Some Personal Practice Tips
Most players of average ability could benefit from spending some time
on the table on their own, ironing out (no pun intended) their weaknesses
and improving aspects of their game. I am indebted to Lloyd Roberts, of
Bridgend Snooker Club, in Wales, who has given me some of the ideas for
this, and to Clive Roberts (no relation) in my own area, who is a
professional coach and referee. I will put down here some ideas that you can
put into practice if you haven't a coach on whom you can call for advice.
Solo Practice - Part 1 (Courtesy of Lloyd
Solo practice is difficult but yields benefits beyond belief. The
snooker player with scope for improvement will improve at a faster rate by
introducing solo practice into his or her schedule. But why does it yield
The obvious answer is simple - it teaches you about yourself, your
game, your weaknesses and your strengths. Very true. But the subtle answer
is that it teaches you concentration. If you can just find a way of playing
alone for 1, 2 or 3 hours without getting bored you've found a cast iron way
of improving your game.
The key to being able to live with yourself on a table for long
periods of time can be found in 2 parts:
(a) you must know what you're going to do BEFORE you go on the table;
(b) you must create pressure by setting targets i.e. - I HAVE to
complete so and so before moving on.
In this way you are always questioning yourself. At times you may
think you have found the correct answer. But to every answer there is a
follow up question. MOST PEOPLE LIKE TO THINK THAT THEY ARE THINKING. But if
you have the willpower and determination to follow this article you will
really be on a different plane to the Homer Simpsons out there.
In part 2 of this article we will move on to actual schedules which
have been employed by Ryan Day (one of Wales' most promising young players)
for the last 5 or 6 years. They have been modified to account for his
improvement but the fundamentals still remain. Other better junior players
are beginning to practice in the same way.
The schedules are tinkered with regularly to pose as 1, 2 or 3 hour
sessions. Everyone has different levels of difficulty to allow for differing
standards of play. Every session is clocked to make sure it's right and to
show improvement levels. Clearly if you are doing your 2 hour schedule in
1.5 hours, you have improved and the schedules should be made harder to get
back up to 1, 2 and 3 hours.
The routines about to be described split in to 2 areas:
(a) centre ball striking and continuing FAMILIARISATION with the
centre of the white;
(b) cue-ball CONTROL or more clearly "break building".
You will note that the exercises switch between these two categories
all of the time. Centre, Control, Centre, Control etc.
We will include all exercises that have been used. Some will seem very
easy, and some will seem impossible to many of you. You must mix and match
the exercises. Work out your own routine and add in anything else you may
think worthwhile. But don't forget the order of play -
Finally let me make one thing clear: Lloyd is not saying they have
invented everything themselves. Some have evolved through a bit of original
thought, but the majority of the items have been gleaned from other coaches
Success, whether it be in business, sport or any other walks of life
depends upon being able to pick out the scarce particles of gold from the
volumes of crap through which we wade.
Back to Main Page
Solo Practice - Part 2
Centre Ball Striking Exercises
1. Cue ball up and down spots. This exercise should be used by all
players to START all solo practice sessions. Do the following 5 times only.
Place the cue ball on the brown spot and play it up through the spots and
back down again, at varying weights but hard enough to at least get into
baulk. The idea is to begin your session as you mean to go on. Concentrate
on the things YOU do, eg stance, head stillness, pause of the cue, follow
2. Long Double Kiss.
cue ball on brown spot and blue ball on centre spot. Striking the cue ball
below centre hit the blue full in the face. The cue ball will hold the
centre spot and hopefully the blue will travel off the top cushion and back
to double kiss it. This type of exercise should be done 3 times in
succession for better players and 3 times in total for players of more
average abilities before moving on.
3. Straight Pot Blue.
ball on baulk line, lined dead straight with blue into top pocket. Pot the
blue in rotation into each corner pocket (4 pots). On one rotation use
centre ball strike, ie like a stun run through. Next use low cue ball
striking, ie hold the centre spot with the white. Final rotation: use top
spin and try to make the cue ball follow into the corner pocket. If the pot
is made but there is no in-off you have still succeeded. We'll leave it to
you how to work this. You may want to split this into 3 separate exercises.
Maybe a player of good standard would want to just complete all 4.
Someone of professional standard may want to do each 4 in succession.
4. Long potting.
Reds lined up between the middle pockets (1 on blue spot and 7 either side).
Cue ball on the baulk line. Start with the extreme end red (left or right)
and set up a dead straight pot into the top corner. To stop yourself pulling
your hair out, this first red is allowed free, ie you may wait until you
successfully pot it before starting the exercise proper. Now, levels of
completeness depend on your ability. An average player may wait until he
gets 8 out of 15. A top pro may want to do at least 12 out of 15 TWICE IN
SUCCESSION, i.e. if he makes 15/15 first attempt and 11/15 on the second, he
has FAILED and starts all over again until he gets it right.
Part 3 will cover cue ball CONTROL. Don't forget these exercises should
be mixed with those in part 3 (centre/control/centre/control
Back to Main Page
Solo Practice - Part 3 Cue-Ball Control
1. AN EASY STARTER? Place the black on
its own spot and pot it 15 times into the same corner pocket without picking
up the cue-ball, ie maintain position. Top players should dispense with this
exercise but every good junior should be able to prove that he or she can do
it most of the time.
2. COLOURS CLEARANCES. The importance
cannot be stressed enough. This set position comes up time and time again
and the difference between the pro and club player is that the pro will
clear 99/100. You will also learn about your little weaknesses. For instance
Llloyd says he has an awful tendency to pot a half ball yellow and leave
himself too close to the side cushion for the green. Ryan Day's problem was
that if he had to pot the blue and go off the top cushion and back down for
the pink he would always hit it short, leading to a power shot on the pink,
sending the cue ball into baulk and back. Part of the solution to a problem
is recognising you have a problem. Repeated practice at the following
variants tends to identify problems and iron them out:
(a) Pot black, go down for the yellow and clear up. Do this 5 or 10
times starting with different angles and positions on the black.
(b) To go up a level, after potting the pink maintain an angle on the
black and replace the colours. Pot black and go up for the yellow and clear
again. Llloyd managed to do 5 complete clearances in this way (missed simple
green on 6th attempt). Ryan regularly does this 10 times and stops.
(c) An interesting variant is to start with the yellow, down to the
black, but before potting re-spot the colours. Then pot black pink blue
brown green, and before potting the yellow replace colours again. Then of
course it's yellow, green, brown, blue, pink and black. How far can you go?
How many times will your problems start on the blue to brown shot?
Whatever variant you use don't forget to set a target, eg I will do
variant (b) until I've done it twice or three times, or variant (c) until
I've done one complete rotation.
3 . FRAME WINNERS. Place the colours on their spots and scatter the
reds around the pink and black area ensuring that black and pink pot easily
into their own pockets (including the middle for the pink) and that there
are no reds in awkward positions. Try to get a layout that you can generally
remember. Now the idea is simple. Start with any red and try to make a
frame-winning break. This means that by the time you have missed, your
opponent would need a snooker, eg. You miss on 72 and there's 67 (5 reds)
left on the table - for our purposes you have succeeded. Clearly if you miss
on 65 and
there's 67 on the table you have failed. Ryan tries to do this 3 times
in succession before moving on.
There are many other set positions, a favourite being 5 reds between
pink and black, start with a long red and clear up with ALL blacks. The
variants are endless but there's enough to be going on with above.
AN IMPORTANT TIP
When performing the frame winners exercise stroll round and replace
the colour before potting the red. This helps you to pace yourself through
what can turn out to be a mentally gruelling stamina contest. Your opponent
will be CONCENTRATION.
Hope you've enjoyed this little essay on
personal practice. Even if you cannot achieve it all, it gives you some food
for thought about what to concentrate on if you want to improve your game.
Right, off I go to the snooker club. Hope those young b......s are not
hogging the table again...
Back to Main Page