Tom Simpson © Janurary 2002 – All Rights Reserved – PoolClinics.com
Let’s embarrass ourselves for a while, for the sake of learning. A common problem with many players is that we play well enough that we’re embarrassed when it looks like we don’t quite know something. Often, we don’t perform as well as we know we can. But we don’t like other players to see that. We feel we won’t be seen as the player we want people to think we are. From a learning perspective, this is not a great way to be, but a lot of us are hooked up this way, so let’s deal with it.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about how we all take our position errors in stride. Like they didn’t happen. Frequently, we miss our intended position, but luck into another workable position. We act like that’s what we had in mind all along. Now that strategy could be a good idea, from a competitive standpoint. If your opponent believes you are playing well, it could intimidate him a bit. On the other hand, thinking you are shooting well might make him hunker down and really focus. While we may be able to influence them, we can’t really control our opponent’s confidence and resolve. The most useful thing we can do is improve our own skills. Really improve our skills. OK, how?
In another article, we talked about the importance of having an Achievable Clear Intent – a precise shot plan that we consciously intend to execute. Now, let’s work on how to make those plans succeed. In that same article, we looked briefly at a powerful approach to this problem. I call it Target Practice. Let’s expand on that idea.
Make a paper bulls-eye target. You can buy a lifetime supply of rifle targets for a couple of bucks, or print something out through your computer, or just cut out a paper circle. I like rifle targets because they are printed on very thin paper that allows balls to roll across the target accurately. I trim the rifle targets down to a 6” circle. Use whatever size you like.
You can use the target to improve your position play in any game or practice drill. Before every shot, place the target where you’re trying to land the cueball. Swallow your pride and really do this. This is the most effective position drill I’ve found. It forces you to make a plan and it forces you to commit to the plan by placing the target. Then, it shows you how close or how far you are from achieving that plan. Ways to shoot Target Practice:
1. Place the target on the Stun Line for any shot; shoot and try to land on the target. The Stun Line is the cueball travel line perpendicular (90°) to the line through the centers of the CB and OB at the moment of impact. If the cueball is skidding at impact, it will always take this line after the collision. If you made the shot and stopped on the target or rolled down the Stun Line, your CB was skidding, and you made a successful Stun Shot. If not, either your aim was off or the CB wasn’t skidding.
2. Place the target on the line of travel you expect from a rolling cueball. It’s going to be forward of the Stun Line. How far forward? Well, that’s the problem. It’s related to cut angle, ball speed, and ball/cloth friction. Shooting a wide variety of these shots, with the target for instant feedback, will quickly fill in the gaps in your understanding of where the CB will go on any cut shot. Essentially, you learn how position lines are related to ball speed because that is the aspect of the shot you can control – the cut angle and ball/cloth friction are givens.
3. Place the target at an easy position for the current shot. Shoot and see whether your idea of easy or “natural” position matches up with reality.
4. Place the target at an ideal position for the current shot. Shoot and see if your knowledge and skill are up to producing that result.
5. Place the target in the center of the table. Take ball in hand on every shot; try to make the shot and land on the target.
As you work with the target, you quickly learn where your beliefs about position lines are correct – and where they are not. Through repeating shots, you can learn how to force the CB to go where you intend – or you can learn that your intention was not practical, and maybe not possible. You’ll find that better position ideas come to you when you try to make precise path/destination decisions. Bottom line – as you build the habit of making precise position plans, your results are going to improve.
TIP: When you’re actually playing and can’t use the target, pick your precise target in your imagination. Look at it. Maybe touch the spot with your tip. Intend to land the CB there. Believe it – or don’t shoot it.