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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• July 2024
V for Victory

• June 2024
Circle the wagons

• May 2024
Rehearse Your Lines

• April 2024
Lucky Seven

• March 2024
More for the Road

• February 2024
Four for the Road

• January 2024
Corner the Market

• December 2023
Look Ma, No Cushions

• November 2023
We’re in the Money

• October 2023
Four-level Drill

• September 2023
More Money Ball

• August 2023
No rails, part II

• July 2023
Look Ma, No Rails!

• June 2023
Triangle To Triangle

• May 2023
Zone Blitz

• April 2023
Money Ball Drill II

• March 2023
Money Ball Drill

• January 2023
The Dreaded Shootout

• December 2022
Alternate Universe

• November 2022
Close Quarters

• October 2022
Corner to Corner

• September 2022
Diamond in the Rough

• August 2022
Draw Bridge

• June 2022
I Detect A Pattern

• June 2022
Stay Close to Work

• May 2022
Amateur Approved

• April 2022
Two for One

• March 2022
The Straight Secret

• February 2022
The Correct Shot

• January 2022
End Game, Part II

• December 2021
Buying Off The Shelf

• November 2021
Look, Ma! No Rails!

• October 2021
The Oval Drill

• September 2021
Getting In Shape

• August 2021

• July 2021
V For Victory

• June 2021
More Pattern Drills

• May 2021
Patterns and speed

• April 2021
See a pattern?

• March 2021
Blind Man

• February 2021
Five Up, Five Down

• January 2021
Don’t Lag Behind

• December 2020
Head games

• November 2020
Life on the Edge

• October 2020
The Family Tree

• September 2020
A Dip of the Tip

• August 2020
The Big Diamond

• July 2020
Nine-Ball One-Hole

• June 2020
You’ll Kick Yourself

• May 2020
Tight Quarters

• April 2020
Cue Ball Control

• March 2020
Straight Cueing

• February 2020
Saddle up!

• January 2020
9-ball Crossover

• December 2019
Ride Those Rails

• November 2019
Up and Down

• October 2019
Money Balls

• September 2019
Captain Zig-zag

• August 2019
15-Ball, No Rails

• July 2019
One Extra Ball

• June 2019
Two-Pocket Drill

• May 2019
Up and Down

• April 2019
Ultimate Rotation

• March 2019
In A Good Spot

• February 2019
Center Cut

• January 2019
Breaking Bad Habits

• December 2018

• November 2018
X marks the spot

• October 2018
Striking It Rich

• September 2018
So Many Options

• August 2018
Put Hangers On Rail

• July 2018
Mirror, Mirror II

• June 2018
Mirror, Mirror

• May 2018
“V” for Victory

• April 2018
Up and Down

• March 2018
Kick Into High Gear

• February 2018
Up and Down

• January 2018
Up To The Challenge

• November 2017
Taking A Break

• October 2017
End Game Safeties

• September 2017
Get Comfortable

• July 2017
Shape Up For Summer!

• June 2017
The Selection Process

• May 2017
Two For One

• April 2017
A Ghost of a Chance

• March 2017
Banker’s Holiday

• February 2017
Great Eight

• January 2017
Getting Into Shape

• December 2016
Hocus, Focus

• November 2016
Kicking Into High Gear

• October 2016
More Drill Bits

• September 2016
Hand Model

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Proper Practice
May 2016

Quality, not quantity, is the key to improvement by practice.

Obviously, I'm a big believer in practice. But it must be proper practice. If you don't practice properly, you're really just wasting your time.

And while I can offer you a series of practice drills to improve your game, I will preface this by encouraging players - recreational players, amateur league players and even advanced players - to seek out proper coaching. Coaching can really speed up your learning curve. When I first started playing, I was like most players. I thought I would get better simply by playing more. And I did gain most of my knowledge over the years just by playing and observing. But if I think back to those early days, I wish I'd have received coaching. I would have gotten much better much more quickly. It would have helped me be a better player mentally, and I would have been a better cueist. Of course, you need to find a solid coach. Too many coaches automatically overload players with drills. A good coach should watch you play for a while, so he can analyze your game. After that, he can strip your game down and start building it back properly. It is up to the individual player, however, to take it on board and really work on their game. Address areas you need to work on. Drills should focus on one thing. It can be a certain shot, or certain cue action. The great thing about good practice drills is that they allow players to see the progress in their game. You don't see that progress playing rack after rack. Players often struggle with drills at the start, but once you improve, you get immediate feedback. The sense of accomplishment makes you want to practice more. Again, the key to proper practice is quality, not quantity. If you practice and play for five or six hours, I can guarantee that two or three of those hours aren't really improving your game. It's too hard to maintain the focus required for quality practice. Over two or three hours you can keep your focus on the drills at hand. That will also help you in a match, where you need to maintain focus for a few hours.

I usually start out with a few easy drills just to get my stroke in line. The drill in Diagram One is simple, but still the best way for me to know that my stroke is right. The object is to set up a short shot (1 ball) and shoot it into the corner pocket, drawing the cue ball straight back to the top rail. Try to make 10 shots in a row. Then move the cue ball a diamond farther (2 ball) and try the same drill. After 10 of those shots, keep the object ball (3 ball) on the same diamond and move the cue ball back a diamond. If I can complete this drill, I know my stroke is pretty solid.

Another great drill is shown in Diagram Two. Shoot the 1 ball and stun the cue ball to the other side of the table. The cue ball must stay in the shaded area, on one side of the table, and between the middle diamond and side pocket. Take another object ball (2 ball), set it up in the shaded area above the spot and repeat the drill. Keep moving from one side of the table to the other and see how many you can make in a row. My best in this drill is 37 balls!

After doing some drills like this, I practice some pattern drills. Then, I work on whatever game is going to be played at the next tournament. I spend some time on the break shot, and play a set against the ghost. When you play the ghost, you have to really want to win the set. It will help you concentrate through every rack.

That's a proper practice session.