For this month’s PoolSynergy topic, Samm wanted each of the PoolSynergy writers to come up with a list of 10 things related to pool. I immediately thought about making a list of the 10 most important things to remember when trying to improve your game. At first I thought this would be an easy topic to write about, but unfortunately when I brainstormed the topic I came up with many more than 10 ideas. Ugggghhh! After considerable reflection, and a little bit of hand wringing, I was finally able to prune my list down to ten thoughts. I hope you find these tips helpful and wish you the best of luck in your game!
1. Practice Alone – Solo practice should be the heart of your improvement program. Spend at least an hour per week focusing on your weaknesses. Are there certain types of shots that give you trouble? Set up a troublesome shot and shoot it 20 times in a row. If you can maintain your focus, shoot it even more. Once you master that shot, work on the next most troublesome shot.
2. Take Notes – Keep a small notepad or use a smart phone to take notes during your practice sessions or during matches. Make notes on what shots you miss and why you miss them. This will provide you with a list of things you need to work on during your next solo practice session.
3. Work on Fundamentals – It may sound like a cliché, but you should always work on fundamentals. Your stance, bridge, and stroke influence every single shot you make. Most players don’t work on fundamentals, although they should. If you do, you will improve faster.
4. Find a playing partner you can beat – You can’t practice solo all the time. Find someone who is slightly less skilled than you and play them often. This will give you confidence in your ability to play and win. It will also give your partner some good practice playing a better player.
5. Find a playing partner you can’t beat – Find someone who is slightly more skilled than you and play them often. If you are not getting blown away, this will motivate you if you occasionally can pull off an upset, it will push you to improve your game, and will give you a chance to learn from a better player.
6. Play in handicapped tournaments – Handicapped tournaments allow you to experience the pressure of playing in a tournament and at the same time gives you a fair chance to win or finish in the money. Handicapped tournaments also tend to be a little less competitive and more friendly, so it’s a great way to get your feet wet.
7. Play in Open tournaments – Playing in an open tournament requires you to really pick up your game. Open tournaments are usually more competitive, and allow you to see where your game really stands in the pantheon of pool players. If you don’t want to play in an open, at least make an effort to attend one and watch how the players handle themselves and the pressure.
8. Try to eliminate English – Keep it simple. Using English reduces the accuracy of your shots, so try to use just center ball, follow, and draw. If you make an effort to plan ahead properly (three shots ahead), you can drastically reduce the need for English. Give it a try in one of your solo practice sessions. Slow things down and think before each shot. I bet you’ll be surprised at how well you can play without English.
9. Work on speed control (a.k.a. distance control) and play for longer shape – Proper use of cue ball speed can make up for many other weaknesses in your game. Not sure exactly how the cue ball will come off the object ball, or exactly how the cue ball will come off that rail? Good speed control can allow you to run the cue ball farther around the table and land in the ‘fatter’ and more forgiving part of the landing zone for your next shot. Your next shot might be a little farther away than you want, but at least you’ll have a makeable shot.
10. Get some quality one on one instruction – Arguably the most important tip. If you want to improve fast, there’s no substitute for working with a knowledgeable instructor. Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy way to identify a great instructor. If a person is a great player, it does not qualify them to be a great instructor. I’ve taken lessons from professionals that were worthless, and I’ve taken lessons from amateurs that were priceless. I’ve also taken lessons from amateurs that were worthless and lessons from professionals that were priceless. Coaching is a skill, just like any other skill. I recommend finding 3 or 4 different instructors and paying for one hour of instruction from each. Afterwards, evaluate each and see which one was the best fit for you, then get more instruction from that person.
I hope these tips help you improve your game. To read articles written by the other PoolSynergy writers, visit Samm’s website.
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Terrific advice across the board. I’ll have to try the Play Someone You Can Beat, since I’ve tried to focus most heavily on players better than me. Your idea to help with confidence is a good one that I’m going to try out. Thanks.
Learning and driving yourself to make improvements in your game is great, but never forget: your pool journey should be a fun one. Take time to enjoy the game, and spread the fun!
Well done sir! I copied this and sent it to my students. Words of wisdom that I hope my up-and-comers take to heart!
I’m glad I could help. Thanks for reading!
I wouldn’t change a thing. Well said and well organized! Thanks for contributing this month.
Thanks Samm! Great topic – and a great job hosting!
Great advice Mike. I’ve been working on the ‘no-english’ part for quite some time now 🙂
…and I bet your game is getting better! Oh, yeah, I think you beat me in straight pool a few weeks ago! LOL!! 🙂
Excellent list, Michael. There are a couple in there that I haven’t gotten around to yet, and I need to. Thanks for the reminder!