Safety Practice Pays Off Big Time!

Do This Drill!

On Thursday night I delivered the worst pool performance that I’ve had in the last two years, and it came at a very inopportune time – on my first night playing with a new APA team.  At first, the team seemed very excited to have me.  During our warm-ups, I shot fantastic.  I was just taking it easy, not shooting any safeties since this was the team’s practice table, and was able to run the table whenever I wanted to.  Everything was working.  Perfectly.  Then I got the call to play my match.  I lost the lag for the break, and everything was straight downhill from there.  In retrospect, I’m not sure how eager they are to have me back next week!  😉

I will not rehash all the details, but here’s a brief summary of the “action”:

  1. I had 3 scratches in the match.  I almost NEVER scratch!
  2. I had 2 miscues.  I can’t remember the last time I miscued!
  3. I had 3 fouls called on me (called on myself) due to not hitting a rail and all three were very easy shots!  In the thousands of games I’ve played in the last two years, that’s only happened to me once before!
  4. I just could not run more than 3-4 balls due to position errors.  It was just soooo weird!
  5. I missed a shot on the 8ball.  “Wait,” you may say, “that’s not unusual.  Lots of people miss shots on the 8ball.”  No!  Let me explain why this was such a bad miss.  It was a straight in shot to the corner.  The 8 ball was only about 2 feet from the corner pocket, and the cue ball was only 1.5 feet away from the 8ball.  I had come all the way down table and played perfect position on the 8.  The shot was lined up straight with no interfering balls!  Arrrgghhhhh!

I used a 1 ball safe at least 5 times!

I have absolutely no idea how I actually won the match against my opponent, who is a pretty good ‘7’ player.  My complete ineptness must have rubbed off on him as he began playing badly also.  The skill level ‘3’ players must have been salivating watching from the sidelines.  It was so bad, and so embarrassing to me, that I finally made the decision to stop trying to run balls.  I had completely lost all confidence in my shot making abilities, so I decided to just shoot one shot at a time, then play safe.  Over the next 2 or 3 games, I must have played 15 or 20 safeties.   I do have to say, due to all the practice that I’ve put in recently on safeties, most of them worked as planned.  Not perfect, but good enough to force my opponent to attempt a kick shot each time.  He connected on a few kicks, but usually didn’t.  From a psychological standpoint, giving up ball in hands repeatedly to your opponent will wreck havoc on your psyche.  (I was playing so badly that getting ball in hand from my opponent wasn’t doing me much good anyway!)  Eventually, he basically folded and gave up the match.  Even though I couldn’t put together more than a three ball run, I still won.  Barely.

What’s to be learned?  Practice your safeties and 1 & 2 rail kicks.  When your confidence goes to s**t and you can’t hit the broad side of a barn, at least you can start ducking and make your opponent beat himself.  That reminds me of a quote I overhead Thursday night:  “Why beat a player, when you can get the player to beat himself?”  Oh, wait a minute, I think I said that!

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