In 1998 I was co-teaching Pool School in Paradise with Allison Fisher, Mike Massey, and Gerda Hofstatter. It was our second year of a wonderful 11 years of PSIP, but the first year that we held it in Vancouver. On the last day of PSIP 1998 I asked Mike Massey to show us a drill to help our students understand the tangent line. He showed us The Wagon Wheel Drill. I loved the drill so much that I have been showing it to all my students ever since. I saw that it was a great way for students to work on their new fundamentals and develop great habits towards focusing on method rather than results. So there are two goals when shooting each shot.
The first goal is to make object ball X in the side pocket and try to contact each of the balls already placed on the rail or near a pocket, one at a time, as shown in the diagram.
The second and most important goal is to focus on awareness skills before, during, and after the cue ball is struck. You must stay down and watch where object ball X goes into the pocket, then focus all your attention on your cue stick, your elbow, your head, and your balance, before getting up and out of your stance. All the while not watching where the cue ball is going.
If you physically moved your eyes to follow the cue ball after it struck object ball X you couldn’t score the hit of the object ball you were trying to hit with the cue ball. You would need to shoot the shot over and over again until you accomplished both goals with each shot.
To succeed in excelling in this drill you would need to develop good stroking abilities and understand the nuances of manipulating the cue ball off an object ball to travel forward or backward off the tangent line. I have included directions on how to set up the wagon wheel and how to do the drill, as well as a diagram.
- Place a ball on each of the diamonds and pockets marked; 3, 2, 1, A, 18, 17, 16, F, 15, 14, 13, & E, as shown in the diagram.
- Place an object ball where the black ball is shown on the diagram. We will refer to that object ball as X. This ball should be placed in a direct line from the center of pocket B to the center of pocket E and approx. half a ball from the line from diamond 7 to diamond 18, closer to pocket B.
- Place the cue ball in the center of the table but approx. 1 1/2 ball width closer to diamond #8. The relationship between the cue ball and object ball X should be such that pocketing X into pocket B can be achieved while also drawing the cue ball back to pocket the ball at pocket E, yet still giving as much angle as possible from the cue ball to X to pocket B. On most pool tables you would be able to check the accuracy of the cue ball to X by placing your cue stick over the center of both the cue ball and X. The line should be such that your cue tip would be pointed at the horn of the side pocket and your cue butt will be pointed at diamond #12.
- The objective is to shoot X into pocket B while controlling the cue ball to contact each object ball, one at a time. On the first shot you would shoot X into pocket B and control the cue ball to contact the ball on diamond #3. If you miss either pocketing X or contacting the ball on diamond #3 you would set it back up and try again. Once you succeed in pocketing X and having the cue ball contact the ball on diamond #3 you would take that ball away and reset the cue ball and ball X to then try to pocket ball X and have the cue ball contact the ball on diamond #2, and so on until you have successfully contacted each of the balls from #3 to pocket E.
- On every shot try to stroke through the cue ball on its’ vertical center, not using any English. You will control the cue ball’s path off the object ball X by stroking through the cue ball on different positions on its’ vertical center, adjusting the power, and having the object ball X enter the pocket B at different angles. This exercise helps you improve your control of topspin, stun and draw. It also helps you to understand the tangent line. By changing the angle the object ball enters the pocket you can change the angle the cue ball leaves the object ball, thus creating a different tangent line.