by: Brad Gowin

(May Issue 2001)

In every game there is both an offense and defense. In nine ball, the offensive part of the game is very appealing to watch. It's always fun to see somebody make great shots, bank and cut balls and from just about everywhere. These great run outs are always exciting to see, but they are not 100 percent of the game. It's true that the greatest defense is a great offense, however, one needs to learn the power and beauty of a great played safety. A well played safety requires as much or more skill than a tough shot.

To understand the beauty of the safety it may be wise to take a look at some of the greatest players on our planet. One example, who I believe to be the best player, is Eferen Reyes. When the average person watches him play, they see him running balls and winning games. They watch him move around the table and wonder how he can make it look so easy. These people are only watching him pocket balls and win games. They don't see the whole picture.

To understand what the whole picture is, you must first understand that nine ball is a game of war. The pool table represents the battlefield and the cue stick, the weapon of choice. The only difference is, in pool we aren't confronting each other in actual physical combat. With this thought in mind, let's compare playing nine ball or any other pool game to physical combat. In fighting there is both offense and defense. When somebody swings their fist at me, naturally I'm going to try to block it. The blocking maneuver would be my defense. I wouldn't stand there sticking my face out at my and let him strike me at will. What kind of fighter would I be if I didn't try to defend (defense) myself?

Now, getting back to nine ball, we need to consider both offense and defense. Playing safety would be considered a defensive move. The safety is designed to block your opponents offense and give yourself time to relax into your offensive game. For each individual it takes a certain amount of time, or turns at the table to become relaxed enough so they can get in stroke. Therefore, the safety becomes an important factor. It gives you enough opportunities at the table to get into stroke. Once relaxed, you can take your offense to your opponent and win games. Blocking your opponent enough times and handing him your offense enough times, you will prevail and win matches. Your opponents are people just like you, humans with feelings and emotions. They make mistakes too. Playing safe will keep their offense in check. The power of the safety will frustrate and demoralize your opponent. You must train to realize the full potential of this.

Offense and defense. Knowing when to do one or the other is something that marks the difference between a good player and a great player. Offense is one factor of the game, defense another. A well executed safety is every bit as beautiful as a well executed shot. Kicking and hitting the ball from a safety is another aspect of the game. We'll get into that later.

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