Successful players must learn how to practice pool like a pro. Practicing pool is a learned skill just like any other skill in the game of pool.
Practicing like a pro means having a plan and taking the appropriate action.
Getting a table and playing endless games of 9 ball will keep you playing in stroke but will not improve your game anywhere near the results of purposeful practice.
Proper Meaningful Practice.
Proper practice must include areas of weakness such as shots that you miss on a regular basis. Stroke problems that you are having. Position problems that came up in recent games. Good players will make notes in a journal of any areas of weakness to be worked on at a later practice session.
The Importance Of Feedback.
Good practice should include:
- Goals – What do you want to improve, what skills.
- Drills – What to practice, shot set up, specific drills.
- Feedback – Immediate and honest, coach/video feedback.
- Adjustment – Adjustments to skills based on feedback.
- Resolution – Continue the process until successful completion is attained.
A useful rule of thumb.
If a change works immediately it is usually a good move to incorporate that change into your game. However, if you have to work for days to see a result then the change is usually wrong.
Why Practice New Skills?
In a previous article about the video analysis of my stroke, I came up with a number of issues that needed my attention. These issues will obviously be addressed during numerous practice sessions rather than trying to fix them during serious matches.
Why is this necessary, why not just try out new techniques during a match? The reason is that during match play your actions need to be performed on autopilot by our subconscious whereas practice should be more mechanical and conscious.
What Am I Going To Change During Practice?
I am going to work on the following areas that I identified earlier:
- Cue Level, chest to cue.
- Eyes on the object ball.
- Cue Slowly back.
- Accelerate through the ball.
- Keep still.
- Keep Head Down.
- No tension.
This is a long list of issues but can be practiced at the same time as they all relate to reliable cue delivery. They are all fundamental to good form. Come back to these areas often especially if you are not playing well.
Organize Practice In A Logical Way.
- Start your video from the side.
- Set up a straight shot and mark the ball positions with paper doughnuts.
- Walk into the shot with cue on line bringing my chest down to my cue.
- When ready, I bring the cue back slowly, pause, keeping eyes fixed on the object ball.
- Whilst staying still accelerate the cue towards the ball, follow through and stay down.
Play 10 repetitions of the same shot. Play slower and more deliberately than usual actually thinking about the steps and the results that you are trying to attain.
Watch the video in a critical manner noting areas that need more attention and those which are being performed in accordance with your goals.
Repeat making the necessary adjustments. Continue with the video feed back.
How Often Should I practice?
It is true to say that you will need more practice earlier in your career than later. This is because earlier you will be learning techniques and grooving long term muscle memory. Once you have overcome the initial period, practice times can be reduced as needed.
However many players start off practicing 8 hours a day and continue well into their later careers. World champions like Shane Van Boening can be found at the practice table many hours longer than would be expected. Ko Pin Yi says that he does nothing but play pool, eat and sleep.
How Long Will It Take To Succeed?
This is a difficult question to answer because we all learn at different speeds and some skills are harder to learn than others.
However, I would say that you need to practice skills for several days or weeks until you are performing the skill naturally and subconsciously. As an example, I once practiced a stroke drill at least a thousand times over a period of days until I had it grooved in completely.
There is no easy way to be succeed at anything in life, you have to want it badly and be prepared to make sacrifices in order to achieve your goals.