To do something repeatedly in the exact same way and expect different results is insanity. Yet how many of us pool players practice in the same way just playing 8 ball or 9 ball against a friend or teammate? Do participants in other sports spend all of their time scrimmaging against an opponent? Boxers don’t spend all of their training time sparring. They do road work for stamina and conditioning, hit the speed bag to improve timing, hit the heavy bag to increase punching power, jump rope for timing and rhythm. They isolate a specific skill and focus solely on that skill for that portion of their training regimen. Why don’t we?
“Drills are boring” I hear you saying. Not knowing the purpose of a particular drill and working it to the point of frustration is not helpful. Drills can be a reality check to remind us that we’re not as good as we think we are. If you’re working on a drill but not having much success then decrease the difficulty. If the drill requires you to run 10 balls, drop it to 5 balls or even 3! Start small and work your way up. Practice the abbreviated version not just until you get it right, practice it until you can’t get it wrong! Once you’re there and you’re completing the drill 80% or more of the time then add a ball or two to increase the difficulty. Be brutally honest with yourself. Cheating on a drill may inflate your ego temporarily but the next tough opponent you face will likely bust that bubble easily and repeatedly.
Even playing against a friend or teammate can be made more effective by adding some twist to the game you’re playing. Hide and Seek 9 ball is a good example. Player A’s only objective is to pocket balls while Player B’s only objective is to play safeties. Each ball pocketed for Player A counts as 1 point and each successful safe for Player B counts as 1 point. A successful safe is one that results in a ball in hand for Player B. Play to a set number of points and then trade places.
Player A will likely be working on plenty of kicking and jumping skills while Player B is solely focused on defense. Bank all shots 8 ball is another good example. One or both players must use a bank shot to pocket all balls (one at a time of course). If you’re a right handed player try playing lefty next time. Do this often enough and it’s likely that you’ll find yourself reaching for the bridge stick a lot less often.
Another technique that I’ve personally found to be effective is after playing I choose a specific missed shot, set it back up and play that same shot 20 times. If I’m successful with the shot 16 times (80%) or more that tells me that the miss during play was a mental lapse or error. If I’m not successful on the shot 80% of the time that tells me that I don’t know the shot like I thought I did and some remedial work is needed.
Every pool player hits plateaus on their journey to improvement and if that’s where you are now give these suggestions a try. It could be the spark that reignites your game!