A client in The Snooker Gym Community on Facebook posted this question today:
“Hi everyone. Just interested in your views. How long should a pause in the final backswing be before you deliver? Some say an ‘instant’ pause, others a longer one. Trying both, I've found in my game I seem to cue better with a slightly longer one. I suppose it is down to preference, but some say that a too long pause interrupts the rhythm of the shot. Any views?
Of course when I meant longer backswing I meant only 1/2 seconds at most I wasn’t meaning a pause of 5 etc! I was just interested!
Everyone has an optimum tempo for the back 'pause'. This optimum sits between being so quick you lose control, and so slow you lose concentration.
Most club players hit the ball with their backswing, so have yanked the cue off line before the 'pause' and before the delivery even begins.
Club players yank the cue back too quickly because they want to feel the speed of the shot as soon as possible to make sure they do not hit the cue ball too softly. Whereas, for a pro their cue only reaches top speed the moment it touches the white and not before.
I, in fact, prefer the phrase 'gear change' because that is what you are doing - changing the direction of the cue as you would changing a car from reverse to forwards. The word 'pause' for me describes a SIDE EFFECT of what you are doing, and not the REASON FOR IT.
Most players who attempt a pause have no real idea why they are trying to implement one, other than someone down the local club (who again could not explain why) told them it is a good idea.
The most important thing is that your backswing and gear change is the same tempo on every shot. Instead of rushing it when playing with more power, which is what most club players do.
You could try a 'Backswing Word' that you call out in your mind during the entire backswing to keep your tempo in check. My experience shows that if a player does this consistently, their gear change will be the optimum duration without them even thinking about it.
For example, I know players who use 'One-Two' during the backswing (start the backswing as you begin the word, and end the backswing as you end the word).
A well known pro I know uses the word 'Strawberry', which gives a lovely tempo.
You can also test a 'Cue Action Word' and see if it helps you to be more repeatable.
For example, this is a pattern I believe was coined by Del Hill:
On each of your three forward cue actions:
Repeat: One... Two... Three...
On the backswing:
I personally always found a delivery word distracting so never had one.
My backswing word was a phrase I learned off my first coach Vic Foster in High Wycombe...
I would start and finish the backswing in unison with the phrase "Nail It", with the eye transition going up from cue ball to object ball as I began the second word.
And just going sideways in the topic slightly, don't breathe during cueing or delivery either as you move your body when you breathe, which pulls the cue off line. Instead just do as the pro's do and breathe out normally as you get down to the shot, then hold the breath until you stand up at which point you can breathe in normally. If you are not used to this it will take a little practice but you can practice breathe holding for 20, 30, 60 seconds etc at home (when no one is watching!) which will make holding for you 10-15 second shot much easier.
Ultimately the purpose of our cueing, backswing, gear change and smoothness of acceleration in cue delivery are to be optimised for one reason only - to give us the best chance of keeping the cue online.
The same care you would take walking a tight rope, is the care and control you need to bring the cue back and forwards in a straight line.
For some players, they have a 'one piece cue action'. In other words the cue comes backwards & forwards with no discernible stop. Obviously the cue has to stop to change direction, so they are still 'pausing' even though most with that habit would deny it. For a few pros this tempo is optimum for them - and it is rarely optimum for club players. This is because club players lose all awareness of what the cue is doing by rushing through the backswing and gear change. They do this to 'get rid of the shot' as quickly as possible as a way of avoiding the uncertainty and feeling of lack of control in their cueing. Like pulling a plaster off, the pain is less if they do it quicker!
The key in this circumstance is NOT to rush the action, but instead to improve your control to the extent you can keep the cue moving straight in all phases of the action. You will then be free to move the cue at your optimum speed for control, rather than rushing it to avoid fear.
You joke about a 5 second backswing - but I once spoke with a Canadian in India during the world amateur championships who actually did this during the tournament. Someone had told the poor chap it was the best way to play! To avoid such a state of affairs maybe the solution is to not be a Canadian, and to not go to India!