Although not an officially qualified coach, I have played snooker for nearly 40 years, mainly in Cornish Leagues and have a century break (108) to my name, made last year, so I probably have some idea of the requirements of playing snooker.
On this page, with the help of County Coach David Grigg, I hope to start from scratch with some advice on the basic stance, techniques, and strokes required to make a reasonable success of playing snooker. It may not suit the advanced amateur or budding professional, but there are lots of you out there who are not in that class and would like some help, no doubt.
The first edition of this series features, with a touch of humour added, the basics of stance and cueing and an exercise (shown left) to practise centre-ball striking. If you follow the ideas and practise them, this series will build into a reference work for the novice or average player. Because the magazine is no longer available in the printed version, I shall add a few ideas here on a regular basis, which can be taken in conjunction with the Basic Shots page.
On two Sundays recently the Mining Snooker League organised coaching sessions for young players with David Grigg, and I will describe some of the points raised at these sessions. The first session was attended by eleven players of almost novice standard, and these were divided into two groups of six and five for each of the two tables available. Each player was invited to pot a few balls while David noted any points about their stance or action. In almost every case it was seen that there was noticeable head movement on the shot.
and body movement
From watching the best players at tournaments, the most obvious thing about their play (apart from their ability) is the lack of movement of any part of the body except the forearm. If the average player can eradicate any other movement, particularly of the head, then he or she can hope to make rapid strides in terms of progress. In match pressure situations, more shots are probably missed by movement or 'twitching' than for any other reason.
Some time was therefore set aside at each session in getting players consciously to keep their heads and bodies still on every shot.
Approach to the table
Striking the cueball in the centre in the early stages is another important factor in good cuemanship. Any unintentional side imparted to the white can cause problems in accurate striking of the object ball. In the accompanying diagram the cueball is struck as centrally as possible up and down the spots. A red ball is placed on the top cushion directly behind the black spot to aid sighting. If the shot is correctly performed, the white should travel back down the line of the spots, on line A. Some deviation will be noticeable to the right or left of the line when the cueball is not struck centrally. The next step is to strike the cueball harder, still hitting it in the centre. The extra power applied usually results in inaccuracy, and in a large number of cases the cueball's path back will result in it taking path B, either to the left or right of the line. If the cueball is then struck low and with power, applying screw or stun, it often becomes even more inaccurate, resulting in line C, either to the left or right. Even greater accuracy in striking the centre of the cueball is thus required. A few minutes spent on this exercise daily will usually improve the cueing of any player, and this is an aspect which is especially important in long distance or power shots.
In order to show the importance of accurate cueing, each of the players was invited to attempt to pot six balls into the corner pockets. The balls were first set up on line A, between the blue spot and the baulk line, and the white placed on the baulk line in a straight line behind each ball. At this close range some players managed to pot up to five of the balls. However, when the balls were placed at line B, level with the blue spot, the players were much less successful, some managing none at all, and the highest success rate being three. Top players are said to be able to pot up to twenty in succession from line B or even further away. This is clearly one of the reasons for their phenomenal success rates for long pots, enabling them to 'get in' and make a break. Another useful exercise for the aspiring player!
The Mining League was so pleased with the results of the first sessions, that more took place in April. Come back here for news on points and tips from these sessions.
In April there were three more sessions, with half a dozen young players in each. In the more advanced group, attention was given to breakbuilding.
A useful exercise is to set up five or six reds around the black spot area (see photo), and try to make a 40 (or 48) break of reds and blacks. Combinations of stun and topspin shots are used. The object is to get the right angle on each ball - that is, not too straight and not too acute an angle - to allow position onto the next ball. We start with the second red from the left, which is almost straight. Hitting below centre, stop the white dead behind the black.
This leaves us almost straight on the black, so a slight screwback (hit low and follow through with the cue) should leave us on the red to the right of the black into the same pocket. It is better to be too low (i.e. too far to the right) rather than too high on this shot, as we want the white to go towards the black rather than away from it off the next red.
We actually finished slightly too high on the next red, but there is no problem. Follow through this pot with a little top on the white, making sure not to get too close to the cushion. It is always better to be a foot from the black rather than two feet, which makes the shot more difficult.
We have finished just off straight on the black, which is ideal for stunning for the far red. If we had finished further to the left, we would use the top cushion to make our next position onto a red. Stun this shot crisply, so the white finishes to the left of the far red. We have plenty of latitude on this shot, as almost anywhere below it will do.
We are now cutting the red slightly into the corner, so a natural middle ball strike should bring the white off the side cushion into line with the black. Try not to finish straight on the black. Bounce the white about a foot off the cushion. Some left-hand side may be needed here. Avoid side unless the pot is quite easy!
We have finished almost ideally on the black, just off straight and below it, (slightly more to the left would have been even better) so the natural angle is taking it towards the two remaining reds. A crisp punching stun, hitting just below centre, will position us onto one of these reds into the same pocket.
The right hand red in the picture adds a slight complication, as we do not really want to strike it after this shot, which would be the natural result of a follow-through shot. This might push it onto a cushion, or leave us hampered for the black. Better here to stun the white slightly, leaving it short of the second red.
We have left ourselves short of the second red, and below the black, so a stun shot off the top cushion, perhaps with a little right-hand side, should bring us back somewhere to the left of this red to pot it in the right-hand top pocket. Almost any straightish angle on this red should allow position onto the final black.
Well, we finished almost straight on the last red, but this shot will take us too close to the side cushion if we just push it in. If we stun it, we may get the same result. Play it with slight right-hand side and top to bring it off the cushion and into position on the black.
Here we are, at last, on the final black. Just keep our nerve and punch it in, hitting below centre. The white should travel only a few inches to the left. Avoid rolling these shots in if possible, as the cueball may easily go off line. Professionals rarely dribble the ball, preferring to use stun or screw, which gives greater control.
In goes that black. Mission accomplished. Easy isn't it? Try setting up a similar position yourself, and see how far you get. Remember that keeping just off straight on each ball, and keeping as close as possible, makes the next shot much easier!
If you live in the Cornwall area, David Grigg can be contacted on: 01726 890394
For more details use the e-mail link below:
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