Nic Barrow's The Snooker Gym ... "We Train Frustrated Amateurs, To Beat Their Highest Break"

Part 1 of 2: What I learned from having only 7 shots in a best of five (and how this benefits you!)

match play snooker tips Mar 31, 2023
Lessons in preparation...
Back ground, and why I entered the tournament

I hope this post can help you with some tournament preparation ideas, and also learning the three main differences between the sublime snooker played by pros, and virtually all club players in the world.

Back in November 2022, I attended a World Seniors event with a Singaporean student of mine at the Crucible Sports & Social Club in Reading (owned by Jason Francis who runs the World Seniors Snooker).
In fact, it is also Stephen Hendry's practice room where he films his very popular 'Cue Tips' Youtube videos.

I saw so many friends from my youth playing in the event, and was basically in a 'pocket of joy'.
I was also in practice before the event to give my student some match play opposition in preparation.
Being in flow for a best of five against him gave me a reminder of that emotional perfection... so I thought it may be a good idea to actually enter the next event I attended with him (and hope I didn't draw him in the first round!)

The only issue I had was an eleven week Round The World Tour that ended a week before the event - with four days coaching to do that week and hundreds of emails to try to catch up on....
I said yes to more sessions than I could reasonably handle on the tour so any practice time there was out... which left me perhaps not as much time as I would have wanted to the event!
Another reason was that we were very busy filming a brand new online course called 'Snooker Gems' which will be launched on April 19th 2023 (during the world championships).

In the next post I will feature some topics learning from preparing for the tournament... which saw me lose to top 100 pro Andrew Pagett (of Wales) 3-0 in the first round in thirty minutes and playing only seven shots!
No one has ever beaten me 3-0 in three visits like that before - and it was wonderful to watch.



I managed 10 hours practice against a 20-30 hour fantasy that I had hoped I would be able to do!
All I wanted interested to achieve in practice was firstly on every shot to have:

  • Consistent shot routine
  • Consistent body position
  • Consistent cueing action
  • Consistent and optimum pre shot tempo (ie too fast to think twice, too slow to lose control)

During this entrainment process, all I practiced were basic break building routines and long pots.
I did not even have time to get to safety, cueing off the cushion, improving any shot making skills, or match practice.
(I am getting my excuse in early, here!)


Body acclimatisation

Even though I am regularly demonstrating shots to students there were interesting observations I made about my body and getting into position.

On days one and two of practice, my right shoulder would be sore after just thirty six consecutive shots clearing the line up drill.
This disappeared on day three.

Vision / eye sight
On day one, I had blurred vision on the blue off the spot playing the cue ball from the baulk line.
      Part of the reason for doing so many long balls (comprising maybe 25% of my practice time) was to sharpen the eyes up a bit.
      On my last shot of the match, with cue ball touching the baulk cushion and aiming for a red touching the top cushion, I could see the red very clearly and perversely felt very proud at that moment!

Head / neck
I had gotten slightly lazy with my head position over the years, and it took the full six days to get comfortable turning my head a few degrees further left so that my face was square with the line of aim. This meant I was on my own personal vision centre.
Getting back to some yoga helped with this.

Hidden cushion
I discovered that I had a cushion hidden underneath my shirt (which weighed approximately 15 kilos!).
All that stored energy was making it difficult to reach over the table properly which was RIDICULOUS!
In the last three weeks I have lost 6kg with 10kg to go in the next ten weeks.
I am following four simple rules here:

  • Zero refined sugar
  • Zero carbohydrates (other than those which appear in vegetables)
  • Exercising (running, exercise bike, or yoga) 4-6 times a week
  • Going to bed hungry

Wish me luck!

Clothing and other preparation

Due to the hidden cushion under my shirt I had to buy a new waistcoat.
Unless tailor made, all waistcoats will be too short at the back so that your shirt is visible when on the shot.
Whilst this seriously offends my sense of aesthetics and balance, I got over it and put it to the back of my mind!

I absolutely love the latest Taom chalk, and had worked out over a few days how many tissues to put in my waistcoat pocket so that the chalk was sitting high enough I could reach it comfortably - but not so high that it would fall out of my pocket when leaning over the table.
I have been tyring out Taom for six months and am so impressed with its longevity, lack of table markings, very few kicks, and none of the miscue issues that came with the first version I tested some years ago.
However, on the last day of practice (at the tournament venue) I thought for an hour I had lost the Taom which meant I was on the phone to a mortgage lender to buy a new one.
However, in that hour I had also played a few shots and gotten re-accustomed to the cube shape and sound of Triangle.
Overall, I felt that the 'dainty twirl' chalking method of Taom was no as confidence inspiring as the 'firm stroke' of Triangle.

Shirt & bow tie
I found a shirt that was flexible and loose enough not to restrict movement.
I also had a bow tie from Breguet (the watch makers) which made me feel a bit more special than one of my other generic bow ties.
It took a couple of days to get the correct looseness setting on the bow tie and how many buttons (two) should be undone on the shirt.
These then ceased to be an issue and I wore them all week to get completely comfortable with them.

As I am occasionally coaching on my feet for 6-12 hours in one day, I normally wear black semi trainer type shoes with soft soles. These went against the tournament dress code which I double checked as soon as the entry pack was released.
So I put my smart shoes on all week which are flatter, tighter, and stiffer. For the first two days I had very sore big toes and the underside of my feet felt like I had been walking on a concrete drive way. By day four, though, my feet had gotten used to them and I was confident they would not be an issue in the match.

Travel times

As it was a long time since I had competed, I wanted to get to the venue a full day before my match to get used to the ambience, lighting, table speeds, and pocket sizes.
This allowed a full night of rest, and an early 9am arrival in the club to feel ahead of the game for my 10am start, and say hello to the tournament organisers and people who had come to watch.
I was at the table in plenty of time for my allotted five mins practice and went through some long potting, middle pocket, and break building drills.

In a few days we will finish the series with a look at mindset, how you can instantly close the gap to a top 100 pro, and the seven shots I played in the match...