This month’s issue of Pool Synergy is all about “Billiard Tales”. Specifically those [sometimes] little conversations that spark growth and education.
I’ve been playing pool on and off since I was a teenager and whenever I got the chance I always tried to work on my game, or what I thought my game consisted of in retrospect. It wasn’t until I had the misfortune of having my cue stolen, along with the rest of my truck earlier this year, and was forced to buy a new stick did I really start to pursue pool as a student. It was a coincidental time I suppose, I had just recently discovered a new pool hall – one for adults and serious players as opposed to the theme-based bar with obnoxious colored felt I had previously frequented. I was in need of a new cue and I decided that along with a new cue, should come new knowledge.
I started off doing what I usually do with new topics of interest: scour the internet for information. And boy did I find it. I found loads of it. But trying to wade through all of it was not an easy task. Just trying to filter out the noise from the content in the popular forums was a challenge; but a worthy one nonetheless. After a few months of watching videos, reading articles, blogs, forums and even picking up a ‘how-to’ dvd, I thought I had a pretty good idea on what constituted a good stroke – and I worked avidly at building that stroke. So when I found myself continuing to miss otherwise easy shots I chalked it up to my eyes playing tricks on me or being off balance in my stance or any other thing that wasn’t directly related to the stroke I had been building.
As any pool player can tell you, follow-through is just as important as the backswing portion of a stroke. In addition to many other aspects of the game, I concentrated on my follow-through, making sure the tip was, as Jerry Briesath states “4 to 6 inches beyond the cue ball”. Yet, I was still missing shots I should make, I wasn’t getting the action on the cue ball I expected, english wasn’t being applied or backspin died out before hitting the object ball. I was at a loss and started to wonder if perhaps the cue or tip was my barrier. “Look how far my tip passed the resting point and how hard I hit it – it shouldn’t be possible for the cue ball to just stop! It’s supposed to come back at least 8 inches with that much draw.” became something of my personal mantra for a while.
I struggled with issues like that for another month, every day at the same pool hall with just about all the same people around. I asked for advice, help, tips from anyone that would give them, and I listened to other players talk amongst themselves to try and pick up on something, anything that would alleviate this ailment in my stroke.
One day I was working on some rudimentary angle drills trying to get various positions from them when at some point I just became frustrated and stared at the table a while. As it happened, on the touch-screen game a few feet away was one of the local instructors that will sometimes hang out between lessons. I finally decided to ask him for help. My initial question was about how to aim for the particular shot on the table, and while that was helpful and I had many other questions, I also didn’t want to push my luck, since I wasn’t paying for his time. It seemed fortune favored me that day because after watching me try out his suggestion and seeing my continued frustration shot after shot, he walked over and said, “You’re hitting the cue ball; don’t do that. Push the ball.”
I stopped and focused on that phrase for a few moments. “Push the ball?…. hrmmm … Push.. the… ball!!!!” Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head. It was my biggest “EUREKA!” moment since I started learning. I had to try this, so I set up the shot, got down and focused on “pushing” the ball, instead of hitting the ball. The speed was the same as it had been before, the aim was the same – but this time, everything worked. The object ball dropped and I got the cue ball back to the other side of the table, right where I wanted it. I was ecstatic! Everything that people had told me, everything I had read in various forms and most notably Jerry’s definition of a stroke involving “throwing the cue through the cue ball” finally made sense. Everything made sense. It was as if I was finally at peace with my stroke. I no longer had to force the stroke because I was no longer focusing on the hit, my contact point with my cue wasn’t exactly on the cue ball – instead it was past the cue ball. I started to envision the entire stroke mentally, seeing the cue push through the cue ball. I spent the rest of the day pushing the cue ball all over the table with tremendous success. I left that day almost giddy.
Now I’m positive that I had heard or been told or read that phrase months earlier, but it didn’t make sense then. My guess is that I wasn’t in tune enough with my stroke at the time for it register. Whatever the cause, that day it hit home like a bomb. From that very day forward, my pocketing percentage went way up; and whenever I feel like things aren’t going well, I fall back onto that phrase. “Push the ball.” It’s the quickest way for me to get back in stroke and keep me there.
The conversation wherein I learned how to stroke took no more than 5 minutes and had I not been open to critique it might still elude me. If there’s a moral to this story, it’s this: You will never know when the final piece of the puzzle will fall in your lap. Always be open to learning. Knowledge is whimsical and you can not predict its serendipitous nature.
For more great articles and stories from this month’s issue, visit http://www.pooltipjar.com/2009/12/poolsynergy-volume-ii/