Archive for 'Fundamentals'

Achieving Dead Stroke: Inspiration

Posted on 02. Jan, 2013 by .

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I love watching someone perform at the top of the tree in their area of expertise. Even if it’s something as simple as a guy shoveling gravel — if he’s world-class and does it every day, I will pause to marvel at his fluid technique. Spearing the spade into the heap of stones with just the right angle and depth to hoist the perfect amount with no wasted effort. Smoothly turning, slinging and releasing the volley of gravel into a mid-air suspended clump that barely disintegrates before making a solid sounding splash in the awaiting wheelbarrow. How wonderful!

How many repetitions did this man make to hone his motions? How many tons of pebbles did he move learning to perform the task effortlessly  and impossibly efficient? It’s the same kind of thing that amazed me as a teen watching the lumberjack contests. How long did it take that fellow to perfect halving a log while balancing on it and whacking it with an axe?  I’ve shoveled some dirt and chopped some trees as an odd job thankfully, not for a living. Both take me some time and if you only saw my silhouette, you’d be hard pressed to identify which job I was doing.

Professionals make it look easy. This month I will attempt to show some examples of top class performers. I’ll show instances of people “In The Zone” or having that so-called “Flow Experience.” Seeing humans excel at certain tasks sometimes speak to me and my game of pool. I’d like to explain why I make this connection and how it inspires me.

Have you ever been in awe of an expert doing his or her thing?

Mike Fieldhammer

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How to snap out of a slump in 5 minutes.

Posted on 03. Jan, 2012 by .

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Tip # 3/31: Jump Start Your Brain and Your Stroke

This tip can be filed under the “Strange but True” or the “Your Mileage May Vary” category. Credit to the legendary local all-around player “Fast” Freddy Lamers for this unusual tip. If you’ve just shot a dozen balls straight into the rail in the middle of a tournament, you may think you’re living your worst nightmare. Perhaps you’ve just gotten stuck in a long race or knocked to the B-side and there’s still more of this living hell to come. Welcome to the quick acting, hard hitting, mid-session slump!

Please deliver me from this slump!

Please get me out of this slump STAT!

Don’t fret. Things really can’t get much worse and why not try something desperate that might shake you awake and get you back to the land of the living? Here’s what to do. Hopefully, your opponent will need to take a bathroom break or maybe you’ve got a short wait before your first match on the left side of the tournament chart. Whatever the case may be, the first chance you should spread all 15 balls out on the table and try to shoot them all in standing on the wrong side of the cue. I mean opposite handed. Righties:  pocket all the balls left-handed. Lefties: run out like other 90% do.

You shouldn’t worry about patterns or what sequence you shoot these balls. The idea is to give your brain and body a shock. It’s like getting the defibrillation paddles to your chest.

Emergency defibrillation - Shock the system

Don’t ask me how this works or how often it works. Like I said, it can be miraculous or it could blow up in your face. But you’re already looking down the barrel of a bazooka, so what have you got to lose?

My theory is (because analytical is my middle name) the unusual feeling of doing something that you do so well and naturally with your dominant hand feels ridiculous. This strange and awkward feeling gets the other half of your brain working and you’ve got to actually think about these simple actions that you normally can do in your sleep. Postulate number two is (see-analytic!) that when you switch back to your dominant hand everything feels so easy and natural that you get a quick shot of confidence and reassurance. See? You can make balls. The nightmare has ended — Now, get back to work.

Best of luck, Mike.

P.S. If you’ve got any topics that would make a nifty tip, I need suggestions! TYIA.

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PoolSynergy: Practice What You Preach

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by .

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I think it was comedian Stephen Wright who said, “Somebody told me ‘Practice Makes Perfect.’ Then my Mother told me ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so I quit practicing.”

John Biddle (The Godfather) this month’s host and founder of PoolSynergy chose the topic of Practice: What works for me? Read his introduction and summary article here along with all the links to the other writers.

 

Getting a cortisone injection this week for my thumb joint arthritis.

I’ve been a billiard instructor for 17 years. Hundreds of players have trusted me to tinker with their mechanics, coach them through passion to get excited to practice and improve. The part of teaching pool that comes difficult to me is assigning drills. It’s hard for me because I know every player is different. I predict in John Biddle’s topic this month, we’ll hear of many different ideas about productive practice routines. Believe me, what is right for one person might not be right for you.

I am terrible at conventional practices. My serious pool playing friends quit asking me to practice years ago. I’d rather spend time with them chatting over a cup of coffee or playing boot hockey. For me, having a good time hanging out with a friend always seems to get in the way of a serious practice session. Shooting drills on my own is also a lost cause. I may try a drill once and a while, but it is usually in the context of learning how it works and the level of difficulty so I can relate this information to a student. Scoring drills or maintaining focus is tough for me on my practice table. The stereo, computer, or stack of reading material on my desk beckons me and my efforts wane midway through the drill.

Despite all this, I’ve reached a very high level of play. My story is probably as unique as everyone else’s. What has worked for me is the following routine: Learn, Teach, Compete and Repeat.

Step 1: Learn. I read. My billiard library has over 600 books plus huge catalog of my own teaching materials. I also watch high level pool tournaments live and on video whenever I can. I’m not a fan of streaming pool matches online, but am a complete sucker for watching live snooker matches from Europe and Asia via the internet. I’ve blogged ad nauseam about the quality of the BBC telecasts and the high standard of play. I also surround myself with great playing teammates and friends. Not a week goes by for me without learning something. I know a lot—in fact I’m an expert. I’m also wise enough to know there are countless things that I do not know. One of the reasons I love the game is that I can be a lifelong student of the game. This accumulation of knowledge and playing skills is so exciting to me, that I’ve got to share it. Being a professional billiard instructor (Billiard Coach) is the perfect vehicle for me to pay it forward.

Byrne's book on the right started my book collection in 1988.

Selection of rule books from my 600+ book collection

Step 2: Teach. Teaching students forces me to demonstrate perfect cueing techniques and verbalize complicated concepts. Performing and informing students helps me internalize the information so it comes out naturally under the pressures of tournament play. I love to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. Like a musician on the concert stage, energy given to the audience is amplified and sent back. This give and take excites me and spurs me on to become a better instructor and a better player. This one thing has kept me from burning out and loving the sport more than ever, even after 23 years of obsessive play.

Teaching my nephew 11 years ago.

Step 3: Compete. Tournaments are the biggest motivator for me. They push me to perform at my best and motivate me to learn more and prepare for the next. Here are a couple of photos from my archives. Me playing with a couple of famous Pinoys in 1999 and one of my first big matches on the TV table. This is the me playing Charlie Williams in the 2007 US Open. I lost 11-9 but pushing myself and playing frequently in professional events is one of the best ways to improve. I regularly play in the Derby City Classic, US Open 9-Ball Championships, and recently several Seminole Pro 10-Ball Tour events.

Me vs. The Korean Dragon Charlie Williams on TV in the 2007 US Open 9-Ball Championships. (Charlie won 11-9)

Efren - me - Francisco circa 1999.

I should write a whole instructional column about the benefits of stepping up and playing above your head in a non-handicapped, one division tournament. In fact, I’ve started running those types of events in Twin Cities. Mark your calendar and get details of the event here – Next event is October 1, 2011 at Biff’s in Spring Lake Park, MN.

Step 4: Repeat. I know the improvements that I’ve made that I worked extremely hard for are my proudest achievements. Remember, if this game was easy we wouldn’t play it for our whole lives. Practice or more importantly, find your own unique methods to improve and you’ll enjoy this beautiful game for life.

Mike Fieldhammer

Professional Billiard Instructor

Samsara Cues Player and Dealer

Authorized Predator Products Distributor

The butt sleeve. For Sale!

My current playing cue. For Sale!

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Thirty-One Tips: 22. Chalk To Help Your Rhythm

Posted on 22. Jan, 2011 by .

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Chalk with your bridge hand.

I’ve always chalked this way and was always aware of the differences, but a recent video clip of “Mr. 400” John Schmidt made the reasons clear. If you use your bridge hand to chalk, it is easier to keep a more efficient rhythm. This technique seems to aid keeping your body and cue inline with your next shot too.  The grip hand doesn’t really need to move off the wrap area of the cue, so you kind of stay in touch with the cue. Getting into your stance can happen in the same motion as setting your chalk down on the rail.  For anyone who has caught a gear running balls, this kind of economical process of chalking with the bridge hand can be like a hypnotists swinging stopwatch- a harbinger of dead-stroke.

As a bonus, chalking this way also stops you from swinging your cue around excessively.  Grip hand chalkers can give a neighbor or a pool table an unfriendly rap with the butt of their cue as it swings about during their chalking procedure.

I’m in Fargo this weekend playing in the excellent Mid-Winter Shootout.  If anyone happens to know the link to Schmidt’s short video clip, please share it in the comments.  It’s worth a couple of minutes of your day.

Thanks,

Mike

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