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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• 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

• 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

• October 2016
More Drill Bits

• 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

Striking It Rich
October 2018

Always start by checking your alignment, particularly after a layoff.

Iíve really not been playing much in recent months, so when I started practicing again recently I knew right away that I wasnít hitting center cue ball. In fact, I couldnít even find center cue ball. It was obvious that my alignment was way off.

Of course, this isnít new. Itís happened before and it always gets me to go back to basics. Proper alignment is so critically important in pool at all levels of play. You have to be able to trust that your alignment is solid. Everything starts from that point. Sometimes you think you are striking center ball, but youíre not. And if you are off center by even fractions, it can be massive and make a huge difference in your accuracy and success. This is particularly important when you find yourself in a high-pressure situation. Holding your nerves steady is hard enough, but if you can trust that your alignment is solid, youíve got a good chance of making a good shot.

Here are a few simple drills to figure out what youíre doing wrong and how to get you back on track. These may seem incredibly basic, but trust me, even the top pros do these drills when they are struggling with their alignment.

The first drill (Diagram One) is the standard lag drill. Shoot the cue ball straight up table and back (Shot 1). Follow how straight the return is. You may be striking the cue ball with a touch of left or right without even realizing it. Another way to do this drill is to hold your cue in place on your follow through and see if the cue ball comes directly back to the cue tip. It should. Practice this at least 10 times and as many as 20.

What I will also do is shoot the cue ball hard at the diagonal pocket and try to hit the very center of the pocket (Shot 2). Hitting it hard will free up any flaws in my stroke.

In Diagram Two, I put my alignment to the test.

Place the cue ball a couple inches from the corner pocket and the 9 ball at the center of the table. Shooting the 9 into the diagonal pocket is the goal, but the secret to this shot is to look through the 9 ball and see where the cue ball needs to hit the back of the pocket. I donít even look at the 9 ball, which frees me up to focus on the cue ball and the target point in the corner pocket. Do this drill using follow, stop shots and draw shots. You will get immediate feedback about any flaws or movements in your stroke before you strike the cue ball.

After Iím comfortable with this process, I start to look at the object ball and the point of the pocket I need to hit. This gives me great guidance. I use this drill during my matches and it really helps when Iím under pressure. We all know that long straight-in shots are tough, so having a guide is great. Regardless, though, if you are not striking perfect center cue ball, you will still miss the shot. That is why this is such an important drill. This foundation will help your fundamentals for all shots.