by Tom Simpson © October 2011 - All Rights Reserved - PoolClinics.com
You don't have to be a "certified billiard instructor" to teach pool, but it sure helps. Lots of good players enjoy teaching. Some like to see others improve. Some love the challenges of making an idea clear or correcting a form flaw. Some just like to pontificate. A few actually earn a living at it.
When I took my first 3-day instructor course in 1994, like many of the instructors I've certified over the years since, I really didn't know what I was going to do. I thought it would raise my game. It did, in some unexpected ways.
Pool knowledge is endless. One of the first things you realize, with a little serious training, is you don't know what you don't know. And there is a lot of it. Many players will never read a pool physics book, never attend a pro event, never compete in a tournament or league, never get a lesson, never practice, never truly seek to raise their game. They are missing valuable dimensions of the game.
PBIA Master Instructor Tom Simpson
That first pool school gave me the confidence to go try to help some players. What I discovered when I actually began teaching is it's gratifying! Seeing players make big changes, witnessing dramatic improvements in their results, seeing the proverbial light bulb go off as concepts become clear for them. This is the reward of teaching.
The next surprise was how much I personally have learned from teaching. Players come in all body types, sizes, abilities and disabilities. Solving a wide variety of player problems causes instructors to learn how to quickly and accurately recognize the most common flaws and misconceptions. A side effect is that instructors often live in a world of "bad form" and "weak physics," populated by pokers, jumpers, and bangers. The effort we make to explain concepts in simple language, demonstrate clearly, and train productively continually makes things simpler and clearer in our own game too. Similarly, the body awareness that arises through diagnosing and correcting the wide variety of form flaws we encounter also helps us develop and refine our own form. As your understanding deepens, your teaching improves.
Teaching beginners quickly reminds you of the importance of getting off to a good start. Beginners need the most basic, fundamental things, stuff you probably don't even remember learning. What's the white ball for? How to play a game? How to hold a cue? How to chalk? How to stroke? How to pocket a ball? Etiquette? Terminology? And don't forget this is about fun...
Beginners taught me what's important for getting hooked on this game. Having fun, early in the process. Pocketing balls. Gaining a bit of control, a little confidence, some dignity at the table. At first, I gave them way more technical detail than they needed or cared about. I was delivering the deep fun stuff a much more advanced player would value. It was as if they came to driving school but I wanted to teach them how the engine works. Beginners taught me to teach the right stuff in the right way for the level of the player.
The first few times working with an advanced player was scary. I learned that if I just shut up and watch closely for a few minutes, I'll see something worth addressing. The better players value every little edge or improvement they gain. That old school attitude of "If I can beat him, how can he help me?" is immature. How many golf coaches, tennis coaches, or Olympic athlete coaches are expected to be better than their students? What matters are their teaching qualities: articulation, knowledge, insight, people skills. What matters is whether that instructor can truly see what the student needs, and can communicate it effectively. And, of course, whether the student hears and takes appropriate action.
Putting yourself on the spot to teach someone is a serious responsibility. You could shave many years off their learning curve. Conversely, you could reinforce or worsen a swing flaw or fallacious idea. Change is difficult, so we work to find the most simple and appropriate changes for each player.
If you're teaching, you have a great excuse to read all the pool books and articles you can find. You have excuses to go to tournaments, test products, hang out in poolrooms, meet pool players.
Over your years of playing pool, you've learned a vast amount about the game. So much seems obvious now that was a mystery way back when. How are new players just coming into the game going to get excited about our sport? They need to see passion for the game. They need someone to show them the beauty and depth of the game. They need a little help.
Good pool players never stop learning. I'd like to see more of us sharing our knowledge. Often, teaching is more gratifying than beating people. Go teach somebody. Do it for the game. Do it for your own game.
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