You hear players talk about them all of the time, usually when helping a player who has a horrendous bridge, stands up during their shots, or has some other glaring problem. If they are receptive to suggestions, there is no shortage of players willing to give them a few pointers.
Sometimes, you’ll hear a pro talk about needing to “work on their fundamentals.” It’s hard to believe when you see a player like Shane Van Boening or Jasmin Ouschan make shot after shot, perfect and precise, that they need to work on the basics.
But they do. We all do.
Recently, I watched a One-Pocket match on YouTube between Scott Frost and Tommy Tokoph; two very accomplished players. I decided to see if these phenomenal players made any fundamental mistakes: did they ever drop their elbow? Did they stay down on their shots? Did they follow through? What I discovered was rather interesting, and clearly illustrates the need to occasionally go back to the drawing board and work on your basic skills, no matter how good you are.
Overall, Scott Frost seemed to have the best fundamentals. He stays down on his shots, usually until the ball drops into the pocket. Sometimes he has to get out of the way (for a bank, for example), and he does so at the very last possible moment. He is very disciplined as a rule, which I believe is why he is so difficult to defeat. It’s no wonder he’s called “The Freezer!” He’s as cold as ice.
However, I have evidence that he is human, after all. Notice at 5:05 in the video, he scratches on the shot. While it is true that the cue ball went in off of other balls, I believe he let it get away from him. Now, watch the shot again, but this time pay attention to his cue stick. It pops up into the air right after the shot. He gets practically no follow-through.
Granted, Scott was shooting over another ball and had to jack up. However, when the shot is particularly difficult, it’s even more important to keep the fundamentals in mind. He ends up popping the cue ball into the air, landing on another ball, and even though he made the ball he was aiming at, he followed it with the cue ball.
Now, forward the video to 6:08. Tommy makes a great shot, but if you watch his cue stick, you’ll notice that he swerves it, perhaps to subconsciously add a little more spin to the cue ball. In a game of One-Pocket, cue ball position is very important, and it’s very difficult to control it unless you are giving it the exact spin and speed that you need to position for your next shot or leave your opponent safe. By swerving his stick, he didn’t control the cue ball well, and you can see that he didn’t get a good position for his next shot. As a result, his next shot is extremely difficult. He misses and sells out. Definitely not something you want to do playing The Freezer.
Let’s move ahead a bit to 14:35. As he is taking his practice swings, notice his back arm. It’s a little too far forward, preventing him from following through properly. He pokes at the shot. Plus, he stands up immediately after his shot, and he drops his bridge hand from the edge of the table. The result was that he sold out again, leaving Scott a straight shot into his pocket.
Would that have happened if he hadn’t stood up, or followed through? Maybe not. But if his fundamentals were more sound for that shot, he may have been more focused and hit it the way he intended, without selling out.
Let’s look at one more shot: 29:51. Here, Tommy stands up and drops his bridge hand off the rail immediately after the stroke. As a result, he misses his shot, and scratches in the side; a very devastating outcome in a One-Pocket game against a player like Frost.
Remember, these are top-notch players. They have logged countless hours at the table, in practice and competition. However, even players of this caliber must constantly be at the top of their game, and focus on the basics. Tournaments can be grueling, and when you are worn out from playing a 4 hour match until 3 in the morning, what do you suppose is the first casualty? That’s right…
This article was published in the June 2013 issue of The Break magazine. You can find the article on page 20. Click here for a direct link to the article