(This is today's bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
Every shooter's abilities follow an up and down cycle throughout any competitive match. These are internal energy cycles. Just as you are sometimes alert and wide awake, there are times when you feel more sluggish. The sine wave below gives you an idea of how these up and down cycles proceed.
Everyone goes through a series of cycles. Some last for a few minutes, some last for days. At the top of the cycle you are the best you can be. You are invulnerable and unstoppable. You breeze through your opposition like a hot knife through butter. At the bottom, you demonstrate a series of shots that could proudly be shown in the World's Most Stupidest Shots Hall of Shame.
Oftentimes, these cycles are driven by emotions. The better you feel about your strokes, the better you shoot. If you are angry or depressed, the quality of your shooting drops a lot. Because of this, your best approach is to cultivate a sense of patience and serene acceptance. The Sereniac, described in Player personalities, is a good role model.
Until you reach that stage, setbacks and frustrations are part of your playing experiences. Below are actions you can take based on the up and down cycles.
On his up cycle, his comfort zones expand. He makes shots even he does not expect. That makes him dangerous to your success. You have to adjust your tactics. Temporarily set aside your offensive efforts and concentrate on leaving as many tough, long shots as possible. When you do this, you are slowing him down and helping him think that he is losing his touch.
Look for indicators that he is on his down side. These can be any and all of the following symptoms:
- Hits the ball too hard
- Takes less time in pre-shot routines
- Shot quality gets worse
- Shows negative emotions
When this happens, his game goes downhill, enough to leave you with easier shots and layouts. Although this is temporary, it is a good time to rack up points and games. When you see his accuracy improve, concentrate on well-played safeties. Sometimes you might slow his rise in the cycle.
As an intelligent shooter, adjust strategy and tactics slightly ahead of your curve. On the up side, go after shots on the edges of your comfort zone. On the down cycle, back off expectations and use more safeties. For example, if you notice that a five foot shot is getting a bit tricky, lower your comfort zone standards to three feet.
To make adjustments for lower expectations, pay attention to your state of mind. Here are a number of indicators:
- Easily distracted by small things. Movements in your line of sight grab your attention, nearby conversations become noticeable, etc.
- Focus gets harder. The line on the target ball disappears or has to be forced into place. You start releasing the shot before you are ready.
- A vague uneasiness about the shot.
- Balls on the table feel a bit unreal.
- The fun fades. You feel like you are being forced to go through the motions.
When these conditions become noticeable, your game is falling apart. Plan on a lot more safeties and dial down your expectations. Consider the no-prisoners policies of Last resorts on page 146.
Once you switch over to being cautious, some of the pressure falls away. This change is usually is enough to get you started on the up side of the cycle. Test this by slightly expanding your comfort zone over several turns. If making balls normally, raise your expectations.