactly what most players below 100 break standard do!
If the cue delivery was not straight, then you can work out a reason for that happening and prescribe something to yourself on the next shot.
If the cue delivery was straight, then the reason you missed is aiming, again giving you something to work on the next time you have that shot.
Sometimes, you won’t be able to self diagnose or self prescribe so have guess.
Over time, you will get better and better at self diagnosis and self prescription – just as you do with potting and positional play if you work on it.
As you do so, you will spend more time playing at your usual standard because there will be fewer and fewer reasons to not play well. This gives better consistency.
The other key tool you have for dragging yourself back up to standard is your psychology. Simply put, focus on where you want to go – DO NOT focus on:
For example, don’t say to yourself: ‘Why am I playing so bad?’
Instead say: ‘How can I play well?’
Don’t say: ‘I am playing so rubbish / I always miss that pot / I’m never going to play well’
Instead, say: ‘I want to play well and pot this ball’
Finally, we need some acceptance… realise that it is ok to play badly, to not know why you are not playing well, and to get beaten by a snooker player who is usually at a lower level than you. On December 31st each year, you could accept in advance that 10% of your games will be great, and 10% will not be great at all. You can then ignore these two extremes and focus on improving the 80% in the middle.
Six times world snooker champion Ray Reardon said to me that when he played bad he never got sucked into changing his technique on every shot (unlike some players in clubs who I am sure we all know!) – he would just stick to his method and play through it, knowing that the 10% of either extreme will not and cannot last.
You can actually use playing badly as a test of determination and commitment.
So, in advance of playing bad, you can design a game plan for what to do – and simply use it as fighting practice. These fighting qualities of giving it 100% effort, 100% per cent of the time, are also vital when you are playing well.
What we are saying is to leave the battle field having given everything.
Over time, you will gradually get better – but realise that you can never escape playing badly sometimes, even if you are a world champion.
On a practical level, the two things I check with a struggling player are:
i) Are they completing their pre shot routine properly – including planning the cue ball destination and committing 100% to their best guess of the required cue ball height and speed?
ii) Are they completing their post shot routine properly – including staying down long enough on the bad shots and OBSERVING what is happening to the balls instead of JUDGING themselves positively for good shots and negatively for bad shots? This positive or negative judgement in players takes their mind OFF the process of the shot.
So focus on the process of the shot rather than the result and commit to your method and routine no matter how well or badly you are playing.
Ignoring how well or badly you are playing are key elements in being a consistent snooker player…