A great stroke needs to be extremely accurate. You need to hit the cue ball in exactly the right spot, with a cue that is traveling along exactly the right line. Doing this is very tough, and any little extraneous movement, or muscle tension that doesn’t directly contribute to the end goal makes the task more difficult without adding value.
It’s not that you can’t be accurate with a poke instead of a follow through stroke, it’s that it’s so much more difficult. It’s not that you can’t learn to compensate for standing up, it’s that it requires a great deal of extra practice to learn to do so, and so few people have ever accomplished it. Lots of people have, on the other hand, successfully trained themselves to have a consistently good and accurate stroke by focusing only on what is required and eliminating the rest. It’s your choice.
Following this are a number of tips that purport to help people conquer their demons and eliminate their predilection to stand up too early. Each one has believers and adherents; maybe one or more can work for you. I credit ideas when I know where I first learned of them, but many of these ideas have been around so long that I’m not sure anyone knows who came up with them. Even the ones I credit may not be original with them, but repeated from what they have learned through years of experience.
Training it out of you
01 Tony Robles, in July 2008’s Billiards Digest suggests a drill to work on every day until staying down becomes second nature. Just throw out a rack of balls and pocket each one, staying down until the object ball falls in the hole. If you get up too early, you have to start over. Make staying down as much a part of your routine as your warm-up strokes.
02 This one requires an assistant. Get a friend to stand behind you when you shoot, and hold a cue just a little above your head. If you stand up you’ll bump the cue and get immediate feedback that you’ve stood up. The idea is that you don’t want to hit the cue, so you’ll stop standing up. Your assistant could use something else that’s annoying, like blowing a whistle or giving you a raspberry, etc. to accomplish the same thing, and he could stay in his chair while doing it. Many people who know they stand up don’t realize how often they do so, because it doesn’t always cause a miss, and they are focused intently on something else.
03 A variation on the annoying feedback approach is to ding your wallet every time you stand up. This is particularly good on a league team or for a group of friends who play together often. Just agree on a penalty, say 50¢ or $1, and each person can call it on any other. It can be fun to make your buddies pay up, which provides an incentive for you to pay attention to what they’re doing. Do that and there’s no telling what else you’ll notice. You can stash the money away and use it to buy drinks at the end of the season or buy a pizza and a pitcher whenever there’s enough.
Use Success as Positive Feedback
04 Bill Newsted over on All Experts has an insightful take on this. His idea is to focus on everything about the stroke every time you stay down. Focus on how it felt, what you heard, what you saw, how relaxed your grip was, where your back hand came to rest, how successful the shot was, etc.
Be thorough; the more detailed you can be about all the things you see and feel, the more it will work. Pay attention to things like how your weight feels on your feet, and how you distribute your weight among your two feet and your bridge hand are the kinds of details that matter.
Other things like how hard you stroke, how the hit felt when you made contact with the cue ball, etc. Let your subconscious mind learn all of the factors of a great stroke and a correct shot, and it will deliver more and more of them. As Bill says “You want to burn that image into your pool brain. Later, when you’re shooting a pressure shot you’ll be able to evoke your best stroke because of all the seconds you’ve spent making friends with how it feels.” This is very closely aligned with the ideas in The Inner Game of Tennis, by W. Timothy Galwey, a book I highly recommend.
05 If the reason you stand up is to get a better look at the shot, perhaps you can stop doing that by not watching. How you say? Try closing your eyes just before your actual stroke. Once you’ve made your warm-up strokes you should already have your cue moving along the perfect line to the target. Closing your eyes momentarily can help you focus on your stroke rather than its result. Try this next time you practice; you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many balls you can make shooting blind. But don’t waste this opportunity. This is the perfect time to focus on your body.
Focus on the Finish
06 One of the most common solutions to the standing up problem is the suggestion to always watch the cue ball hit the object ball, and don’t move until it does. A variation on this approach is to stay down and immobile until you see the object ball go into the pocket.
07 Continue to focus your eyes on the point on the object ball where you were aiming until the balls have moved away. This is consistent with, and will help reinforce the quiet eye pattern you want to develop, since your last 2 seconds or so before and during the hit are laser-focused on that spot, and moving your eyes quickly somewhere else can contribute to your body’s moving in order to give you a better view. Be patient, the balls will go where they go irrespective of your getting a better view.
08 Keep your head absolutely still. It’s easier to focus on one body part rather than several, and if you don’t move your head, you can’t stand up. Sometimes you’ll hear this expressed as a negative, like “Don’t move your head.” You will be more successful by staying positive in your thoughts. Focusing on negatives hurts your confidence and your attitude toward the game. Keep positive.
09 Add a small extra step to the end of your routine. After you’ve stroked through the ball, and your tip is beyond where the cue ball was, softly drop the tip straight down and rest it on the cloth. Notice that you must drop the tip softly. You’ll find that you simply cannot do this if you’re otherwise moving during your shot.
Mechanical Adjustments to your Stroke
10 There may be some minor flaws in your stance that are contributing to the problem. As you complete your stroke your center of gravity moves forward. If you weren’t rock-solid this small off-balance feeling could cause you to want to stand up. Try keeping a little more weight on your back foot. If this feels awkward, your back foot may be too far back. Bring it forward just enough so that the extra weight you apply no longer feels awkward. Remember, just a little extra weight.
11 In “Drop Anchor,” an article about the benefits of a truly solid bridge, Tom Simpson advises that keeping a little more pressure on your bridge hand can help you from standing up. This makes perfect sense; the weaker and less stable your bridge is, less it will be able to withstand the extra pressure and weight applied to it as you complete your stroke. This is especially true when you use extra force. Come to think of it, aren’t those the ones you stand up on most often? Read Drop Anchor on Professor Q-Ball’s site, and take time to go to Tom’s own site. His other articles are there and are quite good.
12 In an interview with On The Break News, Jeanette Lee said “I think that staying down and not jumping up all has to do with confidence. It has more to do with confidence than it has to do with anything technical or physical. A lot of people say, ‘Oh, do this to stay down or do that’. The more you play, the more you practice, the more confident you are, you’re going to give it a true swing.
Some people jump up on every shot and others in certain situations. If you fall into the latter category, then a lack of confidence may be your biggest problem. Pay attention to your game and identify the shots you come up on. You can then practice these shots to improve your confidence on them.
Staying down and not moving during your shot is, for some people, one of the more difficult things to get control of in pool. And you must get control of it if you want to get better. I hope that you have already solved this problem. But if you haven’t, hopefully, one of these 11 techniques resonates with you and helps you eliminate this insidious tendency.
If you benefit from any of these tips drop us a comment and tell us about it. If you’ve used another technique that you found to be of value, please share it with us. And don’t forget, in a game, reminding yourself of something during your pre-shot routine is counterproductive. You’ll need to practice this until it becomes so integrated into your routine that you never consciously think about it.
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