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10 Tips from the Pros to Get Back in Stroke
Sure, sometimes you have to take a break from pool. And when you get back, your stroke often isn't in the same shape as you left it. BD has brought together a panel of expert instructional columnists and top-flight professionals to ask their advice on a quick-and-easy start-up to get back in playing stroke.
1. Allen Hopkins: "The first way to get back into stroke is to play about two hours per day. It's best to play for an hour early in the day, then play an hour at night, just so you're ready to play at any time of the day. Then a good practice technique is to throw all 15 balls out on the table. Pocket the first 10 balls in any order, then play the last five in rotation. After a layoff, everyone is going to feel awkward hitting balls, so this should get you going again."
2. Larry Schwartz: "After a long break from playing pool, give yourself a checklist to make sure all of your fundamentals are solid. (1. Bridge - tight; 2. Stance - comfortable; 3. Stroke - smooth, etc.) The most common error I see after players have a long layoff is the tendency to jump up before the object ball goes in the pocket. This is usually from a lack of confidence early on. It's a good idea to stay down on your shot until all balls stop rolling."
3. Bob Jewett: "When you are getting ready for league play again, a good shot to practice is your break. For 8-ball, try the advanced method: Place the cue ball near the side cushion and hit the second ball as full as you can without hitting the head ball. Concentrate on increasing your speed while you maintain control of the cue ball. You will probably find that you need a little draw on the cue ball to return it to the center of the table after contact with the rack and the side cushion near the corner pocket. Consider a break successful - as far as control is concerned - if the cue ball doesn't hit any other cushions.
"For 9-ball, start from the same position near the side cushion, but play full on the 1 ball. If you let the cue ball hit any cushion, except by a kiss from an object ball, your control isn't good enough. If the cue ball consistently goes to one side, you need to aim the other way a little. See which ball you can make the most often. The 1 ball can go straight into the side with the right hit, and the "wing" ball on the breaking side is also very likely to go if the rack is nice and tight. You may have to adjust the cue ball position a little, and perhaps even change to the other side of the table.
"When practicing your break, it is critical to have a rack as tight as in a game. Be especially careful with the front balls. At 9-ball, the back balls must be tight, or there will be balls that go in nearly automatically, including the 9 ball."
4. Fran Crimi: "START SLOWLY. Don't rush back into the game with high expectations or by placing high demands on yourself. Think of it as starting with a clean slate, without making comparisons to your how your game was before the summer. After a break is the perfect time to enjoy playing just for the sake of playing. As we all know, the more fun you are having, the faster you will improve. In a short while you may see a surprising jump in skill!"
5. Mike Sigel: "After a long layoff, I pocket very easy shots to begin with. Once my confidence and arm get in rhythm, I move on to tougher shots. This way I don't get upset if I make mistakes early."
6. Tommy Kennedy: "The main thing to keep in mind during my time off is to catch up on my rest. A lot of tour players travel a lot and lose a lot of sleep during their schedule, and this can hurt your play down the road. So I try to build that up during the off time and it really makes a difference for me. As with most things, you need to be rested and eat well before an event too. I try to stay rested and eat well leading up to an event, so I'm not playing on a full stomach - That's never really worked well for me. But then you've got guys like Buddy Hall, who can win a tournament on a huge steak dinner."
7. Dawn Hopkins: "I would set some initial goals and break down the time to reach each of those goals. Find out what you want to attain, then write down a schedule to get you to your goals. Without a goal, there's no motivation. Once you have the goal, plan enough practice time to systematically reach that goal. One day work on banks and running out. The next day work on safety plays and running out. This way you can work on all aspects of your game and work your way to the goal."
8. Tony Robles: "An instant cure to get back into playing stroke whenever you stop playing for a while is to throw all 15 balls out on the table and starting pocketing them, in any order, without moving a single muscle but your arm. By doing this, I'm retraining my natural stroke without jumping up or lunging. It's an instant cure."
9. Jeff Carter: "You must spend time on the practice table. I would break the game down, whichever game you play, into categories and go to work from there. But it's not a quick fix. For instance, I felt my break was weak for a while, and I spent seven to eight months working on it. You have to take time in each session and approach the individual categories of the game."
10. Nick Varner: "When my father taught me how to play, he said the secret to playing great pool, at any time, was, 'practice, practice, and more practice.'"