Interview with "Dr. Dave"

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Here's an American Billiard Radio (ABR) audio interview with Dr. Dave discussing the Billiard University and Billiard Education Foundation; and here's another ABR interview dealing with the Video Encyclopedia of Eight Ball (VEEB). And here's a bio and summary of Dr. Dave's contributions to the pool world.

And answers to various questions I've been asked over the years are summarized below:

 

How and when did you get into billiards/pool, and what do you find intriguing about it?

I started playing when I was very young.  I spent lots of time in a bowling alley ("misspent youth") in New Orleans where my mother worked for many years.  I spent many afternoons bowling and playing pool, pinball, and video games (when they started coming out). We also had a very cheap but fun pool table at home when I was young. Here's the earliest pool photo I have of me ... I'm in the bottom-left with the white shirt watching my older brother shoot:

young Dr. Dave at pool table

I also played lots of pool with buddies when I was in graduate school in Austin, Texas.  I have lots of fond memories from those days. Pool with friends is a great stress reliever.

I got more serious about pool about 10 years ago when I joined a pool league while I was living in Washington D.C. for a year. There were many great players (and serious gamblers) in the league.  I would often ask them questions to try to learn as much as I could from them. One thing I learned is that many players (even some good ones) often don't truly understand how to plan and execute shots and run-outs. I also learned that many people willing to give advice often do poor jobs at trying to teach and help others apply the important basic principles of pool. Around the same time, I also started reading all instructional pool books available, because I wanted to improve so I could try to compete with those great players. In reading the books, I was often disappointed by how poorly some of them were written and illustrated.  Many of them also described things wrongly from a physics perspective.  That's when I started thinking about writing my own pool book that would cover all of the important principles, be very well illustrated and easy to read, and be supported by lots of great web resources (mostly video demonstrations). That's when I truly became passionate about the game.

What does your typical day as Mechanical Engineering professor consist of?

I prepare for classes, give lectures, help and mentor students that visit my office, drop in on Lab courses to make sure things are running smoothly and to answer student questions, write technical papers (for journals and conferences) and pool articles (for Billiards Digest), read articles and books supporting my research and pool interests, respond to e-mail from students and pool enthusiasts, respond to messages posted on the Billiards Digest CCB and AZBilliards online discussion forums, maintain and expand all of my websites (pool and engineering related), serve on university committees (e.g., to make changes in curriculum and hire new people), do volunteer work for the American Society for Mechanical Engineers (ASME), plan trips (e.g., for the "Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards" talk that I give around the country), and plan, think about, and do work on my "mechatronics" textbook (dealing with electronics for mechanical engineers) and future pool instruction projects. In my spare time, I also give individual pool lessons and run an annual Summer School Boot Camps for the Billiard University.

Here's a video interview dealing with how I incorporate my passion for pool into the engineering classroom.

Do you teach billiards/pool to individuals in a unique or different way?

I certainly have a more high-tech approach than many pool instructors.  For example, I do detailed video analysis of each student's technique.  I also help the students learn to understand what they are doing and why and how certain things work or don't work at the table.  Some instructors just tell them what to do.  I think my approach is better in the long run ... and more fun.

How did you start with the idea of writing your books?

For any book project, I read lots of other related books, keep a folder of ideas and notes over a long period of time, think about the project daily and mull it over in my mind, and talk to people about my ideas to get input and recommendations. Before I started writing "The Illustrated Principles of Pool and Billiards," I had a folder about 1 inch thick with scraps of paper and bar napkins with all sorts of ideas and example shots. I started with a rough outline of the book and added all of the folder ideas to appropriate places in the outline. Then I drew all of the illustrations for the book. Then the book almost wrote itself.

It takes a lot of dedication to write a book, did it take you a while to complete, and what was involved?

I thought about the book, kept the folder of ideas, and did research over about 4 years (but not full time). The actual writing took about 5 months over 2 summers. The website work supporting the book took about 1 solid month of work. The most time-consuming part of writing the book was developing, drawing, and verifying all of the illustrations. This can sometimes be tedious and it required me to develop proficiency with a computer drawing program (I used CorelDraw).

Why might it be worth-while for individuals who know little about this game to learn and play?

Pool is a great sport and activity.  You can play it your whole life and never get bored.  There is always something new to learn.  Most importantly, it is lots of fun playing with others.  Also, you don't need to be good to enjoy playing.  Even a person who has never played before can pick up a cue and have fun the first time they hit a ball (even if the ball doesn't go in the pocket).  This can't be said for most sports.  And with a little instruction, a person can quickly learn to play much better and enjoy the game even more, especially when they show off their new-found skills to friends and family.

What should an individual expect when attending one of your pool courses?

1) Have fun.
2) Learn to play pool better.
3) Get excited about the game and want to learn more.

Do you practice a lot, and what do you do for practice?

I don't practice near as much as I would like. I usually only find time to play a couple of times a week for 1-3 hours each time. I usually just play 8-ball or 9-ball with friends. When I practice alone, I run racks of 9-ball, 10-ball, or 15-ball, starting with ball in hand after the break. Any time I miss a shot or play poor position, I try the shot over and over again until I am happy with the results and confident I can do better the next time I face such a shot. Sometimes I just practice safeties and follow-on reply shots, because these are critically important component of intelligent pool. If I feel I am not doing very well during practice or after playing with friends, I always go back to checking my fundamentals: making sure my stance and stroke are comfortable and consistent, and making sure no bad habits have popped up in my game (e.g., dropping the elbow, not pausing before the final stroke, moving my head or body during a shot, steering the follow-through, etc.). I also find the Billiard University playing-ability Exams helpful in working on and improving fundamentals.

What are the top three skills that a person must learn to win games?

1.) aiming and visualization skills (this is part natural talent and part practice)
2.) consistent stoke (be able to hit the cue ball at the desired contact point and in the desired direction)
3.) speed control and solid strategy and decision making.

The most important factor in improving is having fun.  That's why the word "FUN" is in "FUNdamentals."  The mental side of the game is also important (per fundaMENTALs); so when playing, try to stay focused and really concentrate when aiming a shot.  Also, learn from your mistakes, try to stay positive, and work hard to improve your knowledge and understanding of our wonderful sport by reading books, watching videos, and working with qualified and experienced instructors.

What do you think is the most important fundamental of pool?

... consistent and accurate head alignment.  If your eyes are not in the right place over the cue, your aim will be off and the CB will not head in the direction you think ... even with a perfect stroke.  For more info, see the vision center resource page.

What do you think about the mental skills a player must have?

... confidence and positive thoughts, realistic appraisal and understanding of one's ability, concentration and focus, dedication and desire to practice and get better, ability to not be influenced or emotionally affected by factors out of your control (e.g., a lucky or distracting opponent), motivation for and love of the game.

Is 8-ball your favorite billiard game?

Yes. I also like 15-ball rotation. I like the sometimes chess-like strategy involved with 8-ball and the shot-making and position play challenges of 15-ball.

What is your favorite pool film?

"The Color of Money." The movie was very well done with good acting, cinematography, plot, and music, and it also helped glamorize our sport and dramatically increases its popularity.

I actually wrote an article about this and other billiards-related films for Billiards Digest magazine. Here's the article about the Color of Money.

Do you play any other sports?