As many here, I take the sport of pool very seriously. I enjoy playing it to the best of my ability. After all the endless hours of hard work, drills, research, and practice--to get that shot to fall and the cue ball to follow as planned is like a sweet pay day. There is a sense of accomplishment and serenity that exists in pool when it is played correctly. If you are here at az billiards, I'm sure you are aware of this to some shape and form.
So I decided to take a new step into my pool obsession--in order to play the game at a higher level, I wanted to embark on a year of training and drilling starting in 2015. To do this, I spent the better part of the last year and a half obtaining as much reading material and instructional dvd's that I could soak in. But in the end, you can only learn so much from books, dvd's, and watching professionals in action. You eventually need to take official instruction.
With a quick search, you can find many names of instructors and even more if you ask around at your local pool hall. There are quite a few, so this forum for instructor reviews can be very valuable. I wanted to write a review for the instructor who helped me out greatly, and added a new found enjoyment into my game: Lee Brett.
After corresponding with Lee here on az billiards, I learned he was going to be passing through my area: upstate New York around the beginning of December. Unfortunately, i was due to be out of town on the dates he would be here, but at the last minute my plans were canceled so I had a free night. I contacted Lee and made arrangements to get two hours of instruction on one of his days in the area. Even though he had a full schedule, Lee found the time for me and a really short notice.
I've never officially had a lesson before so this was going to be all new to me. However, in my other careers I have had thousands of hours as a student as well as an instructor. I am aware that instructors come on all shapes and sizes in terms of lesson/teaching techniques--no two are really alike. One teacher could be very strict and stick to a defined syllabus/curriculum--never veering off course, while another instructor could be very free and open in their teaching style and have it flow to where the material and the student takes it. Both can be very effective and both can be very disappointing, and you never know just what you might get.
To make sure I got the most out of my lesson with Lee, I wanted to be fully prepared and ready for anything. First, I wanted to define what I wanted to get out of the training personally. With 2015 approaching, I wanted to break down my fundamentals and get correction on what I was doing wrong, and maybe at the same time, get confirmation on anything I was doing right.
Next I purchased Lee's DVD "The Secret Art of Pool" and watched it 5 times from start to finish. His DVD is in my opinion one of the best instructional DVDs on the market. There are many instructors out in the world, but Lee has a master instructor certification from England where he used to coach in all the cue sports from a young age. This shows in how Lee communicates his theories and the finer elements of pool: his command of the English language and metaphor creates instruction that resonates and sticks in my mind, to the point where I gain the ability to recall his instruction while playing. I do not want to disrespect anyone else, but there are hall of famers with instructional DVDs that seem to lose the viewer or leave more questions after answering one. This is not a knock on their ability on the table, but it clearly shows they don't have the training as an instructor. Lee brings that to the table and it shows crystal clear.
On the day of the training, I scheduled 2 hours with Lee who would be just getting done with an 8 hour session he would be having with another player in the area. 2 hours can fly by in the blink of an eye, so I wanted to make sure I maximized them out to the fullest. To do this, I watched his DVD for the 5th time but took down two pages of notes. When this was all said and done, I didn't want to be driving home thinking to myself 'I should have asked this...' So I was driving to the training with two pages worth of questions where I needed help or concerns I had regarding points he made in the DVD.
I got to the pool hall where I would meet Lee, and brought out my binder of material. I had a pad of legal paper, pens, blank photo copied pool tables for notes on problem shots or areas that need work. Also, present was my two pages of questions and concerns. I was ready for anything. If Lee's instructing style was going to be very strict and stick to the plan, I would have listened and done as asked. If he was open to questions, I was prepared.
Lee arrived right on time, and I had gotten there a few minutes early and was able to warm up a bit (this is important to any training, and I wanted to make sure all the table time was paid early, bottles of water were on the counter, etc...so my mind would be completely open and ready to learn).
The great thing about Lee as an instructor of such experience is that he can adapt to any style of training/student that he encounters. So he asked me what I was looking to get out of the session and flowed into the lesson like it wasn't a problem at all. I'm not much more than B player speed, and here is a guy who has coached the likes of Mike Dechaine, John Morra, Shane Van Boening, and the Hong Kong national team, now at a table teaching me. Lee was extremely down to earth and was very open to questions which is how we started the lesson. For every question I had, Lee was able to give answers as well as demonstrate his techniques and theories pertaining to that question. This wasn't prepared early by him at all, he did this completely out of his huge binder of notes, and off the top of his head. His knowledge of the material and the game is unmatched in my opinion. It was evident in the two hours of training that night.
From there he watched me shoot and immediately showed me how I was out of balance while down on a shot. I'm at a stage where I wanted a full and honest assessment of my fundamentals and Lee gave me just that. Not only did he make corrections to my stance, but he took the time to explain why those corrections are needed, even if it flies in the face of instructional techniques that have been taught in American pool for the last fifty years. His thoughts on how the game has changed and a new approach is needed to excel at pool in today's game.
For twenty minutes, I didn't even physically shoot a shot--Lee had me move around the tables, utilizing a pre-shot routine and stepping into, then down on a shot but in the correct stance, only to get up and move to another shot and repeat. Fundamentals, Mr. Miyagi style.
With exceptional shot making skills, Lee was able to demonstrate not just the how's and why's of proper fundamentals, but also the what-not-to-do's while shooting. After taking in the corrections to my stance, I was able to work on shot making from all areas of the table, while Lee sat by and observed: taking notes himself, so I would have my own personalized instruction sheet to work on later. Lee was in his tenth hour of instruction for the day, but never missed a beat in terms of his energy and coaching. If he saw a problem, he was out of his chair lightning fast to point out his concern. His dedication to his craft was noticed.
To be honest, I was always nervous about taking a formal lesson from a big-time instructor. I've been taking the game serious for seven years now and really invested a lot of time and effort into learning the sport. I was nervous because I never knew if I was good enough to play to a level that justified my being in front of a world class instructor. But in Lee's DVD he says "Practice makes permanent" where he explains no matter what you practice, it will be permanent. If you are practicing with incorrect fundamentals, they will become permanent and extremely hard to correct years down the road. So no matter what level or age, it's never a bad time to get lessons.
I am extremely grateful for Lee's instruction because his corrections saved me years of extra work to correct my faults which would have held me back well into the future, I am sure of this. While the two hours were winding down, Lee let me know that the rest of my fundamentals were spot on, I was getting through the cue ball strong, and that I was on the proper course. His confirmation that I was on the right track was invaluable in my confidence and how I will move forward in my progression over the next year.
Driving home, I had feelings of excitement--reenergized and recharged with the experience and knowledge gained from the lesson. I had only wished I looked Lee up earlier because I had really been practicing with flawed fundamentals, but I am relieved he caught them now.
It's been one month since my lesson with Lee, and I have put time in on the table almost every day. I have never had a jump in my consistency and shot making as I have had over the past month. This is entirely due to Lee Brett's lesson. I can't highly recommend Lee enough.
I plan on seeing him every six months for another lesson. My thoughts were always to find one instructor and stick with him because if there is a history and knowledge between instructor and student, the lessons become that much more valuable. As long as Lee is teaching, I'll be learning.