Practice

Written by Mark Finkelstein

This week I want to look at something that underlies our game. Actually, there are two things here. The first is your mindset towards your pool game, and the next idea is your practice routine. In fact, they are both related.

I'm reading a great book by Carol Dweck, PhD. She wrote "Mindsets", and in this book, she examines the effects on people of having a "fixed" mindset rather than a "growth" mindset. People with a fixed mindset believe that people are born with talent, people with a growth mindset believe that you can work hard and become talented. The book is well worth the read.

So what does this have to do with your pool game? Well, Do you think of yourself as a talented pool player? That is a tough question. My guess is that you don't see yourself as talented as some of the greats in the game. But you probably see yourself as a good pool player? Part of Carol Dweck's idea is that if you see yourself as talented or good, you will try to avoid threats to that self image. We can hear that in the excuses "good" players make -- it was humid, the table was off etc etc. We are protecting our "status"

On the other hand, growth mindset players love challenges. Mistakes are welcomed as a great learning experience. Misses are a chance to correct errors in stroke or perception. Growth oriented players love challenges and see all losses as opportunities to learn. At a tournament the fixed mindset players look over the chart hoping they don't have to play so and so. The growth mindset players can't wait to play the best player in the tournament.

Which player are you? If missing shots makes you mad rather than excited or curious, you might be missing out on a new path to pool excellence.

Let's look at how we can practice this mindset in our practice session. Most of you probably throw balls out on the table, and try to run them. When you get out of line or miss, you either say to yourself, "I would have made that in a game", or you move the cue ball a little to have a shot ("that bad roll wouldn't happen in a game). You are protecting yourself and your self image as a good pool player.

What I want you to think about is that when you miss, you just got some great feedback. Now right there, reset that shot and shoot it ten times or so until you own it. You just learned a valuable lesson. The next step is how you cement that knowledge in your pool brain. Use a drill, or design a drill to help you practice that shot or position the next time you play. I guarantee you that if you follow this approach, your practice sessions will be more productive and you will see results in your games.

The mindset that is the most productive to sports excellence is working to improve a little every day. Hard work on the skills of pool, straight stroking, speed control, shot making, safety play etc, over the long haul will make you into a talented player. Every great player worked their way to greatness.

Here is a shot I missed in a tournament a few years back. The score was hill hill in a race to 9. I was on the table and had the victory in sight.


Figure 1

My position from the 7 ball rolled a little long and I got stuck on the rail. I tried to do a little too much and missed the 8 ball. My opponent made me pay for those errors and ran out to win the set and knock me into the loser's bracket.

I was disappointed, but glad I learned something. Here are the drills I designed for myself based on this game situation error:


Figure 2

Every day for about a year, I played the 8 and put the cue ball on the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I worked on this shot for a whole year!

I also practiced running racks of 9 ball, but moving the cue ball to the rail on every shot.

Now when I play in a game and come one rail off a shot, I hope my opponent is thinking how talented I am. I'm not. I just worked really hard at developing that skill.

If you believe in talent, you won't spend the time doing that work because you don't have it. If you believe in work, like I do, you will spend your practice time doing that work, and developing the talent.

See you on the road ( and the practice table)!

About The Author: Mark Finkelstein is a professional pool player, a BCA Master instructor, an American Cue Sports (ACS) level 4 instructor, and house pro at Slate Plus in New York. Mark can be reached via phone at 347-545-1916, email at nycpool<at_char>gmail<dot_char>com or thru his website at www.mfpool.com.

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Author Info - Mark Finkelstein