There is a lot written and talked about in reference to the pre-shot routine. I have learned about what it is and why it is important to have one but not much on how to actually build and implement one. Here is my take on the subject.
You probably already have what could be called a pre-shot routine. I say this because almost everyone does something before their shot. Can you describe and/or demonstrate in detail what you do to prepare for your next trip to the pool table? Sometimes I’ll get an answer like "Oh yeah, I have a pre-shot routine, I chalk before every shot I take" or "warm up strokes". While these are elements of a good pre-shot routine, they are not good in the sense that they are not thorough enough or require any discipline to execute.
Recognize that your pre-shot routine occurs on both a physical and mental level. There is what you're thinking and what you’re doing physically. Both are equally important to develop for consistency. Start with a clean sheet of paper and write down all of the physical actions you might take and why that action should be part of the routine. Don’t hold back here! Jot them all down now as this is your rough draft that you will later likely pare down to a reasonable amount of time. Decide what your switches will be. Switches are physical actions to prompt you through each phase of the process of study, stand, shoot. My first switch is to pick up my chalk, prompting my transition from spectator to player when it’s my turn at the table. This tells my brain that it’s go time. Chalking your cue, warm up strokes, walking around the pool table and lining up to the shot are the bread and butter of a good pre shot routine but feel free to add your own personal touches to it. Consider adding some physical action to alleviate any stress or nervousness you may be experiencing. A couple of deep breaths and/or a quick tensing and relaxing of the hands are good examples.
Now take your rough draft to the table and run through it a few times. If you're a competitive player I would suggest tracking your routine with a timer as some tournaments have a shot clock on you when it’s your inning at the table. If your 1st draft has you running past the shot clock you will need to eliminate or abbreviate some of your physical actions to bring it into compliance with the time restriction.This may feel choppy or robotic to you at first. Don’t let self consciousness hinder your efforts here. If you’re concerned with how you’re looking take some video footage while rehearsing your routine. With a little choreography and repetition you will be looking like a pro in no time!
Once the physical side of the routine is smooth and seamless, start integrating the mental elements. Position planning, shot selection, visualization and self talk are your staples here.
Since all of this happens before your shot you can practice this routine at home even if you don’t have a pool table. Whew! This was a lot of words for something that is executed in seconds. I will close with a couple of my favorite quotes for you to contemplate.
“Victory or defeat is not determined at the moment of crisis, but rather in the long and unspectacular period of preparation.”
“The key is not the will to win. Everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.”