I don’t have much time to practice, but I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple practice sessions each week over the last 4 weeks. It’s amazing how quickly you can get back to your ‘normal’ playing speed with just a few FOCUSED practice sessions. When I practice I try to keep each session between 2-3 hours and start with a line drill to get warmed up. After that, I throw out all 15 balls and pocket the balls in any random order…just to get the ‘ball pocketing bug’ out of my system. Then, the REAL practice begins.
I set up 12 or 13 balls in the “L” formation as indicated in the picture to the left, and try to run them in order while pretending the national title is on the line. I’ve fallen in love with this drill because it requires the mastery of so many different skills. You must be able to cut balls from multiple angles of attack, control the cue ball speed with precision, apply just the right amount of spin when required, and you must know multiple ways to make each shot in case you get out of line. When I started doing this drill 4 weeks ago (for the first time in many months), I really struggled just to get to ball 4. It was infuriating how much my game had regressed. Today, I ran all 12 balls in 5 out of 7 attempts. It felt really good.
For my last drill of the day I played a progressive rotation drill. I started with 5 balls randomly thrown on the table, took ball in hand, and tried to run them in order. If I succeeded, I’d throw out 6 balls the next time. If I failed, I’d throw out 4 balls the next time and try again. For each attempt after that, I’d throw out an extra ball if I was successful or take away a ball if I failed. After an hour or so of doing this, I was hovering between 7 and 8 on average, which is pretty good for me. Then I failed three times in a row and could tell that I was starting to get tired, so I decided to stop. No need to develop bad habits.
I took a 5 minute break, then whimsically threw out all 15 balls and decided to try to run them in rotation. A pipe dream for sure. A friend of mine at the next table had taken a break from his practice and was watching me shoot. I commented to him that I was going to try to run all 15 in rotation. He said jokingly, “You can’t…you’re not Filipino.” I responded, “Hey, just call me Efren!” I took ball in hand and lined up on the 1 ball….and proceeded to miss my very first shot at the 1 ball. With ball in hand. *Sigh* I heard a snicker from the sideline, so I responded, “Hey, I was just getting warmed up!” LOL. I picked up the cue ball and tried one last time. The 1 ball dropped, then the 2, then the 3. Then the 4 dropped and I had to draw the rock 9 feet straight down the long rail for position on the 5 which was almost frozen on the opposite rail. Down goes the 5 with perfect shape on the 6. The 6 goes down, the cue ball nudges the 7 free from a kissing 15, and then it’s off to the races. Balls kept dropping until I got down to the final 13-14-15. Fortunately, I was still ‘in line’. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember ever running 15 balls in rotation, so my hands were now sweating. Out comes the ‘sissy glove’. LOL! Can’t let sticky hands get in the way of a great run! I slowed down and carefully thought through each shot before getting down: Angle, speed, the landing zone for the next shot, a very slight bit of helping English, and a smooth follow through. Down they went… 13, 14, and 15. Wahoooo! High fives all around, and then I’m breaking down my cue. There’s no way I could top that, so it’s time to leave on a high note. Now I can’t wait to get back to the pool hall in a couple days for my next practice session.