I must admit that I had a ball writing yesterday’s post while flying to Aguadilla. After the plane landed and taxied to the terminal, I released my seat belt, jumped up, and ran down the aisle high fiving the flight attendants and leaping luggage like O. J. Simpson. But now that the adrenaline has tapered off and I’ve had a good night’s rest, I’ve come to the sobering realization that I might actually need to do some work instead of just flapping my jaws. Okay, okay, let’s get serious.
Every great journey has a beginning. If you are serious about improvement, you must be brutally honest and ask yourself the following question: “How good am I right now…really?” Without an accurate assessment of my current skills, it will be impossible for me to put together an effective training program. In a general sense, all pool playing skills can be divided into two main camps: (1) shot making skills, and (2) cue ball control skills. The type of practice that will be required to move my game to the next level can be determined by conducting an accurate assessment of my current skills in each of these areas. When most people first learn to play pool, they only concern themselves with shot making. In other words, when it’s their turn to shoot, they just try to make balls in pockets. What they soon discover is that every time they make a shot, the next shot gets harder, and the next shot harder still, until finally there are no more makeable shots. Shot making skills are certainly a base requirement for good play, but if you only focus on shot making, your game will suffer tremendously. To take your game to the next level, you need to be able to control where the cue ball ends up after you make each shot. By mastering this latter skill, you can control the difficulty of the next shot that you take. Ideally, you should be able to run the table by making every shot an ‘easy’ shot.
Enough talk, let’s get started. How would I rate my skills today? First I’ll consider shot making skills. There are several ways to assess shot making abilities. I won’t go into the details here, but if you are interested, here’s a link to Bob Jewett’s website in which he provides many articles and tools that allow you to evaluate your shot making skills. Based upon assessments that I’ve completed, I’d say that my shot making skills are very strong. If I am presented with an open shot, in other words, a shot where there is no obstruction between the cue ball and the object ball, and there are no obstructions between the object ball and a pocket, I can almost always make the shot. I guess I got lucky in that I was born with very good vision, probably around 20/10. For me, pure shooting is really just an exercise in good vision and the application of physics, assuming that my fundamentals are solid. As such, I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time working on pure shot making skills.
Next I’ll consider cue ball control skills. This is an area where things get a lot more interesting and much more complicated. Again, I won’t go into details here as there are many tools to evaluate your cue ball control skills, but suffice it to say that this is an area where I have lot of room for improvement. In future posts, I’ll go into a little more detail and describe some of the drills that I plan to include in my repertoire to help build up my cue ball control skills.
Before I wrap up for the day, I need to share one more thing. A HUGE underlying assumption in the above analysis is that I already have very solid fundamentals. Bad assumption! Since I don’t want to take anything for granted, I am going to spend a good bit of time in the next few days reviewing my fundamentals to assure that they are rock solid. I need to make sure that I have a solid platform upon which to build and refine my shot making and cue ball control skills. If I find any weaknesses in my fundamentals, I will need to correct them first before moving on. More on this tomorrow.
I read the last couple posts and liked them so much I’ve started reading from the beginning. It’s possible you’ve addressed the following points already and I just haven’t gotten to them yet, but I’m going to make them here, where I first thought of them.
First, you don’t have to have great fundamentals to play well, it’s just easier to reach the highest levels with great form. All you have to do is look around at the top pros to see that you can play at an extremely high level with many different stances, strokes, etc. The fact that you already have 10 years of play under your belt argues for not changing your existing fundamentals and just working to get the most out of them. Especially since you want o progress so far in 2 years.
Potting and position are very important, but you’ve left out a few other areas that will also need to be at very high levels if you expect to succeed. You already talked about one, and that’s knowledge. Knowing how to make all the shots in Ray Martin’s 99 Critical Shots in Pool, and the 350 shots in Robert Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots, and all the shots in Dr Dave’s new 5 DVD series is also very important. They don’t come up as often, but your opponents will know them and you need to also if you want to beat them.
The break is huge if you are gong to be a 9 or 10 ball player, and since that’s what pros play 90% of the time I assume you will be. It needs to be under your complete control and it needs to be effective, pocketing balls as often as your opponents do, or more.
Lastly, and I think most important, you need to have a deep understanding of the strategies of the games you will play. Knowing which shots to take and why separates the good from the great. There’s so much more to the game than just the physical skills. This is one you’ll get from the best instructors or playing opponents who are much better than you.
This is not to suggest that you don’t already have these in spades, but since you didn’t mention them I thought you should at least make them explicit and get them on your list.