This month’s Pool Synergy is about practice methods that each of our authors have tried. As any serious pool player/student can attest, we have all tried a large variety of methods when practicing and not everything has worked for every person the same way. Some of us keep detailed records, like an overzealous accountant with a pool cue. Others are more relaxed with their practice, basing their activities on how they feel at any certain time. For me, I’m kind of a fast and loose accountant – practicing what I feel like whenever it comes to mind, but tracking each and every shot in a logbook for reporting summaries later that month. How I came to this practice style is an interesting story. Each author this month will describe their own personal practice experiences, what worked and more importantly what did not. Be sure to click through all of the blog entries this month, which you can get to by clicking the logo at the top of this page, or clicking this link.
I have tried a number of different practice regimens over the years. When I first started playing pool, just for fun on my lunch break, I would toss out the 15 balls and see how many shots it’d take to clear the table. I dont think I ever got it lower than 18 strokes back then. My only way to tell if I was improving was by that number. It bounced around all over the place. Shots I’d miss most commonly I just gave up on trying and decided to bank most “standard” cut shots because I banked better than I cut balls.
A few years later, I decided to redefine my approach to pool. I wanted to become an actual student of the game. And students have homework. They get grades and a scorecard. So, I designed a tracking spreadsheet that I’d use to track what games I play, how many balls I made and missed and why. I played the ghost pretty often, though never kept a real score – just kept racking and trying to run as many balls as possible. Eventually I realized that, like with any other things I’ve ever practiced, I will need to practice each individual aspect of the game on its own. And with that came the repeating shots. Those shots I kept missing over and over and over again through the years were the shots I’d set up on the table and shoot JUST that shot until I could make 10 in a row. I burned tracks in the tables trying to perfect those shots. Unfortunately, all those hours were sort of wasted because during that time, I wasn’t learning the principles of the shot – just one particular shot. So when another shot came up that was sorta similar, I still had no idea how to aim it, or shoot, because I had learned just ONE shot with that type of practice.
A similar thing happened when I started practicing predetermined 9-ball layouts. I’d eventually get through the layout, but I learned just that one layout, instead of learning how to read the table and pick the layout.
So, after reading a few other books and watching a few other videos (and reading a LOT of forums) I decided instead to not focus on ONE shot with marked spots for the object and cue balls, but instead work on the principle of the shot. Meaning, instead of shooting the same shot at the same place from the same distance over and over… I’d keep the angle about the same, and reposition the shot all around the table. Each shot was about the same angle, but sometimes it was cutting to the left or the right – or into the side pocket instead of a corner. Then I started adding a cue ball position target on the table. It was then when my pocketing percentage started going up. Simply making a shot doesn’t really do a lot of good if you can’t get a good position on the next ball. I had found multi-ball position drills… Drills like the “Frozen Rail Drill” (and variations from Joe Tucker’s Rail Workout). Those kinds of drills were invaluable to me because not only do they work on shot making, but also – and most importantly – cue ball position. I started doing these types of drills, like “The L Drill” – and this great 2-rail position drill as often as possible.
Finally, here was a way that I could improve the underlying principles of the game (dynamic adjustment to a a shot) alongside speed control and position play. Of course, there is no benefit to them if you don’t practice them, dilligently and purposefully. Which meant that I went back to my spreadsheet idea and modified it to track which drill I was doing and how far I got on each attempt, or how many attempts it took to complete it. Now, each time I went to the pool hall, I’d start with an hour of practicing whatever drills I felt like; but that each hour was dedicated practice. No matter the frustration or now matter the mood of the day. I stayed focused and tracked every shot. On top of getting game practice this is now also training my mental game by finding ways to stay focused, to keep my head in the game. Relaxation techniques, learning to “let go” of missed shots; all manners of remaining calm and in control of myself at the table; which is a crucial aspect of the game if one is to improve.
So, in the end, what works best for me, is short durations of highly focused practice sessions, separated by playing in leagues or friendly matches on different days.
I hope you’re able to recognize some aspects of your own practice methods in this post, but if not, don’t worry – there’s a whole slew of other practice methods described by our wonderful collection of other Pool Synergy authors! Click the logo at the top and read what everyone has to say on the subject of how to practice!