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Darren Appleton

Instruction Articles:
• 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

• 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

• May 2016
Proper Practice

• April 2016
Drilling For Improvement

• March 2016
Mind Games

Money Balls
October 2019

Do the last balls on the table look impossible? Get over it!

While playing in the World 10-Ball Championship in July, I had a chance to watch the amateurs play in both the BCAPL and APA Championships. I’ve been around pool for over 25 years, and I was not surprised to see how the game changed when players are under pressure. I saw so many amateurs come unglued when it came down to the last two balls. Of course, this happens to pro players as well, but not nearly as often.

The reason those shots get more difficult? The Chimp.

There is a sports psychologist named Steve Peters who works with many sports stars, including snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan. Peters wrote a book called “The Chimp Paradox,” in which he discusses that little man that lives inside the heads of all athletes. The Chimp is the voice that causes anxiety, fear, loss of focus, negativity, nerves and pressure. He’s the voice that warns you, “Don’t dog it now!”

While you’ll likely never eliminate the voice in your head altogether, you can turn him to your side. The key is to practice the same shots that come up in the same situations over and over again until they become second nature. It is all about belief and confidence in your ability and in you mechanics. And, again, that comes with repetition. If you can make a shot 10 times in a row, you can certainly do it in a pressure situation with little problem. You must follow the mind set and basics you use in practice. The knowledge that you’ve made a shot countless numbers of times will help you mentally relax and will make you stronger under pressure.

That type of practice and training has helped me even when I couldn’t feel my legs or my hands because of the pressure. It all comes down to training and preparing for the high-pressure situations so that you simply trust yourself and your mechanics.

Here is a drill that shows shots I saw missed by good amateur players almost half the time. I guarantee that 95 percent of those missed were caused by the Chimp.

When I do this drill, I convince myself that every shot is to win a big tournament or a big match. It helps me get used to dealing with that little man in my head. Your success is teaching the Chimp and giving him more knowledge as well. Next time you face these shots, the Chimp will be on your side, urging you to make the shot because you’ve made it a million times before.

Set up this 8 ball/9 ball shot exactly as it is shown in the diagram. The starting cue ball should be one diamond off the long rail and two diamonds up from the short rail. The goal is to keep the cue ball in the boxes shown. This is a simple follow shot, using a nice, easy stroke with a touch of right English. I visualize the shot, keeping my head still and my grip nice and loose. I repeat the process with the 9 ball and I try to go from the 8 to the 9 and back 10 times in a row. Use a touch of left English on the 9 ball.

Again, the cue ball should stay in the squares. This will make you think about making the ball and will prevent scratches in the side pockets. It forces you to think about both balls. Too many players think only about making the object ball, but you need to take care of the cue ball as well.

When I’ve successfully made the two shots 10 times in a row, I switch over to the opposite side of the table and repeat the process. Make sure to focus. Treat every shot like it’s the last shot of the tournament. In doing so, you’ll be training the Chimp to remember the situation next time it comes up in a tournament match.

This is a simple drill, but it is very important, especially for amateur players. It’s all a process, and every shot needs to be given 100 percent, no matter how easy it appears. Practice makes perfect. Putting in the work will train that little man in your head, and the results will be amazing.