I've recently started to submit some of our articles to online article ezines and the like. Here is the first of what I hope will be a long series of coaching articles. I've posted something similar before I believe but couldn't find it - this is now the finished article!
The following article was a response to a one2one coaching support request received at MaXimumbreak.com from a player who asked the question "Why is that every time when I'm about to make the shot I tend to change my cueing action to contact the object ball - it feels like I'm being negative about the game?"
I've decided to keep the majority of the answer within the article below because I expect that this a common question that many snooker players would like hear some advice about.
A good, solid cue action stems from confidence. If you aren't confident then it means that you may be thinking negatively about the game and your own ability. It is important that you try and enjoy yourself each time you play - don't worry about not playing well and missing balls because this all creates negative signals to your brain that can affect your whole game. I would suggest you take things back to basics and attempt to work on a pre-shot routine.
Okay...here's a couple of tips that should help you to resolve your problem...my answer is drawn from both a psychological and physical perspective.
Take a look at the very best snooker players and you'll see that they have some thing (amongst many other things of course) in common....this is that they stay very still on the shot. Now, what we must consider is that these players may once have been at the same level that you are now so they have developed, through practice, methods to help them to improve their technique. So, what you should bear in mind is that your own objective should also be to improve your 'stillness' and, from a psychological perspective you can do this by developing your concentration.
A simple way to improve your concentration is to give your brain something to think about - okay sounds strange but here's what I suggest you could do:
Now as I mentioned above, keeping still on the shot, is just one of many facets that make a good snooker player. As part of my coaching practice I like to go 'back to basics' and in doing this, I think that we could develop a new approach and mental plan, which will make up your pre-shot routine. Please bear with me as the first part of this exercise is related to the routine itself - you'll see how you're original question is covered as you read on.
First, decide on the shot you want to perform. Think about the way you want to play the shot in terms of cue power, side/english applied, position for the next ball - all of these factors give you your first sense of wanting to achieve - you are programming your brain to imagine yourself playing the shot in your mind.
Next, you stand behind the shot and take a deep breath before entering into the shot...remember the basics of a good stance (for right handers) - lead in with the right foot aiming down the line of the shot, then swing your left leg into position as you bend down to the table - the left leg will bend at the knee to allow you to get into the correct position, which is one that feels comfortable. Ensure you have your weight into the table (I like to call it 'attacking the table'). Bear in mind that you only have enough weight into the table so that if the table were taken away then you would expect to fall to the ground - if you haven't enough weight into the table then you'd be able to simply stand up without falling forward. At this point there is nothing wrong with shuffling your feet to get into a position that is most comfortable for you.
Okay, step three is where you original question comes in. What I suggest is that you should pick two points down the line of your cue that will act as a sight - similar to the sight of a gun. Again, what this does is programs your brain into doing something as you are calling it into action by concentrating on looking for the sight lines. A good example of a sight is two points on the feathers of your cue. To add to this little exercise, ensure that your chin is touching the cue - not pressing hard against it but just resting gently on the cue so that it does not impinge the cue as you swing.
So to quickly summarise, you know what shot you want to play; you're in the correct position for playing the shot and you're concentrating on sighting the cue properly and maintaining contact between the chin and cue.
Onto the final stage, which is where it can all go drastically wrong: the stroke itself....you really must tell yourself one important thing and that is that the only thing that is going to help you pot that ball is the way you approach, setup and 'cue' the shot - therefore all of the after-movements (e.g. lifting your head or steering the cue) can only have a negative affect on the outcome of a shot. So trust in what you are doing - concentrate on this short routine and work on improving your cue stroke to deliver the cue straight through the cue-ball with a nice follow through. At all times, maintain your position on the shot until and only until the balls have come to rest and you have (hopefully!) potted the ball and achieved position on the next ball.