We hear this all the time, “He was born to play” or “I wish I had as much natural talent as that guy”. These are often uttered in envy at the skills of a player who may or may not have had to put in the hard work it takes to be a good player. I will not deny that natural talent can get you places, but I am a firm believer in the old phrase, “Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard”.
As a player who has put in the time, I am here to tell you that I am not a naturally gifted player. Yes I might have some natural ability, but I think we all do. Have you ever played video games? Or used a mouse on a computer? If so, you already have hand eye coordination. Can you see well enough to get a drivers license? Then you can see well enough to pick out a contact point. These are just a few things that most players chalk up to natural talent. Now, some players catch on to things quicker than others therefore they may advance quicker at the game, but it doesn’t mean that they are more gifted than others. If you are willing to put in the time and effort you can be a good player too.
How do we get better if we don’t have that special something? Easy, seek out knowledge! Today we have so many great publications, books, videos and instructors that are willing to share their knowledge of our great sport. These are all great tools right at your disposal. I don’t want to give off the wrong impression but there is no book or instructor out there that has some secret that, once you read it or have it whispered in your ear, will make you instantly better. But if we have some knowledge of the things we should practice like proper technique, shot selections and fundamentals, we can begin to utilize our practice time better. Spending an hour working on a specific part of your game will help you improve dramatically faster than just hitting balls around. Structured practice using drills designed to improve broad parts of your game, or even minute parts of your game, will give you consistency.
Do I think everyone should seek an instructor or coach? Not always but it is a good idea at a certain point in our game that we seek some professional help. How do you choose an instructor? I’d recommend doing some research or ask around your local pool room. There are a lot of well qualified instructors out there. Make sure the person you choose has some credentials. One of the worst things you can do is simply choose a teacher based on their ability. Not all good teachers are good players. You need to find someone that you feel comfortable with that has the ability to help you in the parts of your game that you need help with.
Keep practicing, keep learning, be a student of the game. Put in your time, blood sweat and tears and you will find out that talent has nothing to do with your success.