This month's Pool Synergy is hosted by John Biddle. The topic is about practice - what works for me.
Practicing trick shots isn't always about setting up the same shot and hitting it over and over again until it goes in (and making sure the camera is rolling when it does!). In fact, it involves certain principles that can carry over to your typical pool games. I'm going to write about two things that have helped me practice more effectively: focus and relaxation.
When I was practicing for the 2010 Ultimate Trick Shot Championship, I knew I only had a couple hours each day to practice. Instead of trying to practice everything I wanted to each day, I broke it down and focused on certain skills each day. For trick shots, this broke down into something like one-handed jump shots, one-handed multi-cue jump shots, masse shots, stroke shots, fouette shots, backward jumps, contortion jumps, speed shots, and juggling shots. I would cycle through these as my practiced progressed and build up a base skill level for each one. For typical pool skills, this could include straight in shots, shooting off the rail, stop shots from different distances, and so on. It was faster learning by dedicating larger amounts of time to certain things rather than doing everything for a little amount of time.
Another thing that has worked well for me is knowing when to take a break. It's certainly frustrating when you're trying to get better but you're obviously not. While there's much to be said for perseverance, you also need to know when you reach the point of diminishing returns. I've given myself headaches, literally, trying certain shots or skills for hours on end. Now, when I feel myself reaching that point, I turn to something else. Usually I'll turn to straight pool or speed pool to break the monotony. It takes the mind off whatever was going wrong and speed pool, at least, gets the heart pumping again. But sitting down for a few minutes or taking a quick stroll outside can accomplish the same effect.
Hope these tips can help you as much as they helped me. Keep a narrow focus while you're at the table, and know when to let off when things get too intense. Let me know if they work or don't work for you (and perhaps why). Happy shooting!