Solitary Practice

The value of a practice partner can be enormous, but you won’t always have another player available when you get the notion to work on your game.

Solitary practice can be very rewarding when you have a drill that can be made progressively harder as your skill level rises. This progressive practice is a powerful learning method. The skills that you learn will have a direct impact on your winning percentage.

After breaking a 9-ball rack, a highly skilled player might look at the resulting table layout and develop a pattern in his mind of how to run the entire table. While that may be true, in reality as he is actually playing the game, he only thinks three balls ahead. He wants to make the ball that he is shooting at, have the cue ball get the proper angle on the second ball so that it is easy to make it and get position on an easy shot on the third ball. With each successive shot he starts the process over. He plays position to get the proper angle on the next ball in order to get the proper angle on the third ball, enabling easy position on the fourth ball, etc.

Since you think in terms of three shots ahead, that is where we will begin our rotation drill. Take three balls and toss them randomly onto the table, letting them come to rest where they wish. Take cue ball in hand and set up your first shot to make the lowest numbered object ball and have the cue ball get the proper angle on the next ball to have an easy shot. Then, if you are successful, shoot the second ball and have the cue ball get the proper angle for a “gimme” shot on the last ball. If at any stage in the sequence you are unsuccessful at attaining excellent position on your next shot, put the previous ball back and shoot it again, until you are successful. This is a very important step. Immediately retrying failed attempts and creating a new mental image of the shot being made exactly as intended is a superior method of re-enforcing the information you gain.

Keeping a simple chart of your progress will help you stay on track with your practicing. Nothings spurs more improvement in your game as much as some improvement. If you were to do this exercise twenty times per practice session and notate how many times you were able to shoot the three balls in rotation while attaining perfect position after each shot, progress would be easy to discern. Once you are able to run out the three balls, perfectly, fifteen out of the twenty times, without any repeats, your skill level will have improved, and just think about the confidence you will have in a match when your opponent scratches and leaves you a three ball out.

If you are a skilled enough player that can do fifteen out of twenty already, then you have to make it a little harder. By adding more balls to the equation, you add to the degree of difficulty. Again, the objective must be to stay perfectly in line. As you can see, you can carry this all the way out to a complete rack of 9-ball, but it would be tough for players other than top pros to complete a good percentage of layouts. If you can complete 75% of your tries at five balls, you are a top amateur player. Remember that the key to effectiveness of this drill is in reshooting less than perfect shots until you get it right.

Good Luck — Jerry