(FAQ) How do you evaluate your playing skills?

(About the Author)

There will be times when you want to determine if you are getting more skilled as a pool player. Are you advancing or standing still? Within your group of friends are you gaining or losing your place in the pecking order? Are you being greeted with greater or lesser respect when you meet last week’s opponent on the street?

You might have some skill that has had a noticeable improvement. Previously, you suffered constant failure, and suddenly you seem to have found the key. For example, you finally figure out how to pocket balls frozen to the cushion. It's cool when you figure these things out. However, these little advances do not make you a more feared player then before.

You can evaluate your skills based on pocketing skills. The more easily you can put balls into pockets from different angles and distances is an excellent measurement of table abilities.

But in truth - it really doesn't take much effort to improve pocketing skills. Simply setup a shot you want to learn and shoot it a few dozen times. It doesn't take long before the shot gets easier.

The "real" secret to evaluating your skills is in your skills in getting the cue ball to a certain place on the table, AFTER you make the object ball. To sum it up, it's "cue ball control" - knowing how to apply a precise speed and spin to the cue ball and make it roll to the best location on the table. You see this in the pros. They are fabulous shot makers, but more importantly, they are masters of the cue ball spin and speed.

Start with a set of shots within your comfort zone - both in pocketing and in shape. Use these as your baseline skills. These should all be shots that you can set up on, close your eyes, and shoot - and get consistent results, shot after shot.

Each week, you start with these setups on the practice table. Shoot a couple rounds (eyes open, then eyes closed), just to make sure of your ownership. Then change a factor in the setups. It can be a slightly different angle or a longer distance. When you have adjusted your skills to handle the new difficulty factors, push the edges until you are missing more often (pocket & position) then succeeding. That is where your chaos zone exists.

Each practice session goes through the same routine - starting with "dead-certain" setups with planned variations in distance/angle factors. And this is how you get an objective demonstration that you are improving.

This "practice" evaluation is important. But,even more valuable feedback is obtained during competition. When you play regularly (team matches or weekly tournaments), keep an eye on how easily you handle shots. Compare current results and comfort levels with the same type of shot from a month ago. That feedback will be very helpful in confirming your self-improvement.

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