Analyzing your stroke

In the larger schemes of things, most players never take the time to analyze their stroke for certain critical and logical ingredients.  Of these ingredients, the single most obvious reason that most players never analzye them is that they never shoot at anything except an object ball.  Amazingly enough, in almost every sport, it's a common place to see a serious player practicing a particular stroke or section of a delivery without any other purpose in mind.  It's about time for pool to be "practiced at the water cooloer", without a ball, and even without a stick when the drill calls for it. 

To Properly practice a stroke or incorporate a technique into your stroke, you must take away every distraction that causes you not to think about what you want to concertrate upon.  Believe it or not, this means that since a player naturally thinks about pocketing the ball, the object ball must be removed to properly train.  Usually a player must eliminate distracting variables like the cue ball and cue stick also.  As you train, add these variables to slowly incorporate the technique into your natural stroke.  Before this gets confusing, lets outline the basic steps for practacing: 

1:  Train Your Body:     Practice the movements and techniques you want without the cue ball, cue stick and the object balls.  This allows the player to concertrate on the movements, develop a signature to follow, and become more familiar with the muscle memory involved with the technique and stroke. 

2.  Add The Cue Stick:     As you become increasingly familiar with the stroke and the technique, practice with just your cue stick so that you can develop a better signature to the new stroke and it's muscle memory. 

3:  Add The Cue Ball:      When you can properly deliver the stroke with the cue, start shooting the cue ball with the new stroke.  Concertrate on the feeling that you have when you actually strike the cue and how you can incorporate that feeling into your muscle memory. 

4.  Add The Object Ball:     Finally add the object ball so that you may link the muscle memories and signatures to a visual movie of object ball and cue balls.  This is crucial part of playing as it determines the outcome of shots, games and matches.  But do not be fooled, to improve your learning curve, you should not omit step 1,2, and 3.  Bypassing these steps could cause you to lack the understanding required to master the technique. 

Several ingredients of the stroke can be trained using these techniques.  the first ingredient of the stroke is straightness.  Straightness leads to that effortless accuracy that we all wished we had and could rely upon when the pressure makes most players crack.  Many teachers and players look for reducing shoulder movement so the elbow stays stationary and the perfect "Pendulum Stroke" is achieved.  That being said, the way to develop a straight stroke is through diligent stroke practice. 

Another ingredient essential to be a great stroke is a player's follow through.  This ingredient can be grossly overlooked because the player only ever pays attention to the object ball on it's way to the hole or the cue ball on it's way to the position zone.  One of the characteristics of the follow through is the actual space your arm and the cue stick need to move into.  If this space is inhibited, a player will jump up, move, or even stop short on the follow through.  By following these steps in this article, a player can properly adjust their stroke to allow for a good follow through. 

The idea of shooting without balls and a cue stick is extremely unorthodox to most players until they relized that every other sport has athletes that already use these techniques.  The next time you need to learn a stroke or technique, try this approach.  It works wonders on your stroke training time.  It should give you a new found appreciation you only get out of it what you out into it,