By now, you are probably questioning what a picture of a boy in a swimming pool has to do with learning how to play pool. Have you ever heard the story about the little boy that wanted to learn how to swim? His parents took him to the local swimming pool and enrolled him with an instructor. After a few weeks, he had learned the basics of swimming and could perform a few strokes.
His parents cheered and clapped, but the boy thought that he could still do better.
So he kept going to swimming classes and after a few more weeks, he was able to swim across the pool. His parents cheered and clapped, but the boy thought that he could still do better.
After a few more months, he was able to complete a few laps of the pool. His parents cheered and clapped, but the boy thought that he could still do better. He started to enter swimming competitions and eventually won his first race. His parents cheered
Next, he entered an ocean race and won it in his first attempt. His parents cheered and clapped, but the boy thought that he could still do better.
So, he stood on the beach and looked out over the ocean, out to the horizon beyond. He wondered what the limits were on what he could achieve and whether he had reached his limitations yet.
In a sense, pool players are a lot like that little boy. As an instructor, I embrace the philosophy of Continuous Improvement (CI). Unlike other models, Continuous Improvement is not a one-time process. It is a powerful way of improving that focuses on the continual efforts made by a player to improve his or her game.
In K-12 education this process could be linked or referred to as response to intervention (RTI) strategy. The first thing you need to do is assess yourself. I suggest that you take a test (diagram of your next 25 misses during match play) that will show you where some of your weakness areas lie. Not only do I want you to diagram the shot, but I also want you to diagram the overall layout of balls (what you are trying to get position on next).
The shots I am referring to should be makeable a good percentage of the time. I don’t want you to spend time diagramming impossible shots. Look for patterns as to why you miss makeable shots and then practice each shot that you diagrammed 100 times.
As you practice each shot, I want you to score yourself using the following scoring guide: Give yourself a “0” if you miss the shot. Give yourself a “1” if you pocket the ball but do not get position on your next shot. Give yourself a “2” if you pocket the ball and the cue ball is on the correct line for position but either “goes long” or “falls short” of the desirable position zone. Then give yourself a “3” if you pocket the ball and your cue ball falls into the correct position zone. Once you have completed the shot 100 times divide your total score by 3 and this will give you an overall success percentage for that particular shot. You can use this success percentage to monitor your improvement over time.
A good player will go through this cycle several times, building on the success of each previous cycle. I recommend setting both short and long-term goals. Each is an essential part of the improvement process. If you initially scored a “55” your short-term goal might be to improve to 65 by the end of the month. Likewise, your long-term goal might be to be successful 95 percent of the time within 12 months. Always write your goals down. This makes you more accountable.
Down deep, we’re all like that little boy who learned how to swim. We all have some basic skills, but let’s not stop there. Let’s go from basic skills to competent, from competent to good, from good to great, from great to expert, and from expert to world-class. Sometimes it is important to look out to the horizon, dream big dreams and find a way to make them into a reality.
Anthony Beeler is the 2017 Pool Instructor of the Year and is a former BCAPL National 9-Ball Champion. He has numerous top 25 national finishes and is one of only 8 ACS Master Instructors in the world. He is the primary author of the National Billiards Instructors Manual and has also authored the book Unstoppable! Positive Thinking for Pool Players. Anthony currently has the highest established Fargo Rating of any Master Instructor. He has won over 300 tournaments and has defeated numerous professional players in tournament competition.