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Just some thoughts on continuous technique improvement

Postby acesinc

This post is in direct response to a fellow forum member who requested information about specific changes that I stated that I had made to my technique recently. I will have a lot to say here, probably a very boring read for most, and as I have a lot going on in my life outside snooker, I will probably take quite an extended period of time and quite a few posts to put out all of the information that I intend. So if you are looking for short, concise subject matter, best to pass over this thread.

I would like to make a variety of comments over a series of posts in regards to my personal approach to both the mechanical/physical as well as the mental/psychological aspects of the Game. I have attempted to have verbal discussion of these things with other members of my club, but none have displayed interest to pursue these topics, they would only appear to be interested in playing the game, believing (wrongly, in my view) that the path to improvement is to keep hitting the balls in competitive frames, and presumably, eventually, it will all come together and the improvements will shine.

Quite a few of the thoughts that I will present I have never seen before in written or video instruction. I have never had access to a proper, live coach before.

I am not looking for pats on the back and accolades, nor am I looking for harsh criticism and antagonism. However, useful discussion and constructive criticism is very welcome, especially from the gracious host, Sickpotter.

Very quick background: learned the game in the mid-80's, played very regularly for about five years. Considered myself a fair player at the time (30% maybe....will explain what that means shortly), with young, healthy eyes and body that pretty much did what I wanted them to do. Back in the USA, I was away from the game for 20 years and have been playing regularly again for the last four. Now, despite the wonky eyes, bad back, and pot belly, I have a brain that works much better than when I was a kid, and I have improved my game to where I am probably now a little over 50% (so call it 55%), though I admit that these percentages are pretty much nothing more than wild guesses (but I am a numbers guy so I like to label everything with numbers somehow, even if I don't have direct supporting evidence).

To explain the percentages, what I mean by that is a simple rank among all of the theoretical snooker players in the world....the worst player in the world would be 0%, and Ronnie O'Sullivan and just about every other professional player is 100%. The lower ranked professionals would be 99%. This is NOT to say how many frames that one should win as a percentage because of course that would depend on who your opponent actually is--a 75% ranked player, a fantastic amateur player probably along the lines of those in the forum with century breaks, will in all likelihood lose nearly 100% of frames played against Ronnie for instance.

The reason I use this scale is because I came to the conclusion that the overwhelming majority of players tend to think that they are much better than they actually are; when they play poorly, they perceive that there is always some underlying cause. I have experienced numerous instances of opponents who have a good session running several 20's or better, then have an extended number of poor sessions, say 5 or 6 sessions in a row, barely putting four balls together, then comment, "I just can't get back to my usual game...". At some point, one must admit that the poor session is usual, the good session is the rarity. By adding some humility to the equation, by admitting that I am MAYBE better than about half of the players of the game in the whole world, I fully recognize that I have a long, uphill climb if I wish to improve. I cannot just keep hitting balls; there must be a direction to the exercise. The old saying, of course, is that the definition of insanity is to simply keep doing the same thing over and over again and somehow, expect different results. I do have to believe that this is how most players seek to improve their snooker skills, simply repeating methods that have not been shown to work in the past.

So that is the introduction. For the first installment of this thread, I will post a link to a document rather than copy and pasting it (it is 7 pages long so no need to use up thread space). Perhaps the greatest of my many annoyances on the snooker table is slow play. Virtually every opponent that I have access to can easily take thirty seconds or more to make an assessment of the table and decide on which shot to take. Then, it is not uncommon for them to change their mind on which shot to pursue. This type of player can walk around the table monotonously examining current ball positions even if a particular group of balls hasn't moved in ten minutes! I have never understood this; more properly, table positions should be under constant can do most of it from your chair, ferchrissakes!, noting which balls are available to which natural pockets and which spot lines are potentially covered with interfering balls. And if you can't tell from your chair, then a quick glance when walking around the table answers the yes/no questions. I am stumped by the players who get down on a knee to look, then back up again, then down again, several more times. Are they expecting things to change between getting up and down so many times? It does happen but it is rare that I take more than about five seconds to decide what is the appropriate shot to take for a given situation, then another ten to fifteen seconds to execute. When a player takes longer to decide, especially if he made the previous pot and left the current table position to HIMSELF, it is plainly obvious that cue ball position is the players biggest problem. I am astounded at how often my opponent displays abject and utter surprise at the position he has left for himself. That alone should be a clue as to where one needs to improve.

So, if you are still reading and haven't fallen asleep or slit your wrists by now, a link to the Five Types of Shots:

And if you can make it through that, feel free to offer any constructive feedback or additions. Also, as you are watching the UK Championships, see if you agree with the correlation between the Five Types and the actual professionals' shot choices.

Plenty more to come as I find time.

Re: Just some thoughts on continuous technique improvement

Postby acesinc

A quick follow up to above...

You may rightly wonder how I come up with a wild guess as to my "ranking" in the snooker world (having called myself 55 percent above). Living here in the USA, I am admittedly in a very shallow pool as far a snooker talents go. I am by nature a numbers guy and enjoy fiddling with statistics and probabilities whether in reference to my personal life, professional life, or as relating to Snooker. So since I cannot really collect actual data, I must by necessity make some logical assumptions.

So to explain the percentage ranking, it is based on a simple exercise that I like to do. As I said, it is my opinion that most players are not as talented as they believe themselves to be so anyone reading this can try this simple exercise: Rack the fifteen reds like normal anywhere near pink spot, doesn't need to be perfect because it doesn't matter. No colours on table. Take an open break and if you pot anything, spot according to English Billiards precedence: Spot (black), Center Spot (blue), Pyramid Spot (pink). Of course, there will be reds near to cushion so feel free to nudge balls around for a while, maybe five or ten nudges to get balls into pottable positions. These nudges should be played similar to low speed roll ups and can very much act as practice in their own right. To nudge a ball off a cushion, choose an exact position that you wish to knock the ball to, strike gently, and take note of exactly how close to your target spot you actually moved the ball. We have all played roll ups that were short on pace so doing this will help develop muscle memory to feel power transfer both from cue to cue ball and from cue ball to object ball. When ready, pot your first ball and call that stroke 1. Simply (and honestly) count the strokes that it takes to clear the fifteen reds. That's it.

I suspect that most players of the game will take more than 30 strokes to clear, in many cases, much more. I am making an educated guess that readers of this forum are probably above average players in general, but I would expect perhaps half can clear in 30 strokes or less. A pro of course will clear in 15 or 16 strokes. My personal best is 18 strokes, but normal is between bout 23 and 25 strokes. And that basically makes for a simple graduated scale to position oneself relative to others. My "educated" wild guess is that probably about the 50 percentile of snooker players can clear the table like this between 25 and 30 strokes.

Obviously, the difficulty of the table will play a major part in this and so another hard to work with variable. My experience from decades ago was that the tables in the UK, like mine, played to a pretty tight specification. More recently, my experiences in Vancouver and Toronto would imply that the Canadians tend to loosen up a little bit on the pocket openings. But despite the necessity of these fudge factors, I think it is good to simply get a numerical baseline so that one can have a mechanism to gauge one's progress.