Now that I’m back from traveling, one thing seems to be a constant in the pool world. The question I hear in many ways over and over is ‘how do I get better?’
I want to look at one part of the answer to this question. Here are some things you can do today that will improve your game. Unfortunately, they are easy to say, but in the heat of battle not so easy to do. I’m sure you know these things already, but the key point is, are you doing them when you play. My guess is you are not consistently following these guidelines, and that will cause you to miss.
So let’s look at some ways to improve your pocketing.
First is hitting the balls softer. It is really amazing how far the balls go when you roll them. I know it is fun to try and rip the pockets off the table, but try and see if you can get the object ball to just fall off the lip of the pocket. Stroking softly helps you in a lot of ways; your mechanics hold up better, the pocket plays bigger, and you have better feel for the speed of the cue ball. All good things for your game.
Next is staying on the vertical axis of the cue ball. Learn to make shots just using a stroke with the cue tip on the vertical axis. I’m sure you have learned to make balls with outside spin, and all sorts of other magic, but your pocketing will improve when you learn to make all shots with a center ball. Now of course you have to understand throw and how that affects your shot, but unconsciously compensating for throw taught you how to put english on the ball in the first place. What I’d like to challenge you to do is unlearn this, and learn how to make shots with a center cue ball. This will raise your game a lot, and the pocketing problem becomes simpler when you are on the vertical axis of the cue ball.
Another key point is to have your eyes on the object ball before the final stroke. If your eyes are bouncing all over the place, your head will move and you will jump up or miss the shot. There are many ways to get your eyes on the object ball last, but make sure that you give yourself enough time to focus on the target sharply. It takes longer than a quick glance to visually lock in on your target.
Also setting up on the shot along the line of the shot gives you a better perspective than plopping across the line of the shot. Essentially, you want to walk in to the shot. I have watched countless players make a good shot and walk over to the next shot and plop down, take a few strokes and miss by a diamond. Take the little extra time to compose yourself and walk into the shot.
Next is your mental set. One thought that should be in your head before each shot is the belief that the stroke you are using will pocket the ball. If you have any doubts, you are not ready to shoot the shot. You will know when doubts are in your head by watching the tip of your cue. When you finish your shot, did the cue stick wind up pointing at the sky? If it did, you grabbed your stick during the stroke. This is a symptom of not having complete confidence in your stroke. If you thought you would make the ball, your wouldn’t have to try and help the shot in the pocket and grab the cue stick. Have a definite plan and believe you will pocket the ball.