I just came back from teaching a seminar in Ohio and some private lessons in New Jersey. What I observed is that a wide range of good players consistently have the same problems. What I’d like to do here is highlight a few of these problems and pass them on to you so that you can use this as a check list in developing your game. Not all of them may apply to your game, but correcting one or two errors will improve your skills and your win percentage.
Here is the list in no particular order:
Hitting the balls way too hard. This is partly due to not striking the cue ball high enough and is caused by the optical illusion of looking down on the cue stick.
Bridge too loose or too far away from the cue ball. It is amazing how far away from the cue ball some people are. I’m not saying get right on top of the cue ball, but a reasonable 8 to 12 inches gives you ample stroke room, and you are close enough for an accurate hit.
Herky jerky stroke, particularly on the back swing. A sudden jerky motion back will throw your whole stroke off. Think smooth and slow when you pull the stick back.
Using too much english. One student was on the end rail for a long backward cut and asked me if I would use high right or center right. The particular shot was a low percentage, extremely difficult shot with the cue ball running all over the place. I asked him first if he thought about a safety (he didn’t), and then what should he do to maximize his chances of making the shot? (Center rolling cue ball!!). The tendency is to try to do way too much. Do less better and try easier!!
Not having a plan. Most players jump in to the first shot glad to have a makable shot. They play some sort of area position and wind up on the wrong side of a ball having to do some magic to get back in line. Take the time to walk around the table and make a plan. Think center table and rolling balls as the easiest things to do first. It is amazing how often easier things can help you.
Maintain your tip!!! and use chalk. I know this sounds really basic, but I can’t tell you how many good players “know they need a new tip, but keep playing with a poor one.” Don’t let this be you! Keep your equipment in top shape. Likewise with chalk. The rule of always chalking after the miscue is funny, but the sad truth is that is happens all the time. Don’t let it happen to you. Take the time to chalk your tip carefully and often (every shot!!!).
Bumping in to makable balls. How many times do you turn the cue ball loose and wind up bumping a makable ball into a bad position? Probably more often than you would like to admit. Stop it.
Not focusing 100% on the shot at hand. If your mind is on winning the set, knowing you “can beat this guy”, the score, your car etc, you are not completely on the shot. The formula for success is to focus 100% on the shot at hand.
Go through your game, video tape yourself or ask a friend. If you find one of these errors, work on correcting them. I guarantee you that your game will improve. That’s it for now, see you on the road.