Focusing on the Ball

You may find that the old adage “keep your eye on the ball” is true in all ball-related sports. How well you will strike the ball has to do with where you focus your eyes. In pool there is more than one ball, so on which one should you focus?

First you should line up your eyes with the path you want the cue ball to take — creating a picture for yourself in your mind. This is known as visualization. Some people will imagine the cue ball traveling along that path, then contacting the object ball and sending it into the pocket — all before they even draw back their cue! Players may also use an aiming system, such as the “ghost ball system,” to help them find the correct contact point on the object ball.

What exactly is the “ghost ball”?

The ghost ball is an imaginary ball that the player envisions right at the contact point of the object ball. In other words, the player forms a picture in her or his mind of exactly where the cue ball will be as it contacts the object ball, and then aims the real cue ball in a straight line to the ghost ball. This method of aiming is very popular with amateurs, and sometimes even the pros use it on tough cut shots.

After you have found your shot, you are ready to strike the ball. While common sense tells you to focus on the ball you will strike first (the cue ball), you will find that this is shortsighted. Keep your eyes on the object ball (the ball the cue ball will strike) throughout the execution stroke — from the backswing to the follow-through. When you practice stroking, it's important to look back and forth between the cue ball and the object ball to be sure your cue stick is aligned properly.

After your execution stroke, don't leave your stance right away — wait until well after the cue ball strikes the object ball before you move out of your stance. In fact, staying down the proper amount of time is critical to good shot execution. If you lift up your head to look at the pocket too quickly, it will tug on your shoulders, which will tug on your arms, and the next thing you know … your cue stick is being lifted up too soon and you may wind up putting some unwanted spin on the cue ball. Better to stay down on the shot for too long rather than get up too soon.

Part of learning to focus goes right back to the consistency of your shot. With your eyes focused on the object ball, make sure you finish your stroke. That doesn't always mean a big, long follow-through on every shot, though. It does most of the time, but in some shots where the cue ball and object ball are very close to each other, you'll need to shorten your follow-through so your cue stick doesn't double-hit the cue ball, or hit it twice. Just remember to finish what you started and you'll be fine.

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