Whether you’re talking about a foot race, car race, horse race or a fine wine, the FINISH is all-important. If you understand the previous pages’ discussion of the SET position and the PAUSE at the back of your backstroke, then your careful execution of your perfect stroke will be ruined if you don’t FINISH it correctly. Here is where many beginners – and seasoned players alike – introduce movements that totally betray their intentions of an accurate delivery of cue tip to cue ball.
So you’ve set up the shot, you’ve checked your aim (AND you LIKE it), you’ve made your practice strokes and drawn back after your SET position. That necessary PAUSE, the change of direction from backstroke to stroke delivery, might be a fraction of a second or two seconds – you just need to be comfortable with it and maintain your control.
The FINISH is where all kinds of things go wrong:
- Elbow drop – If you want your stroke to be accurate and repeatable, like a machine, and you expect the cue tip to hit the cue ball EXACTLY where you planned (in your practice strokes), then dropping (or raising) your grip arm/elbow during the stroking process introduces a complication that you don’t need. Just try it out: get into the SET position and see what a one, two, three, four or more inch drop in your elbow position does to the cue tip contact point on the cue ball. The problem here is that people who always have elbow drop don’t always have it to the same degree and at exactly the same time during their stroke. Ergo, they end up with a stop shot when they want a draw shot, or a follow shot when they wanted a stop shot, and so on. The lesson here is DON’T (raise or) DROP YOUR ELBOW (or your shoulder) when you stroke – it doesn’t help your chances – it works against you.
- Grip tightening – I know I haven’t mentioned grip and it IS important but my opinion on grip is that it’s easier to change/improve your grip than any of these other problems being discussed thus far. Suffice to say that an effective, loose grip cradles the cue in the middle two or even one middle finger, and you should never squeeze the butt of the cue at any time during your stroke. If you’ve got a death grip on the cue – like you’re holding a hammer or screwdriver or dirt bike handlebars – at any time during your stroke, then you risk forcing the cue tip in some direction other than exactly where you want it to go. Freeze at the back of your backswing and look at your knuckles. A line drawn through your knuckles, from pinky to forefinger, should angle downward towards the floor. Now move slowly through completion of your stroke (the FINISH) and freeze, looking again at your knuckles. Now a line drawn through them should angle upwards. If your knuckles line up with the butt of your cue, you’ve got to loosen up that grip. Some people have an effective grip on all their slow and medium speed shots but when they need higher speed, they start to grip the cue like they’re afraid they’re going to lose it. Don’t ever put the squeeze on the butt of your cue! Please also don’t twist it like a screwdriver when you finish your stroke. Do you think you’re going to put spiral spin on the cueball that way?
- Using your muscles to slow or stop the cue (effectively NO finish) – The two simplest ends to the forward motion of your cue stick are: Your grip hand runs into your chest or you simply can’t move your forearm forward any more because your bicep is just so dam big and well developed (lucky you). For people who have a low stance over the cue and table, these end points for your stroke (the FINISH) are most common. Sure, you could let your grip hand slam into the side of the table to stop forward motion of your cue, but that sounds bloody painful. For the people who can’t (or don’t want to) bend over much anymore, you can usually use the cue’s tip touching the table as the signal of the end of your stroke. This takes a lot more thought than just having a physical ‘brick wall’ of chest or bicep to run into. If you consciously (or unconsciously) try to slow or stop the cue using your muscles and/or grip, it is once again a problem of timing. Can you always perform this action and be 100% sure you won’t do any of that cue slowing BEFORE you actually hit the cue ball? When people get video reviews of their strokes on draw shots, they often find out that they are slowing the cue right before contact with the cue ball. Just the OPPOSITE of what they need for a successful draw stroke.