Monthly Archives: March 2010

One of those days…

Today I worked exclusively on kicks.  At first, I set up some “easy” two-rail kicks that allowed the use of the Corner 5 kicking system.  For more information on how this system works, you can click here.  I did ok, certainly not great, but not too bad considering that I never practice kicks.  I also practiced kicks using the 2 rail parallel aiming system, and also covered some long distance one-rail kicks.  Again, the results were not terrible, but not that good either.  I could tell this was going to be one of those days.

In order to make big improvements in your game, you need to work on those skill areas where your talent is lacking.  This approach to talent development comes with a caveat: working on an area where your skills are deficient can be discouraging, can make you lose focus, and can lead to bad habits.  Let’s be honest.   We all want to be successful in our chosen field of study.  In my case, that means that I always want to shoot a great game of pool.   Not shooting good makes me feel irritated.

After about thirty minutes, I noticed that I was starting to lose my concentration.  I needed to make the session a little more fun, so I invented a new game to facilitate development of my kicking skills.  A new game to me at least.  I decided to call the game “Kicks.”  Wow!  Original, huh?  Here’s how the game is played.  “Kicks” is a game of rotation and the rules are identical to nine ball with two notable exceptions: (1) every shot must be a rail first kick, (2) you continue shooting as long as you can make a legal hit (you don’t have to pocket an object ball to continue the inning).  All other nine ball rules apply.  To start the game, throw four object balls out on the table.  Take cueball in hand on the first shot and play in rotation.  Once you pocket the lowest numbered ball via a one-rail or two-rail kick, you move on to the next lowest numbered ball.  This obviously makes for a long game, but the objective here is really to practice kicks, not to run racks.  For me, I just wanted to make solid contact with the object ball off of a rail first kick and hope for the best.  If a ball went into a pocket, it was usually by accident.  This new game managed to keep me engaged and focused for the rest of the practice session.  After a few days of playing this game, I should get much better at “seeing” kicks.

Shot Diagrams

I didn’t have an opportunity to stop by California Billiards for a workout today, but I did complete diagrams for all the shots that I’ve incorporated into my training program so far.  You can check out all the shots on the Training Program tab.  You can also view my proficiency for each shot on the Scoreboard tab.  Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get back to the table.

Weekend Wrapup

Here’s a quick update on the last couple of days.  On Friday I added a couple more shots to my training plan and had pretty good success with both.  More on that later.  On Saturday I played an eight ball match with a friend.  We played a race to ten, and I continued to see measureable improvement in my ball pocketing and ball control skills, as I eventually prevailed 10-3.  I continue to be amazed by my current rate of progress.  The shots that I’m practicing and the intense focus that I’m giving each session have really improved my game.  By far the greatest improvement that I’m seeing is in distance control, which has always been a bit of a challenge for me.  After the first month on my new training plan, I’ve nearly completed 32 shots, which puts me slightly ahead of schedule.  Hopefully the positive trend will continue next week, as I plan to work on banks and kicks.  I’m also in the process of drawing and adding all of my training shots to the Training Program tab.  I should have all the shots loaded by end of day Monday.

As Stubborn as a Mule

Today was day three of my frustrating struggle with shots 23 through 28.  Until today I had been logging an average success rate between 50 and 60% on most of these shots, seemingly unable to make any improvement regardless of the effort exerted.  The only thing that kept me going was the knowledge that the shots were possible, as demonstrated by my occasional serendipitous success.  Certainly, the amount of variation that I had from shot to shot was completely unacceptable.  I continued to struggle during my practice session today, and finally ended the session with a success rate around 55-60%.  Again.  Arrrgggghhh! 

I unscrewed my cue and put it away.  I sat in disgust to cool off a little before heading home to write a blog post about my third consecutive day with little progress.  As I sat, I thought back to Daniel Coyle’s book The Talent Code.  I thought about the characteristics common to most athletes who attain world class status:  drive, determination, an intense focus as they continue to push themselves to the very edge of their comfort zone, not afraid to fail, breaking down actions into tiny discrete steps, learning from their mistakes, making minor corrections, and continuing to drill and drill and drill at the edge of their capabilities until performance improves, then putting the pieces back together and moving performance to another level.  I said to myself as I’ve said many times before, “Hey, if they can do it, so can I!”  Yes, I’m stubborn.  Was I planning to go home with today’s track record in tow?  Hell No!

I yanked my cue out of the case and screwed in back together.  I reaffixed the tiny adhesive dots back on the table surface and set up shot 23.  I didn’t care how long it took, I wasn’t going home tonight until I had at least figured out this one shot.  I made my first attempt but didn’t like where the cue ball landed.  “OK, on the next attempt, maybe a little more spin, a little less power, a slight elevation to the cue, and a little more draw…..”  Nope.  “OK, this time….”  Over the next 150 shots, I continued to experiment with different variables until I found a combination that, for me, almost always sent the cue ball down the correct line.  Stopping on the target is, of course, another matter all together.  I was finally able to achieve an 80% success rate for shot 23, and decided to move on to shot 24.  About 100 shots later, I had also achieved 80% on shot 24.

I had had enough.  My left shoulder ached, my back and right side hurt, and my shooting arm was sore. I never thought that a pool workout could actually make me feel like I’ve been to the gym.  How many shots had I taken today?  800?  1,000?  No matter.  I’m very happy to have conquered these two shots.  I guess I’ll take some Motrin, get some rest, and strive to get back to the table again tomorrow to see if I’ve retained the improvements from today.

Déjà vu

Tuesday’s workout was an exact dupilcate of Monday’s workout.  Will work on the same shots again today…hopefully third time’s the charm!

The Monday Blues

Had another tough Monday workout.  Monday is the day I normally introduce new shots, and today was no different.  I introduced six new shots, and scored an average proficiency around 58%.  Not nearly as good as I had hoped, but then again, if I already had the skills necessary to score higher, I wouldn’t be on a mission would I?  It’s tough when you are striving to be the best you can be and you turn in a subpar performance.  I guess that serves to provide an incentive to get myself back to the table and work harder next time, huh?

Pool, Gambling, and The Action Report

I wanted to bring to your attention a website that I recently discovered called “The Action Report.”  The Action Report (aka TAR) was started by Justin Collett and Chad Pollman in 2007 to cover the side of the game never seen on ESPN.  On their website, they feature live matches between the best players in the game, going head to head in long format matches, winner take all.  As an example, in November 2009 they featured a 9 ball match between Shane Van Boening and Donny Mills in a race to 100 games.  The match lasted 16 hours over three days.  The winner took home a very hefty payout.   Now that’s action!  Incidentally, I just bought a 9 disc DVD set of the entire 16 hour match from TAR for just $59.  What a bargin!

In the March edition of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of some of the best writing in pool, several authors wrote about the relationship between pool and gambling.  This generated quite a bit of discussion, with authors weighing in on both sides of the issue.  The most extensive discussion can be viewed on John Biddle’s blog, PoolStudent.com.  Where do I land on this issue?  I personally don’t like gambling, but in the proper context, I think it could be ok.  The reason that I generally don’t like gambling is because there’s usually some degree of impropriety involved.  For example, one player knows that he’s the better player, but he won’t give up a fair amount of weight or may even misrepresent his skills and ask his lesser skilled opponent for a handicap.  That’s what I call theft.

In the TAR format there’s no deceit: All the players are very well known, money is put up by both parties before the match begins, and the matches are played in a friendly neutral venue with appropriate oversight.  No worries about making it out alive!  It’s a straight up mano-a-mano battle royale, and the winner walks out with all the bounty.  What could be more exciting?  If you are interested, you can check out upcoming TAR events here.