Routine Shots

5

We all love great, young players. They’re exciting and aggressive and fearless.

They’re also reckless. They approach even the most difficult shot as unmissable. And in doing so, they will make mistakes by not playing the highest percentage shots.

I know whereof I speak. I was one of these players when I was younger. Being young and fearless and stubborn, it took me quite a while to adjust and learn how to be a smarter player.

One of the first things young players notice is that there are players who they don’t think are as good as them finishing higher than them at events. It’s a sobering thing when you see that happen over and over. It becomes apparent that you may be a hot shot, but maybe you’re not playing the game the way it should be played if you want to be successful.

Once I started teaching, players continually told me that they play great one day and can’t win a game the next. Reckless players will occasionally have a day in which all the stars align. But they lack the consistency to play at that level again and again. I tell them that one of the reasons pro players win so consistently is that they adopt a routine that assures that their shot is always the right shot. Of course, even then you aren’t going to make every shot. But at least you know you played the highest percentage shot available.

I teach a rule called “The Honesty Rule.” It forces you to be honest with yourself. You’re the best person to enforce that rule because nobody knows your true ability better than you. When I look over a shot I ask, “If I had to shoot this shot 10 times in a row, how many times would I make it?” Then I ask myself, “If I played this particular safety here 10 times, how many times would I leave my opponent safe?” I always go with the higher percentage option.

Routine becomes a big part of your game in many ways. Your physical pre-shot routine becomes important. And so does your mental pre-shot routine. If you make this routine habit on every shot, you’ll be ahead of the game. This way you don’t rush a shot or rush to judgment on how a particular shot might be played. Younger players are always in a rush. They’re so eager to take the shot that they don’t see the options or evaluate the percentages. Ego, of course, is a big part of that. And at some point, you have to check your ego at the door and stop to look at the table.

It’s not easy. I almost quit the game years ago because I had a coach who sat there and insisted that I go through the same pre-shot routine before every single shot. To me, it made the game boring. But over time it became second nature. Now I can’t shoot until I’ve gone through the entire routine.

Create a routine for yourself that includes extra time to see all the options and weigh the percentages.

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