Team Support – Kickoff to League Season

Team Support – Kickoff to League Season

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer,

Mike Fieldhammer

Some players participate in pool leagues all summer, but for many September signals the return to playing weekly with a team. Here is the first article in a series about playing on a team and making the experience a productive, enjoyable, and rewarding pursuit.

Team Support. The sum can be greater than its parts.

My most recent memorable experience is winning the BCAPL National Team tournament in Las Vegas in May. The five man squad sardonically named “Who Needs a Billiard Coach?!” fought through a field of 674 teams to take the top prize of $11,000. The whole event was an exhilarating ride for me, propelled by the support of my team:  Brian Haffner, Jared Bailey, Dustin Morris, and Jesse Engel.

Team chemistry is a phrase that is tossed around, but is just one piece of having a successful team. Chemistry implies that there may be many elements blended into a concoction of a cohesive team.  Perhaps one of the most important elements is the support of one’s teammates.

Our team was successful in believing in each other and affirming each action our teammates made. Examples of this blind trust are as follows. For example, if Dustin played an unsuccessful combination shot in an effort to continue his run instead of shooting a solo ball in a different pocket, Jesse said, “Good try, you’ll get another shot this game. Your opponent isn’t getting out here.” We never took issue with a shot or a decision made by a teammate. Or if Brian missed a jump shot instead of kicking the ball which would have been my choice, I didn’t say “Why didn’t you kick at it?” Placing a seed of doubt in his head or shaking his confidence could be the beginnings of a skid in his and the team’s performance.

(A photo collage I framed and presented to each teammate)

Players on our team tried to sweat other teammates matches whenever possible. Caring enough to watch and root them on is an obvious sign of support. Even during a team match, I could hear Jared’s voice say, “Good shot Fieldhammer!” and it would further my resolve to win that game knowing he was spurring me on. Players on our winning team are selfless. We cared about our own performance only as it related to the team goal of winning matches. Never was heard, “Well, I got mine” when a player came to sit down after winning a game.

At its best, unconditional support for one’s teammates can be a catalyst to launching the team to heights unattainable by the five as individuals. Each of the five players on the team made sacrifices for the sake of the team. The team goal that we all had in mind became a truly satisfying achievement that became much sweeter because we shared it with teammates who gave and received support.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor
Samsara Player Representative / 612.802.0519

Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor.  He is available for private instruction or group clinics and events. Check out the new Billiard Coach Store:  Serious Gear for Serious Players. Gift certificates are available.

Is your game on the LEVEL?

© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer,

Mike Fieldhammer

Some pool players take some time off during the Summer and others stay in stroke and keep cool. One thing that seems to be true with everyone this time of year is that we are busy!  So here’s a quick tip for you to keep in mind next time you’re in a game.  Keep a level cue.

Play shots with your cue as level as possible.  It is tempting to elevate the butt of the cue on draw shots.  Players routinely elevate unnecessarily on shots where the cue ball is near a rail. A little bit of elevation is unavoidable as the butt extends over the rail. However, strive for the lowest butt your knuckles can stand.

Potential problems with jacking up are as follows:

1. The possibility of a slight Masse’ or Swerve of the cue ball before it contacts the object ball is of great concern.  If side spin is used (left or right English) while the cue it elevated, the cue ball will curve while traveling toward the object ball. The amount of movement is tough to judge and can be a delicate blend of table conditions, speed of stroke, eccentricity of the tip to cue ball contact, and degree of cue elevation.  Minor and unwanted curve in mildly elevated shots is one of the biggest factors to missing shots. Just a quarter inch of movement of cue ball called swerve (or masse’) can make for an awful miss.  The object ball could miss the pocket by many inches.

2. Aiming is trickier with an elevated cue.  Looking down the line of the cue stick past the cue ball to the object ball gets tougher with an elevated cue.  Your head gets higher off the table and your cue points more into the cloth and slate than through the cue ball and at the ghost ball or contact point by the object ball.  Keeping your point of view with your chin closer to the table will aid effective and accurate aiming.

3.  Hitting down on the cue ball causes it to jump off the playing surface.  This is good when you’re attempting to shoot a jump shot, but not so good if you are shooting a draw shot.  Dr. Dave, a great asset to the game, has done studies in his mad scientist lab and concluded that you will have less back spin on the cue ball when it reaches the object ball if you jack up.  This assumes the same cue tip offset from center ball. The hopping cue ball loses spin from the very first hop.  There’s double trouble if the cue ball is airborne at impact, because the contact point will change.  Your cut will be thinner than if the cue ball was on the cloth.

So keep it level, especially if you are going to use some side spin or want the most effective draw shot.

Mike Fieldhammer
Professional Billiard Instructor / 612.802.0519

Mike’s team “Who Needs a Billiard Coach?!” recently won the BCAPL National Team Championship in a field of 674 teams.  Mike is a full time tournament player and professional billiard instructor. Lessons, gift certificates, and very soon the new line of Samsara cues available at the Billiard Coach Store.