5 Ways To Achieve “Dead Stroke”

Whenever I ask my students to describe their mental state during their best pool matches, they all say very similar things, such as:

  • Feeling confident
  • No expectations or worries
  • A sense of freedom
  • Playing in the present moment
  • Being alert and focused, with no distractions
  • Playing subconsciously
  • Relaxed, calm, and highly focused

The state that these players are describing is synonymous with “dead stroke”. Ironically, it happens when you least expect it. But what usually follows is the question: “How can I play like that more often?” Most of us just accept that this optimal state for pool performance is something that only happens at random, and we can’t do much about making it happen.

However, we can train ourselves on and off the table so that “dead stroke” can be accessed more readily and more frequently. In this article, I’ll give you 5 strategies that will help you “get in the zone”.

1. BE engrossed IN your pre-shot PROCESS
My best students measure their success by the quality of their pre-shot process, not the outcome. Process goals tell us where we need to place our attention and with practice, we can make it a habit. Trust in a good process will keep the conscious mind quiet and allow the stroke to be more subconscious, resulting in better shot execution.

2. Play In The Present
One of the things that players describe when they achieve “dead stroke” is being very “present”. This means they’re not preoccupied with the past or future. You’re not thinking, you’re just being. Learning how to be more present or more “mindful” is a skill, that you can get better at it with practice. In fact, if you notice yourself getting distracted, just bring yourself back to the process and use your senses to engross yourself. Over time, you’ll notice that your focus will improve, and you’ll be able to play longer without being distracted.

3. Feed Off of PRESSURE Situations
Ask any pro player whether they would rather be slightly nervous or completely relaxed and they will probably tell you “slightly nervous”, the reason being is that they are great at channeling their nervous energy to perform better. When playing in high-pressure situations with an uncertain outcome, the human body triggers a “fight or flight” mechanism. You will identify this as nerves or jitters. However, this nervous energy can serve as a powerful performance enhancer, provided you can keep your mind in the present. Often you will have increased focus and higher sensory awareness. When given the choice, choose to embrace being out of your comfort zone, it can raise your game to a much higher level.

Have you ever wondered how you can make great shots that seem impossible, and miss a super easy shot during your very next game? This is an example of how challenge can induce focus. On the more difficult shots, you are more challenged, and you give the shot your upmost attention. The key to playing well is to make each shot a challenge so that you will attain a higher level of engagement on every single shot.

5. Don’t worry about how you look
Self-consciousness interferes with your overall performance. When players describe playing pool “in the zone” there’s no worrying about how they look to others, they’re immersed in what they are doing. It’s very important to never get too wrapped up with the outcome and how your play makes you look. The desire to avoid a bad outcome creates too much pressure on every shot.

Most of us just accept that “dead stroke” is something that only happens at random. However, the best players in the world train themselves on and off the table so that “dead stroke” can be accessed more readily and frequently. With the right practice strategies, you’ll be able to achieve this optimal state too. Embrace the 5 strategies listed above and you be playing in a state of “flow” more often than ever before!