Taking a Closer Look at the Stance

By Roger Long

Advanced Certified Instructor

Roger Long

When it comes to the stance, I think I probably teach the same thing that most other instructors teach.  What we try to emphasize is that the stance should be balanced and comfortable.  If you have adopted a stance that is balanced and comfortable, then you are 90% of the way home. But today, it’s the remaining 10% that I’d like to take a closer look at.

Let us first examine a typical “balanced” stance.  This is a stance that will have the feet placed at an effective angle to the line-of-aim (the direction the cue stick points).  By “effective” I mean that the angle should not be less than 15° or more than 45°.  Any foot placement that closes the angle to less than 15° or opens it to more than 45° makes it very difficult to get your head and upper body over the cue without losing your balance.

As far as “comfortable” goes, that is largely a matter of personal preference.  Since people have all sorts of different physical make-ups, they can’t all stand over a shot exactly the same way.  Depending upon how high or low they want their head to be over the cue, some will prefer to put their feet close together and adjust height by flexing (or not) at the knees; while others will prefer to lock at the knees and spread their feet wide apart to get low, and maybe not spread them so wide for higher head elevations.  Any method the shooter prefers is acceptable as long as he or she is balanced and comfortable.

Over time, however, some players will change their stance in search of more comfort or better balance.  Oftentimes, these changes are subconscious and the player isn’t even aware that they have taken place.  But some changes in the stance may require other adjustments to be made in order to keep the cue level and straight.  (For example, changing the height you stand over the cue requires a change in the placement of your grip hand in order to keep the cue level.)  But if a player isn’t consciously aware that a change has taken place, there will be little chance that he or she will be able to figure out what the problem is when some shots are missed.

Proper aiming still plays the most important role in pocketing balls.  The best vantage point for a good aim is with the head directly above the cue.  And the best upper body alignment is one where the head, both hands, the rear shoulder, and rear elbow, are all in one vertical plane.  When a player has practiced this type of alignment while using only one certain stance, it can then be easy to lose the instinctive feel needed for that alignment when a change in the stance has taken place.

The point here is that the stance deserves more attention than what most players think.  If you’ve been having trouble with your aiming consistency; examine your stance.  You may have to enlist the aid of a friend or wall mirror to help you see it, but you just might find that your problem is down at ground level.

Breaks Can Be Deceiving

By Samm Diep © January 2011

Samm Diep

In the infant stages of my pool game, I was constantly reminded of the importance of practice and repetition. I was building muscle memory and honing my skills. If I went for more than one day without practicing, I could feel my game suffer. It seemed like I was taking an immediate step back and in some cases would even need to relearn things.

Of course, I never minded playing and practicing so much in the beginning because I was obsessed. I put in the hours because I was falling in love with the game. The breaks were seldom, by design.

These days, as I’ve improved and my skills and knowledge advanced, I find myself practicing for longer sessions but with less frequency. Let’s face it, there comes a point where your priorities shift and “life” keeps you from putting in the hours that you were once accustomed to.

Over the past year, whenever I’ve taken a break, I’ve returned to the table renewed. I’ve found myself pocketing balls just as well or better than I was prior to the time off.

Does this mean it’s not necessary to practice on a regular basis anymore? What’s the point of practicing if I’m playing just as well without it? The two main factors that infrequent practice affects are confidence and consistency.

Playing well after a long break can be deceiving for a couple reasons:

  1. When you’re playing well without practicing, you fool yourself into thinking you don’t need to practice. You may be able to get away with it once or twice but over time, that lack of practice will accumulate and take its toll on your overall ability to execute. With waivered confidence, tentative shots and decisions will lead to repeated mistakes and vice versa.
  2. Playing well without practicing gives you a false sense of security. You might start hitting the balls well and feeling like you’re ready for competition. It’s only then when your abilities are put to the test that you realize you’re pocketing balls on autopilot. Once you get to the money ball or key ball, that’s when the inconsistency surfaces. Routine run outs become more work than they should be.

Confidence is so critical in the game of pool. If ever you tell yourself you’re out of stroke, then you’ll be out of stroke. You may be hitting the ball well but you will still be a bit rusty. The next time you return from a break, try to still play with confidence but do not be deceived. Be aware of your limitations and play within them. Until you get back in stroke, take fewer risks and be more patient.

Samm Diep, “Cherry Bomb” (DenverCherryBomb.com)

House Pro at Rack ‘Em Billiards (Aurora, CO)

Author of “You Might Be A D Player If… (101 Classic Moves That All Pool Players Can Appreciate)”

Player Representative for Chris Byrne Custom Cues, PoolDawg, Predator, Jim Murnak Custom Cases, & Delta-13 Rack

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