The beauty of an uphill walk is, that the view gets better with every corner you turn. Becoming a better 3-cushion player is like that. Start your climb, put a little effort into it, and you'll quickly begin to see a bigger picture.
This is what you need, to educate yourself and raise your game: a piece of paper, a pen, one disciplined finger and a Kozoom premium pass. All things you already have, right?
I've published this "tip" on Facebook a few years ago, so my apologies to those who read it for the second time. But I think it deserves a wider audience. We'll call it the "Padeware" routine, (pause - decide - watch - repeat) and here's how it works:
1) Go to the Kozoom video archive, and select a good 3-cushion match you have not seen before. The archive has thousands of hours of video, and everybody's favorite player is in it. You don't have to limit yourself to Caudron, Blomdahl, Jaspers video's; just make sure the players you'll be watching have an average well above your own. Tasdemir, Horn, Jae Ho Cho: just a few names of players I consider to be great role models.
2) Draw a vertical line on your piece of paper, and name the left column "I was wrong", and the right column "I was right".
3) Start the video. As soon as player A has made the breakoff, you hit the Pause button. Look at the position (take your time), and decide how YOU would play this shot.
4) Hit Play, then give yourself a point in either the left or the right column of your score sheet. Be strict: 3 rails and 4 rails is only the same shot if there is no way for the ball to go around. In a double-chance situation (3 or 5 rails), you must pick one.
5) Hit Pause. Repeat, until the end of the match.
If your video is a World Cup match that ends, for example, 40 - 31 in 22 innings, you'll have made 113 decisions (we don't count the break). If you've checked the left column (I was wrong) half the time or more, your choice of shot definitely needs work. If you've checked the right column (I was right) 75 times or more, you are a pretty good player already, in terms of decision-making. But you were still wrong on a surprising number of shots, so you've learned a bit, haven't you? Don't forget to ask yourself why this top player turned down "your" shot. Sure, that's how you see many of your peers usually play it. But do they usually MAKE it?
You scored over 100 in the right column? No you didn't. You cheated.
We are assuming of course, that Jung Han Heo, Jeremy Bury and Eddy Leppens make better, smarter decisions than we do. And they do! All these top players know from experience what the "percentage" shot is, and they have the discipline to turn down the unavoidable kiss shot, the gallery play shot and the lazy shot.
If they can't spot anything with a decent chance of making, another skill kicks in: how to use a small chance of making, if it can be combined with good defense.
Take into consideration that different players are (extra) skilled at different shots. So Blomdahl's percentage shot may not be Jaspers' percentage shot. If YOU are very good at a type of solution to a problem, use that skill, by all means. But don't get vain and play it when it's not really there.
A better choice of shot, as we all know, is the quickest way to a higher average. You can work on your stance & stroke (and you should), you can try different shafts & tips and study systems. But nothing will lift your game as effectively as better decisions. The Padeware routine has helped me a lot, not so much in learning new shots, but mostly in getting away from patterns I unsuccessfully held on to for years.
I've walked around in the Kozoom vault for a bit, and pre-selected a few gems for you (if you haven't seen 'm already).
- Jaspers - Haeng Jik Kim, Porto April 2015.
One of Dick's best matches of the year. Haeng Jik had to take a few on the chin, but don't worry, he'll be doing a lot of punching in the upcoming seasons.
- Leppens - Caudron, Hooglede May 2015. Five exciting sets, four of those with Olympic averages.
- Merckx - Blomdahl, New York July 2013.
This is about serious money. Fantastic run of 11 by TB. An even better run of 8 as a reply from EM. Jaw-dropping stuff.
- Blomdahl - Jae Ho Cho, Bordeaux December 2015.
Two players with a healthy respect for each other's ability
It could have gone either way, really. Which shot do you select when it's a world championship and the situation is do or die? There are a few of those, in the final stages of this match. TB comes out on top, but my goodness, what a creative genius this Jae Ho Cho is.
- Dong Koong Kang - Sanchez, Guri September 2015.
The high-strung Korean with the mighty stroke was a huge promise since 2008, but he was erratic. Now things have come together in his game, and he starts to beat great players.
- Tasdemir - Caudron, Guri September 2015.
Ferrari versus Lamborghini, this is about as good as it gets. But before you jump to conclusions about the "mental strength" of the winner, consider the fact that he was about 1 mm away from being kissed out in the shootout.
I hope you enjoy the "Padeware practice". Sounds better than "put your feet up, have a drink and watch billiards", doesn't it?