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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
Weíre 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
Donít 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
Youíll 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
ďVĒ 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
Bankerís Holiday

• February 2017
Great Eight

• January 2017
Getting Into Shape

• December 2016
Hocus, Focus

• November 2016
Kicking Into High Gear

• September 2016
Hand Model

• August 2016
Breaking Tradition

• July 2016
Drawing On Experience

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

More Drill Bits
October 2016

Your 9-ball game will improve dramatically with these two drills.

If you havenít guessed by now, I am a big proponent of practicing with purpose. I can get twice the benefit out of two hours of meaningful, structured practice than I would simply throwing the balls on the table and banging them around for eight hours.

The great thing about a good practice drill as that it will help with all facets of your game. It will help your stroke, your position play, your pocketingÖeverything. So, when I havenít played in a while and I want to work on my stroke and patterns, I always start with this rotation drill. I think it is the best 9-ball drill because every shot is something that is going to come up in a normal match. It offers a nice mixture of shots, and regardless of your position play, some of them arenít going to be hangers. Itís also good because you have to go up and down the table on each shot. Place the balls as shown in Diagram One. I always start out with a longish, medium-hard shot. Itís good to start with a medium range shot that isnít too easy, but is still a shot you should make. Letís face it. In a real match, you donít usually get a super easy shot at the 1 after the break.

The keys to this drill are staying on the right side of the ball and leaving a decent angle. Leaving a decent angle may make the shots a little more difficult, but you have to trust your ability to pocket balls. Many amateurs tend to get too straight on shots because they are worried about missing the ball. That often ends up backfiring, because angles are the key to good pattern play. In this drill, if you get straight on one of the balls along the rail, you are going to be in trouble.

This drill is also an excellent way to gauge speed and cue ball action. You will hit some shots with center cue ball, while other shots will require you to spin the cue ball. It is a great drill to get a feel for the game. Complete this drill a few times and your game is going to be in good shape. And because every table tends to play differently, this is a good drill when you are warming up for a tournament match or on league night.

While the break shot and pattern play are very important in 9-ball, touch is also critical. The drill in Diagram Two is a nice follow-up to the first drill because it forces you to pinch the pockets and get the proper speed on the cue ball. There are times you really need tight control on the cue ball. When you need to kill the cue ball, you have to have a good feel for your stroke. You need to be able to shorten your stroke and decelerate.

For this drill, place the balls as shown and run them in rotation without touching a rail. As in the previous drill, staying on the right side of the object ball is essential. Because you want to kill the cue ball on most of these shots, you need to be relatively straight and have to cheat the pockets just a bit to create a little angle. This drill may look easy, but it is not. If you complete this 50 percent of the time, it will show that you have good touch and can play in small areas. Touch is important to a player like me, because there are a lot of players who have better shot-making skills. When I was younger, I didnít worry much about the cue ball because I could shoot from anywhere. After years of battle scars and missing a few key shots, however, I realized that if I had a little better control of the cue ball, those shots would have been much easier.