(This is today's bit of advice from the book Safety Toolbox.)
You come to the table with two sets of toolboxes - offensive toolbox and safety toolbox. These include a combination of mental abilities and physical playing skills. You can call yourself good when your original intention before the shot matches the table results – and do that constantly.
Physical skills are developed from practice and experience. This requires table time. The more shots made with intention, the better player you become. Even the most casual player can improve skills the more games he plays. (It may take years to see the improvements, but it does happen.) There is an old story that a famous player, when asked the secret of his success, stated that it took a million shots. There is a great deal of truth in that.
For a shot to be added to the toolboxes, you must own the shot. Ownership implies that the shot can be performed as intended, 70+ percent of the time. Any shot that meets that requirement makes it dependable. You can use it anytime and expect success. (Of course, that doesn’t stop you from getting careless.)
There are two sets of tools that are required:
- Pocketing skills. These are the shots you can make almost all the time. They range from the simple jawed ball to the short distance straight-in shots up through your ability to consistently pocket other shots.
- Positioning skills. These are your abilities to move the cue ball around the table with intention and precision. These are your speed and spin skills that move the cue ball, after contact with the object ball, into position for the next shot.
An example of these working together would be the ability to reliably pocket a four foot straight-in shot (a tool from the first set) - and move the cue ball to a intended position after the contact (a tool from the second set).
Pocketing requires aiming skills – sending the cue ball along a line to contact the object ball correctly. Controlling the cue ball is another skill. To do both involves precise cue ball/cue tip contact and speed control. If you wanted to send the cue ball two rails into position for another shot, that requires knowledge of rail angles, energy absorption, speed and spin.
The same precise cue ball control skills needed for offensive tools are necessary for defensive purposes. In addition, you need tried and tested tricks and traps that have proven successful. These are used to make your opponent's choices more difficult. Judgment is required for the evaluations, assumptions, and conclusions of your opponent's abilities. From this assembly of information, you can make good shooting selections.
A simple example would be the skill to contact an object ball and roll the cue ball up against the nearest rail, forcing a shot off the cushion. More speed could send the cue ball off two rails and lay it on another cushion. Another tool would be to draw the cue ball six inches backwards and hide it behind another ball. Using knowledge of your opponent, whatever he dislikes, you provide to him - often.
The difference between the two toolboxes is intention. The same shot, depending on circumstances, can be used offensively or defensively. If you intend to make a ball and get into position for another ball – it is offensive. If you intend to create problems for an opponent – it is defensive.
The individual shooting skills overlap onto both toolboxes. The skill to draw the cue ball exactly a half diamond is useful to get shape on another ball or to set up a clever safety.
As tools are newly learned and added to either toolbox, your options increase. The more knowledge and skills you have, the more complex and flexible your competitive abilities are. Use your imagination to develop and master new possibilities, concepts, patterns, and opportunities.
Pay attention when certain shooting situations expose a need for skill development. Make a note of the problem and schedule it in for your next practice session. Competition can often expose a weakness that needs to be fixed.
Every skill and bit of knowledge, whether used for offense or defense, must be reliable and be counted on, game after game, week after week, and month after month. Each one is ready when your clever calculations and wise choices need it.