Dienstag, 13. Dezember 2011

Technique matters

It's just a few hours ago that Team Europe beat Team USA in the Mosconi Cup. Both teams played well while Europe was more consistent and focused over the whole event. Many threads were opened on forums such as AZBforums and others. One post was saying that the Americans lost due to a lack of technique. This is a very interesting point and also, in my point of view, one reason why Team Europe not only won this year's Cup but also four out of the last five. Lots of comments were made that the Mosconi Cup is in European hands, also off table and therefore also favours the Europeans.

All that being said I will focus on two things in this article – the differences in the technique around the globe and the Mosconi Cup production itself.

Playing pool for over 15 years I have seen a lot, travelled the continents to compete and studied many players to find my game. I am one of those guys that wants to know what he does and where he can improve - analytical, focused and self-reflecting. On the other hand, I of course always admired Mr. Bustamante's or Mr. Ortmann's stroke. Different and still effective nevertheless! But is success an indicator for a good technique? Or let me ask this way: how high are the chances that the average player can become the best with an extravagant stroke technique? Not quite high!

I learned to play pool in the “314-era”, a time with just low deflection and and higher percentage in the the low percentage shots. Besides the just mentioned players I “learned” from pros like Mr. Souquet, Feijen, Immonen, Strickland etc.. Players with a straight shot and an ever straighter technique. To me the benefit of a standardized straight technique was always obvious, nevertheless in the early 00's I made another adjustment and tried to take over the snooker-technique into my pool game – and it worked! I shot better, beat more pros and won more tournaments. I finally had a technique that did not develop by itself but a technique that I made up consciously to be able to repeat it any time even after weeks of letting the cue rest. I didn't want a technique that I have to practice for but one that I can consciously pick up whenever needed.

In 2006 I travelled all over to Manila for my second World Championships (after Taipei in 2004). That was right about the time when Brunswick came up with their new table, the Metro. I never heard of it before but reading the ad “tournament edition” I didn't realize that this was telling you about the pocket size. They were tiny! As small as I have never seen before in pool!
Practising on the practice tables showed me a deficit and made me think: what to do now if I still want to be able to compete on the requested level? I remembered the pockets that most pool halls in Taiwan had been using and put the average Taiwanese stroke in comparison with it. The pockets were very tight and the strokes were very short and not fancy at all. They reduced the movement before the shot to a minimum. Imitating what I saw, I did better than expected. I came out first in my group with Antonio Lining, David Alcaide and Mika Immonen. Played decent pool in all three matches and then even won the first round in the last 64 against Huang from Taiwan to be finally stopped by Konstantin Stepanov, a player with one of the finest and straightest techniques ever seen.

In 2009 and 2010 I spent several months in the USA. First of all in Florida and later on in Las Vegas, LA and New York. I have seen so many good players and also had fun playing lots of them. But pool is something different in the USA than it is in Europe. While pool in the US is still a game played in smoky bars it became a sport in Europe over the last one or even two decades. You barely see players in the US practising. By that I don't talk about playing pool in general, I mean drills and technique training. I once was even told I should rather not practice because I would lose a lot of “action” doing that.
The reason for this difference is, in my opinion, the non-existence of the BCA as a true sports federation. There is no club structure, no real Championship structure and no real sports organisation in American pool. Most players play and play and if they want to improve mostly just try to play more. The analytical side with all its facts and figures is almost completely missing. If the US Mosconi Team wants to have a shot at the Cup in 10-15 years the mentality of the pool players has to change.

In the second part I want to talk about the Mosconi Cup 2011. I did not see day one of the show but tried to follow as much as possible from the very first match on day two. And one thing was clear – the Europeans were prepared better for this event. Not only four World Champions were in their team but also probably the best coach in pool these days. But in general the “Euros” seemed to be there to win this trophy while the US players were there to not lose. The determination and consistency of the “Euros” was amazing and over the top. And consistency comes with the basics being 100% right. Or have you ever seen a straight curve? I am not saying that Shane or Johnny have a crooked stroke but other team members do not have the consistent stroke that nearly every European has. Additional to this the stance of lots of US players (not talking about the US Mosconi team now in particular) is not balanced well which causes many misses. “Rocky” only won against “Drago” because it's a movie and the “good” have to win. In real life the more solid, consistent and more determined player/sportsman gets the cheese!

On the other side mistakes were made in the line up. Why would you have Shawn Putnam playing a re-match of the US Open finals that he lost? And also the teaming up of the Dechaine and Putnam was way too early in the event. The US coach missed to go for the “save” points which made it even tougher for them when the gap got bigger. The US team is also less experienced. By this I mean the international experience: Dechaine and Putnam have hardly been outside US soil while Archer is not really playing much abroad either. The American pool players leave themselves behind by not updating to the actual needs of a pool pro these days – international competition in pool seen as a sport!


  1. Well written Marco and I can't argue with one point. As an American, I was still happy to see team Europe prosper as I thought they showed the most class, heart and preparedness. I too agree completely about proper technique.

    If you can't bring the technique when it's needed such as high pressure situations like Mosconi Cup, it's not really much good.

    Besides Johnny and Shane, we had a weak team. Morris and Putnam played very poorly and Morris showed a complete lack of class when challenging Daz to take it to the streets over a Euro fan. Classless!

    I admire team Europe and wish them the best. I do hope US can regain the cup but it's going to take some discipline for sure.


  2. Great Article....

    Being at the event, one thing was very clear, the European's arrived at the event as a professional team, trained as professionals, acted professionally and took the event seriously.

    By contrast, the American's uncomfortable even before the tournament began. At the pre-tournament cocktail party Shaun Putnam was wearing a fleece instead of a suit!

    They were rarely seen in their practise room, and would never be seen at breakfast together.

    This is surprising as Charlie Williams is a Captain with a great deal of Mosconi experience and should have known how to properly prepare his players both on and off the table.

    Ultimately, if the USA hope to beat the European's in London in 2012, they need a Team with not only quality on the table, but also the desire to win and the ability to play as a team and not just individuals.