If you are female pool player, or help female players with their billiards game, this post is a must read. I spent a lot of time learning the game from a lot of different fellas. There are a lot of great tips that come from the fellas in the pool world. However, they are not women. They are not built like women, and they do not encounter the same challenges or situations that women do. Female players must take a different approach to a pool stance than men. First, our upper body is built differently than men. For some ladies, their chest can really impact their game. Our lower body and our center of gravity is also different than men. Our hand size is different which affects our bridge hand. There are a number of reasons why women need to pause with the information they read or obtain about how to play pool, and ensure it translates over to their needs and body type accurately.
Boobs, there it is, I said it. Female players have boobs that either become a guide, a stopping point, a hindrance, or a painful lesson in how pool lessons based around men do not unilaterally apply to women. Today’s blog post was inspired by Jasmin Ouschan. She posted a video that discusses the upper body of female players and how it can affect your billiards stroke. I was really happy to find her video on the topic. As a female player, I have hit myself in the chest numerous times when doing power strokes, break shots, in the midst of tournaments, and it can really add up to a lot of pain and distraction over the course of one match or event.
Using the Chest As a Guide
There are a few techniques female players use to incorporate their chest into the stance and stroke. The first is to use the side of their chest as a guide for the pool cue. This works really well if you have a form fitting bra, particularly one that has an underwire in it. The bra provides a touchpoint for the cue where a lady can feel the pool cue going in a straight stroke through the entirety of her shot. This method does not work very well when wearing a sports bra or camisole. The friction from the cue movement irritates the side of your chest over a period of time. You may be able to do it in practice but it will begin to hurt or become irritated when doing several matches. Women’s pool teams sometimes need two shirts for each gal on the team. This is because women players who use their chest as a guide for the pool cue will end up with chalk marks on the side of their shirt from using this method.
Moving Around the Chest
An unfortunate technique that occurs is when female players have to move their arm around their chest. This might be a well-secured habit from years of play, an adapted habit that came from learning the game as a young player then having your body develop after, or it can come from someone moving from snooker to 9 Ball or a similar situation. A male coach may not catch the small adjustment, or he may not address it as it is a bit of a delicate situation to discuss female body parts as part of a coaching session. Jasmin explains what she encountered between a male coach and his female student in her video below.
Hitting the Chest
I began to play billiards in the snooker halls. In snooker, people are taught that a good follow through ends when your cueing hand strikes your chest. This provides consistent, high quality follow through on your snooker shots as demonstrated by Steve Barton in his video below.
As a female player, when I moved over to 9 Ball and 8 Ball, I had to find new ways to move my arm. I was doing more powerful strokes, longer follow through, and breaking the balls with much higher intensity than in snooker. There were times when I hurt myself by hitting myself in the chest on a good follow through. This doesn’t work well for women especially when you get into the zone and start going on autopilot. You can jump out of the zone pretty quickly when you do a power stroke and hit yourself in the breast mid-match. Ouch!
Long Days Require a Change
If you only play pool for a couple of hours a week, you are unlikely going to need to change anything about your stroke. However, if you are a serious player and are putting in long days at the pool hall, you may run into issues with your upper body. At the amateur level, a tournament can run as long as 13 hours on one day. A multiple day tournament can add up to 25 or 30 hours of play.
A female player that is constantly hitting herself in the chest, or rubbing her arm beside her chest while she does significant power strokes at the table is going to run into issues part way through a tournament. It begins to hurt over long days and the impact of having a chest becomes very noticeable.
Moving Around the Chest
What often happens is women unconsciously move around their chest. They stroke it straight through until they reach their chest then they move around their breast with their wrist to finish off their stroke. This ends up becoming a chicken arm movement that swings out to the side and back in, or a twisting wrist movement that ends with the gal placing undesired spin on the cue ball as her wrist goes out and back in. Alternatively, she may use the snooker style of stroke and end with a hit to the chest but change it to suit her chest. She will stop short of her chest, choke back on her cue so her hand placement doesn’t come close to her chest at the end of the stroke, or lower her cue arm so it does not hit her chest.
Addressing the Chest
If you are a lady pool player, and are not sure if your chest is impacting your stroke, there are a few tips to assess what your stroke looks like. The best way is to film your stroke from different angles. Place a camera behind you and do multiple shots at different speeds, lengths, and with a wide range of power. It is also helpful to film from the side and the front to get the full view of what is happening. When you watch the video, watch your arm, your hand, and your cue for movement.
Many players have some area they are improving on with their stroke, hand placement, or grip. By filming yourself you can catch those areas but also look for additional movement at either the mid to end range of your stroke when your hand comes near your chest. You can also have a trusted friend tell you what they see. If you are very body aware, you may be able to sense and feel any movements in your hand or stroke when it comes close to your chest.
Making changes to your stroke, grip, hand placement, or stance is very impactful to your game. It is also a very personal decision and not one that should be taken lightly. One of the best approaches is to work with a coach you trust to help you handle the changes and move towards accepting the new approach. If you are approaching changes on your own, make videos at regular intervals and journal about your progress. Check in with yourself every few weeks to see if you are improving, feeling comfortable, and if you are able to retain confidence.
Not making a change after becoming aware of a habit is also a choice. If you are happy with your game, don’t see a need to change, and are able to play at a level that satisfies you then just maintain your status quo. Sometimes trying to change something can unravel aspects of your physical and mental game that you didn’t realize were connected. Write down your thoughts on it today, you may change your mind in the future or may just need some time to reflect on whether you want to make a change or not.