Have you ever watched a good player in stroke and noticed how smooth and consistent his or her movements are? The timing of how your body moves is very important for high-quality play, and it also makes the sport much more enjoyable!
The Importance of Rhythm
Having a sense of rhythm helps your body coordinate all of the motions required to execute a shot. Every part of your body needs to be in a specific place at the right time in order for the shot to go as planned. When you are rhythmic, you can make more precise fine-tune adjustments without interrupting the flow of your routine. This fine-tuning is essential for bringing your game to a higher level.
What is Rhythm?
Rhythm is comprised of 2 components: cadence and tempo. Cadence is the steps of your routine, across a span of time. These steps should be executed in the proper order, like playing a musical instrument and hitting all of the notes at the right time.
A good rhythm is sensed by your body - it is something you feel, developed through deliberate practice. Tempo is the pace that you perform your routine. Your tempo will naturally fluctuate from day to day and sometimes from shot to shot.
What is Not Rhythm?
If you intentionally control your movements instead of letting them flow, then you will not be rhythmic. If you have conscious pauses in your routine, then you will not be rhythmic. If you are not letting your body feel the movements you have trained it to do, then you will not be rhythmic.
How to Develop Rhythm
Like any new skill, you have to practice to master it. To practice rhythm, count out a beat while you are performing your routine. Pay attention to every motion and when it occurs, especially the final stroke. This will feel awkward at first, but eventually you will be able to perform your routine without thinking about the beat.
To aid this process, video tape yourself when you are shooting well and compare it to a video of yourself shooting poor. Take notice of any differences, and see if you can learn something about your routine.
Play Like Dancing
When your rhythm becomes more automatic, then your movements will be coordinated better, and you will feel like your body is dancing! This is a very pleasurable experience, as playing billiards should be.
For more information about rhythm, I highly recommend the book Pleasures of Small Motions by Bob Fancher, Ph.D.