No matter how often someone points out the obvious, no matter how many times it is mentioned in a book or video you are trying to learn from, it is surprising how often we ignore sound advice on how to improve our performance at pocket billiards, despite the fact we’re talking about basics.
Lately, I have been working on my stroke. I use Doug Carter’s Stroke Trainer to keep my efforts consistent. I have been focused on speed of delivering the cue to the cue ball. Acceleration of the cue is something I was instructed on early in my pool journey, but it went in one ear and out the other with minimal impact on what I was doing with the cue.
I was watching a billiards video recently, and the instructor mentioned the importance of accelerating through the shot. At the time, I recall thinking "OK, tell me something I don't know." But watching the pros on TV over the past few weeks made me realize that I really didn't know!
I will admit that never gave a thought to accelerating through the shot. After all, if you don't accelerate the cue, how is the cue stick going to get to the cue ball--it seems like a no-brainer. Nonetheless, the seed was planted.
Watching various pros making shots demonstrated virtually every technique discussed on the video.. This combination of playing styles, provided ample opportunity for an A/B comparison of stroke techniques.
The pros, whether or not they paused at the end of the final backstroke, had a distinct acceleration on every shot, even the soft ones. You could see the cue moving steadily faster as it went through the cue ball. The cue would then come to an abrupt halt several inches in front of the cue balls original position.
See For Yourself
I recently had the opportunity to have my stroke video analyzed, and I can tell you, it didn’t look anything like what I had seen on TV.
Acceleration has advantages in virtually every sport. Imagine a bowler trying to control the speed of the ball on the downswing--all types of muscle tension become involved and it would impossible to accurately deliver the ball. Golf is exactly the same; start at the top of the back-swing and accelerate through the ball. The pool stroke is no different. If you are not accelerating the cue, then some other subconscious effort is being applied. Acceleration allows everything to move on a designated straight line which means consistency!
I could see where this negative force was affecting my game. We subconsciously associate a smooth stroke with a steady controlled speed. A smooth ride is one of constant speed and not of acceleration and deceleration. In an attempt to be smooth, I may well have ruined the very thing I was trying to perfect.
I was explaining this to a fellow player recently. He asked the logical question, "How do you make the soft shots?" There are really two answers to that question, in my opinion:
1. The pros shoot very few soft shots. They use stop, stun, stun follow, and stun draw to control the cue ball effectively on medium speed shots.
2.Acceleration on soft shots does take a little practice, but once you get used to it, it feels incredibly comfortable and natural, even when the acceleration is slower.
If you think about it, in 99% of our shots, the speed with which the object ball moves to the pocket is of little importance. It is the cue ball we need to control. That is easily accomplished by where and how we strike it. With a medium stroke, you can stop the cue ball dead, draw it a few inches, draw it a lot, follow just a few inches, or follow it a lot. We can do it by controlling cue speed too, but that is much less predictable. I am sure we have all tried a very soft shot that didn't quite make it to the pocket.
Putting It To The Test
I was anxious to put this “new” theory to the test. The first few shots were admittedly a bit awkward--like any change in your stroke--but I adapted very quickly and within minutes I could feel I was pocketing balls cleaner and with more authority than ever before. A surprising side effect of stroke acceleration was that my play seemed to be a little more aggressive and confident, and that's a good thing.
have told several players about this and virtually everyone has not liked it initially because they start off hitting the ball very hard. But once they realized that acceleration was not directly related to speed, it feels even more effortless and natural than before.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it! If you are happy with your stroke, I would never recommend trying this or anything else that might mess it up. If, on the other hand, you are struggling with stroke consistency or shotmaking, acceleration may provide the missing link. Try it, you may just like it.