The best way to determine a player's skills (A, B, or C), is with BPI (Balls Per Inning) average. This is the number of balls a player can make over a series of innings. Some innings may have zero balls pocketed - if there is no playable shot, or the player misses on the first ball. Other innings can be 4, 5, 6, even 7 balls put into pockets.
To calculate BPI, add up the number of balls made over 10 innings, and divide by 10. That is the player's BPI. So, an "A" player would have a BPI average above 4.0. (A "C" player might have a BPI of 0.5.)
To get to the "A" playing level, you must commit time practicing. It helps if you are also a bit obsessive about playing the game. In other words, there needs to be a passion for improving.
Of course, talent can help. But that only gets you so far. The trick to making balls requires two specific skills: getting the object ball into a pocket, and THEN getting the cue ball into position for a shot on the next ball. That is actually the entire requirement to becoming an "A" level player. You just need to string a series of balls together.
However, there are many thousands of possible shot and position requirements. To gain experience in handling most common layouts, you will need to shoot a LOT of balls.
This is necessary to build up a personal library of successful experiences. This also means you MUST learn from mistakes. Every time when a shot is missed, stop and figure out why. Once you have a reason for failure, make necessary adjustments.
For example, when the cue ball doesn't get to the table location you intended - use the practice table to experiment with the shot until you can successfully move the cue ball into different places on the table - with intention.
As you build up this history of successes, at the same time, you will start developing an ability to do the calculations unconsciously. For some people, this natural development occurs without awareness. But when you do realize this has become part of your routine - it's a very pleasant acknowledgement of the growth of your skills.
You already know what types of shots are beyond your ability to consistently accomplish. On the practice table, those are the shots you must focus your efforts.
After a practice session of these, finish off by "playing the ghost". The simple rules are this: break a rack of balls, start with ball in hand, and try to win in that turn. If you miss - you lose. Repeat.
Running through three or four racks with these rules will provide a personal demonstration of improved skills. You will start seeing yourself getting closer and closer to the game ball. Plus, you will notice two types of situations to take to your next practice session - layouts that feature failures to pocket the ball and layouts that include failures to get shape.
Get as as many practice sessions as you can every week. If unable to devote much effort, you can still fulfill your passion for mastering elements of the learning how to play at higher levels. It is critical that each practice session have a plan before you start. Remember, all improvements are cumulative. The more table time you can get in, the faster the improvements.
In addition to practice sessions, you need to have competitive experiences. This can be as part of a team in a league, or entering several local and regional tournaments each month. You MUST have real-world experience with players.
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