It is surprising, but the vast majority of pool players have never taken any kind of lesson from a qualified pool instructor – not even a basic check on their fundamentals. They will spend hundreds (even thousands) of dollars on a cool cue stick. They aren’t willing to spend $20, $50, or $100 for lessons that will improve their game for the rest of their lives. They are perfectly happy to go on for years and years (and years) believing they are just too intelligent to need an instructor.
Occasionally, some players becomes dimly aware that their game needs some improvements. They believe that watching dozens of hours of pro player tournaments and competitions provides enough guidance to improve their game. After all, who better to demonstrate competence than pro players?
They might pull out a couple bits and pieces of understanding from the time spent watching. Of course, they aren’t interested in spending the daily 6, 8, 10 hours of practice time necessary. They won’t even realize that most pros have coaches. They continue believing that watching these small-screen examples are all that is necessary to become a pro-level player.
A lot of players use pool as an excuse to party. When the market analysis of the pool playing world comes out every year, this is the category these players fit into. They are no more interested in improving their game than learning about the habits of brown squirrels.
But there are a few “intelligent” shooters who really do want to learn how to be a better player. When they look for pool instructors, one unexpected problem does arise. How do they know whether a so-called pool instructor is any good? In the US, the best ones are those certified by the PBIA (Professional Billiards Instructor Association) and ACS (American Cue Sports). These qualified pool instructors can properly analyze an individual’s stance and stroke to help improve the shooting skills, and then move on to coaching strategies and tactics.
With a decent pool instructor, an hour or two of lessons followed up with a few practice sessions is enough to play better. Generally, a few months later, that player is kicking his friends’ butts (especially those who previously humiliated the shooter).
The process of getting a pool instructor to help begins with an active search for someone who knows what to do. A few questions among better players can provide some leads.
Remember, anyone can say they are a pool instructor. So it helps to first look for any certifications, i.e., PBIA, ACS. These groups have a code of conduct and standards because these are national organizations, you have some assurance of their competence as instructors. If you can’t find someone with certifications, you have to look for other qualifications. Here are some guidelines to help select which of several possible instructors can help you:
- What kind of playing experience does the pool instructor have? Consider how many years playing, handicap levels in any local leagues, etc.
- How is their reputation as an instructor? Talk with individuals who have past experience as students.
- Talk with each pool instructor one on one. What teaching tools are used, i.e., handouts, video tape, etc.? Do they ask questions about what you want?
- Take an initial half hour lesson to review style and presentation.
The pool instructor should ask questions about you. Here is a sampling:
- How long have you been playing?
- What is your skill level?
- What do you want to achieve, short term?
- How much time do you practice?
- Have you bought any books or had other instructors?
In order to get the best and maximum benefits from a pool instructor, expect to put some hard work into learning what you are taught. You have to be willing to actually practice regularly. Ask however many questions are necessary for you to understand what you are learning. Your pool instructor can teach you a lot of short cut learning tricks, but you are going to have to work on them – if for nothing else but to make sure you get value for your money.