By: Erik Hjorleifson
Hello again everybody, pool season is right around the corner and its time to put away the golf clubs and dust off the cues for another action packed year on the felt. Today I am going to discuss something that I believe is the most important aspect of fundamentals, it is one of the first things I look at when I am assessing a new student. This aspect of fundamentals is backstroke pace.
This fundamental in my opinion is the most overlooked and the most common flaw amongst amateur players. Try to visualize for a second in comparison to other sports that are stroke related. In golf you bring the club back slow and then accelerate towards the golf ball. In tennis you bring the racket back slow and then accelerate towards the tennis ball, in archery the string of the bow is loaded up slowly then the natural physics of the bow allow the arrow to accelerate until it is released. It is amazing to me how few players apply these concepts from other popular sports into pool.
Here are some of the negative effects from not having proper backstroke pace:
#1 You will not be in control of the line of your back stroke and twisting through the stroke will be a lot more common.
#2 Try to visualize this, to hit the cue ball purely the forward stroke must be accelerating towards the cue ball. If your backstroke is too fast you will not always be able to accelerate at the cue ball because it will force you to over hit the cue ball. This subconscious knowledge of over hitting the ball will also cause you to decelerate towards the cue ball which is a major mistake.
#3 Improper acceleration which again is a flaw that derives from a rushed backstroke will also cause you to follow through the cue ball less. Following through properly is imperatively important for advanced level shots like power draws and power follows.
Some instructors will say that the backstroke pace should always be the same, I do not necessarily disagree with this but it is my personal belief that your backstroke should be the slowest when hitting pocket weight shots, should be at a medium pace when hitting medium speed shots and at a faster pace when hitting power shots. In each case the backstroke speed should be slightly slower than the forward stroke speed, ensuring that you will be accelerating towards the ball.
Some pros that have beautiful backstroke pace in my opinion are Shane Van Boening, Earl Strickland, and John Morra. In snooker almost all players play with a slow backstroke and I believe the one that executes it the best is Ronnie O'Sullivan. In pool you also have players like Dennis Hatch, Alex Pagulayan and Johhny Archer that have shorter backstroke and those players tend to bring the cue back faster. But the key is they still bring it back with good pace and are still accelerating towards the ball. If this is something that you have never considered give it a try next time you get to a table and I guarantee you will notice the difference. Take care and keep shooting straight.