Once the physical aspects of pool (stance, grip, bridging, stroking, etc) have been learned, pool becomes mostly a mental game. The ability to focus and to concentrate fully is what separates the hackers from the professionals. I’ve seen players with a superior stroke lose to lesser players simply because the player with the superior stroke failed to properly focus on a key shot. Why do these things happen? Is it fate or destiny? Does a Higher Power reach out and knock the sense out of the player with the superior stroke? The answer lies in the mind. A lapse in concentration leads to a lack of focus on the task at hand, which leads to disaster.
Proper preparation is necessary to enable full focus and concentration. Preparation exists in a couple of different stages. There is the preparation of practice, and there’s the preparation before a shot during a match. These are two distinct states.
We use practice as a way to learn how to shoot certain shots – how to move the cue ball around the table, and how to pocket the object ball. During practice, we should constantly think about what we’re doing with the stance, grip, bridge, and stroke. We should find what works by using the process of trial and error.
Certain questions must be addressed during practice: Where do I contact the cue ball? Where is the point of contact? Where is the aiming point? How do I get the cue ball into my target area? How much force is necessary? (This is not an exhaustive list; there are other questions which need to be answered.) Stance, grip, bridge, and stroke – all of these must be a part of the solution to these questions.
The point of all this is to consciously think about the factors in making a successful shot. There should be a conscious effort to think about the ramifications of the physical stroke. The reason we think about these things during practice is so we don’t have to think about them during a match. Practice should enter shots into your mental computer’s database, to be pulled up at the right moment during a match. The practice is simply Stage One of preparation. Stage Two is the pre-shot routine.