Thursday, October 18, 2012

Learning Sessions (and my biggest learning experience)

The other day I noticed that one of my teammate's had a great stroke!  Her silky smooth stroke was impressive.  However, when she shot a tough shot, or a shot where she had to move her cueball a lot, then she would stroke too hard, and of course miss the ball and her shape.

What I call this is "whacking at the ball."

I have done this a lot myself.  I was told by a pro a few years ago that a smooth stroke is key.  Until I incorporated that during my matches on tough shots, I really had no idea how powerful that advice was. 

I am going to state this and I hope it gets through:  THE most important thing I wish I learned 20 years ago, 10 years ago, or even 5 years ago... is this very tip:  A smooth stroke.  Sure, three-ball shape is important, looking at the object ball last is important, staying down is important.  But, the most important thing I have learned in the last three years is how truly powerful a smooth stroke is for tough shots; and I wish I knew it sooner!

(see my top ten tips from 2011 here.)

Everyone can relate to whacking at a ball.  You see a tough shot or a far away shot, and think you have to hit it hard, you stroke too fast, too hard, and now your cue is no longer level and you hit the cueball incorrectly, and you miss the ball.  Everyone does this.

However, if you DO NOT do this, if instead you use a smooth stroke for the tough shots, you will make them more often.

I promise.

What this tells me is while I thought my fundamentals were good; they were not.  Why?  Because I didn't treat every shot the same... with a smooth stroke.

So, I noticed that my teammate whacked at the ball.  I don't normally seek things for people to work on.  But, this one kinda hit me in the face because she had such a smooth stroke on all her other shots.

I pulled her aside one night and asked if I could show her something.  Just a little thing.  She said we could next time.  She seemed eager; I wasn't sure if she would be receptive or open; turns out she was.

After the next league night, we played ONE game of 8ball.  That's it.  One game.  All I did was point out the shots I thought she normally would whack at, and the shots I used to whack at.  She worried about shape, but I expressed it's better to give yourself a chance to make the ball, than hope you get shape by whacking at a ball.  If you don't get perfect shape, go to Plan B or play safe.

I didn't want to come across as pompous, I just wanted to help.  She already has great fundamentals and a knowledge of the game, so this was only a little tidbit of info I hoped would help her.

The next week in league, she won all five or 4 out of 5 matches.   She played great!  Then we played ACS State last weekend, and she was our MVP!  She played fantastic!

Her and I discussed the smooth stroke on difficult shots after the event and she told me how excited and surprised she was how much it changed her game, and mind set.  She made more balls, and in return had more confidence in herself.

I overheard two other people say they would like to practice with me.  It made me feel wonderful!  I admit, I got a natural high showing her just this one little (big) thing.  I was elated and felt intoxicated with happiness to be able to share information about pool.  I was internally ecstatic!

The last day of ACS Texas State, we had 2-3 hours to kill before the men's finals.  Earlier in the day, I said to a friend, that if she ever wanted to practice, I would thoroughly enjoy discussing options of the table (in 8ball).  This player has improved so much in two years, that it's very impressive.  And she is a sponge trying to improve her game and truly wants to excel.  Everyone can see that the choices she makes about pool leagues is strictly to improve her game.

I know that sounds weird.  But some players say they want to learn or improve, but don't do anything TRUE about it.  Every decision and choice she makes is about improving her game.

I mentioned to her a week ago at a tourney to break out clusters sooner rather than later.  She told me that really helped her during the ACS tourney.  She was taught during APA to wait to break out clusters.  I explained the numerous reasons why (that I learned from Phil Capelle of Play Your Best Pool).

So, when we had some time on Sunday, she all of a sudden grabbed her cues, racked the balls, and looked at me.  "Oh, you want to have a session now?"  I asked.  "Yep, I sure do," she stated defiantly.

I got my cues and we started our sessions of going over all the different options of the 7 eightball games we played. I told her I was concerned that I would give her TOO much to consider, too much to think about.  But, she said she was grateful to hear the different options she hadn't thought of before.

I am not talking about the normal things in 8ball: why you take stripes, what are your trouble spots, etc.  I'm talking about expressing why I choose each ball.  What I am thinking before I start.  Why I shoot in the order I do.  What I am thinking for my choices.

I also pointed out I play different when I play females.  Most females cannot get out every time - that means I sometimes make different choices against a player not as knowledgeable.  And if I play a female who doesn't pick off balls, for example, then I change my strategy.  It depends on who I play.

I expressed why I would leave a cluster.  Or, why I would break it out then.  It depends on how the other balls lay; are there other problems?  I could go on and on, lol. 

A few times, we would ask my boyfriend to come over and give his opinion.  It was pretty cool - he would give his thoughts and a few times her and I had not discussed that option.  He and I usually think alike when it comes to 8ball because we have the same style, but it was pretty enlightening and exciting to see his different thought process about a few choices.  I was again internally ecstatic - I like people learning no matter from who.

I mentioned to her that the two books that elevated my 8ball game (literally) to a different level was Phil Capelle's Play Your Best Pool and Play Your Best Eight Ball.  I told her I would talk to Phil and get her those two books, as she was very interested in them.  I ordered those earlier this week for her.  If anyone else wants them, please let me know.  I am now a dealer for his books.  :)

I am not an 8ball expert, but I DO feel in my heart I know the game of 8ball fairly well.  I still learn new things, of course!  But, my boyfriend and I see shots made all the time from others and we wonder, "why did they do that?"  I think it's just that some of the players were never taught.  I was the same way - until I read those books over and over, and until I played in master scotch doubles at Nationals, or until I played more and more 8ball in BIG tourneys or numerous scotch doubles events, I simply didn't know.  I would like to help my league-mates sooner in their pool quest.  If they are receptive, obviously.

I don't share info with just anyone and everyone; I share it with people who are ready to learn, if that makes sense.

I got a natural high "teaching."  And, to see the "students" improving already is awesome.  :)

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