We’ve all been there: in a slump. You can’t do anything right, for weeks – or even months – your averages have been well below your standards. You try hard, but the balls seem to have a will of their own. They cling to rails, find awkward spots or cover each other to reduce your options. And what gets under your skin the most, is that you play so horribly unlucky! If there is a 61,7 mm hole, your 61,5 mm ball will creep through it, time and again. “I hit that so well, how can it miss? And how can that happen to me, three innings in a row. What are the odds? The universe is conspiring against me.”
Before we get to the process of climbing out of the ditch, a word about those bad luck misses. Just for the sake of argument: you stop at an intersection for a red light, and the first car to cross is a 1963 Jaguar E-type. The second car to cross, is also a 1963 Jaguar E-type, and so is the third. What makes more sense to you: a) you have just been witness to an insane coincidence, or b) there is a logical explanation for the presence of the three Jaguars.
Now apply that logic to your three “unbelievable” misses.
This is what you do when you are in a slump:
– You play easy points in such a way that the resulting position is horrible.
– You put balls on rails or into bad areas (the middle part of the short rail is an obvious example). And most of all:
– You fail to choose between a 3-rail and a 4-rail line, and play the “in-between” shot, which is why you find the hole. time and again. That’s where you told the ball to go!
It’s not the universe, it’s all you. You are the one hurting you. And by the way: the ball does not go through the hole every time. The ones you make are forgotten in seconds, the ones that miss stick in your mind.
Is there a way out of the slump? Yes, and it always works. It’s TIME. But naturally, we look for ways to accelerate the process. And we can.
Playing poorly for weeks or months can be a technical problem, a psychological problem, or both, in which case the first is usually caused by the second. In a worst-case scenario, they feed off each other, to create a downward spiral.
There are many ways to fix technical issues, and you must always start by locating and defining them. We’ll assume that your basics (stance & hands) are in order. If they are not: admit it! And get help.
– Watch yourself in a mirror or on video.
– Ask a better player to watch you play, and comment.
– Get inspired to improve your cueing, by watching video of a player you admire.
– In practice, focus on playing easy shots better. The difficult shots will come later, and they are not half as important anyway.
– Forget about your average in practice. Hit the ball with quality. That is your only assignment for now.
– Want to test yourself? Set up a shot of medium difficulty that needs lots of spin AND draw, make a few practice strokes so you know where your bridge hand will be. Now take two filter cigarettes (someone else’s of course, we don’t smoke) and place them upright on the cloth, one on each side of the cue, 15 cm away from the tip and 2 mm from the shaft. Hit the shot. If you make it, and the cigarettes are still standing, your technical problems are almost over.
The mind is like a hard drive, and sometimes it needs a good cleanup. If your thinking has become toxic, if your emotions at the table are mostly negative, you need to throw away lots of useless bits and bytes, and reboot your system. Getting your mind back on the right track starts with a feeling of physical well-being. Go jog in the park, or swim, like Jaspers likes to do. Spend some time in the sauna. Whatever it is that relieves stress for you, and gives you energy.
Then, there is more cleaning to be done. You need to get back in touch with the reasons you love the game. The sheer beauty of 3-cushion, the joy it is to the eye and ear, is one of those reasons for everybody.
– Vacuum the table, and take your time doing it.
– Polish the balls, until they shine like a dog’s dick in the moonlight.
– Clean your shaft, clean the rubber on your butt, wash your glove. This, I am dead serious, is not time wasted. It is an investment, and there will be a return.
– Make sure you are alone. The last thing you need when you are trying to get out of a slump, is spectators.
– And NOW you practice. Not trying to perform, not trying to achieve. You are trying to enjoy. It will not take long before a good decision and a solid hit will result in a point that puts a smile on your face. You are on the way up already.