The Turnaround

A lot of things happened over the past couple weeks.  First off, my NAPA team finished in 1st place in 8-ball and 2nd place in 10-ball.  I had the pleasure of getting revenge on another player during the last week.  I played a guy who beat me in the 2nd week of the session and destroyed him in 10-ball.  I got to play him again in 8-ball and should've won that match. I was on the hill when he still needed 3 games, but it was late, I was rushing and not playing smart. I gave away the 3 racks he needed playing too loose. Oh well. However, my 10-ball win, and his loss, moved me above him in the rankings and I ended up taking 3rd in the individual point race for 10-ball.  

My in-house Cue & Cushion league also finished up last week, but that was a personal disaster for me.  I lost the last 6 weeks of matches and finished with a lousy record of 6 wins and 11 losses, putting me in 15th place (3rd to last). I'm not really worried about it anymore and I know why I lost every match: simple mistakes, stroke errors and mental distractions.  However, I feel extra embarrassed by my finish because I lobbied to get raised to an A this session.  I started off well, going 4 and 2, but then I'd only win 2 out of the next 9 matches.  While this really sucks to have suffer through it, I'm using it as fuel for the drive and dedication to never be at the bottom of the list again.  I will be in the top 5 next session. 

I've talked about being in some kind of slump lately and that I'm changing a lot of little things with my stance and eye position, which is all well and good but it wasn't really giving me any sort of stable improvements.  Partly due to lack of practice to rebuild my auto-mechanics, but I now know that it was because I was changing the wrong things.

About a year ago when I was playing my most consistent, this was my form:

 

Notice the perpendicular grip arm, a pretty textbook stance/form.  However, there's a bit of a gap between my tip and the cueball.  I had been trying to have a closer "Set" position lately, but what I didn't take into account in the closing of my arm to achieve this.  Here's a shot of my Set position from about a month ago:

Now my tip is right up on the cueball, but I had to close my arm to get there.  And since I had retrained my stroke arm to this Set position, I wasn't even aware I was doing it.

The times I actually got to practice, I noticed over and over and over that I had no follow-through after striking the cueball.  I mean, there was some, maybe an inch or two, but nothing closing to proper.  It never caused me too much concern because I was still making balls and getting shape on 80% of my shots.  But, when I needed a good stroke, I didn't have it, unless I over-extended the follow-through, total arm collapse and elbow drop.

Obviously, the answer is to keep my arm at the perfect 90 degrees, but how? I could shorten my bridge length, but that then causes my front arm to bend and I end up leaning forward into the shot in my Set position.  I widened my stance, effectively shortening my torso a bit and while that did allow me to see the shot better, it didn't really do much to fix my forward grip arm-line.

I talked to my cue maker (Josh Treadway) and he's building me a longer shaft, which I hope will give me the comfortable bridge length and thereby allow me to bring my arm back to straight.

The best fix though: A pool clinic with the legendary Mark Wilson. Over the weekend he gave a group clinic to about 16 people and I was one of them.  I was unsure if it was going to be really worth the price of the event, given the number of people and how individualized I felt my problem was.  Skipping all the clinic details I got some really valuable feedback with just a few minutes spent with him.  Most flattering was that he remarked I had the smoothest transition from backswing to forward motion of the day.  My stance was accurate and textbook.  The only thing he changed (which now in retrospect seems like the first thing I should've addressed) was my grip position on the cue.  I was forcing my grip to remain on the wrap instead of adjusting my grip to suit the shot.  The result is that I now grip the buttcap more often than I would personally prefer (though it works for Corey Deuel and Joey Gray quite well).  A secondary result is that now I feel like my arm is behind the line when in my Set position.  Right now, this is very good for me because I can immediately know if I'm in the right spot as it should feel awkward for a while.  This also means that I have to go back and rebuild my auto-mechanics, yet again.  I'm fine with that, if it means I'll get to where I want to be.

In discussing this with Mark it was presented as an option that I look into getting a longer cue/shaft; which was a nice little affirmation to my already placed order.  So... while I might have stumbled onto the answer by a different route, I'm extra pleased with my own self-analysis skills and for the wonderful opportunity to work with Mark, if only for a short while.

I should be getting my new shaft sometime this week, if everything goes well and along with only have one night of league, I'm hoping that I can get enough proper practice table-time to rebuild my mechanics to nearly fully auto before the start of the next league session.

I have answers. I have solutions. I know, without question, what to do with my game.  All of this knowledge replaces the myriad of questions I've been fruitlessly battling the last 6 months.  I am, once again, excited about and hopeful for the future of my pool game.

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Filed Under: Stroke · Training

Night at the Circus

I had NAPA league last night.  If you've been paying attention at all you'll know that I really do not like bartable pool.  However, I realize that in my area, to be any kind of pool player, one simply must be able to play well on the barbox.  All the tournaments around here are on barboxes and since I want to be a good tournament player, I figure forcing myself to play on them at least once a week is a good idea.

You might also know that I've been in something of a slump lately.  I haven't really felt good, truly good about my game for the several weeks (about 2 months overall, with some exceptions).  I had already told my teammates last week that I would likely not return for next session as am not happy with leagues, the tables or the time required.  Spending 5 hours in a bar to play pool on questionable equipment for only an hour is not my idea of a good time.  I don't really drink, so there's no backup plan.

There's only 2 weeks left of this session (going into last night) and I honestly just kinda gave up on the seriousness of it all.  I went home after work, stole a quick catnap unexpectedly, had dinner and headed out.  I didn't even hit a ball before it was my time to play.

I lagged directly at the 1st diamond, the ball swerved and curved into the corner pocket. I laughed it off, but knew it was a sign of things to come.  I was put up against a guy I've had trouble with the whole session. For no real reason other than I try to alter my game too much to fit the table and it costs me.  It cost me a rack this night too.  No more of that I said to myself.

It was a 5-5 race in 8-ball.  He got the first rack, I got the 2nd, he got the 3rd and I took the next FOUR to win the set!!!  I even had a break and run to win my 3rd game, and was well on my way to get another when I had to force a tough position and overcut the shot a bit.  I still got the rack, but how awesome would it have been to get two BnR's in a row, on a barbox, in 8-ball?!  Also, this breaks my break-n-run dry spell! It's been a month now since I broke and ran a rack of anything, in any game, in any format (practice or league or match).

Tonight would I would get to use every single trick in my bag.  Literally.  I used every piece of my equipment - the extention (which I've never used on the barbox),the jump cue (which I despise using on a barbox - heavy cueball and thin slate) and even did a half-ball jump with my playing cue.

To get my 1st 8-ball rack, he played a safe off his 2 ball and left me hidden behind the 8, so that I couldn't see even an edge of my last stripe.  I got out the jumper, lined it up and just hoped to get over the 8.  I fired it, and saw the 15 ball fly into the corner!!! I was worried I'd scratch, but whitey decided to dance around the table and roll up for a standard shot on the 8!  As I went back to put the jump cue away, I gave my teammates that look of "OMG DID YOU SEE THAT!!", took a few deep breaths as I walked back to the table and sank it.  Diagram here:

 

A few racks, after the break, I found myself looking at this table.  I really wanted stripes (it's open after the break, regardless of what you make) but didn't have a clear shot at any of them - save for the 12 up by the corner, blocked by the 3ball.  I thought about masseeing the ball, but that's a lot of distance to cover.  I thought about using my jump cue, but if I hit it just a hair off-center, it'll swerve out.  I decided to just use my playing cue and do a half-ball jump over the edge of the 3.  I lined up, elevated, adjusted my stance accordingly and sent it!  0.02 milliseconds after I pulled the trigger I knew it was good as there was NOT a big *THUD* of the cue into the ball, into the blocker.  I raised my head and saw the 12 ball drop and the cueball come around the angles.  I was super excited, but kept super calm about it until later.

 

I ended up winning the set 5-2, and it felt amazing.  It felt like justice, honestly.

Then playing 10-ball More...

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Filed Under: 10-Ball · 8-Ball · League

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