What is the definition of “pause”?
Strictly, the word “pause” implies stopping for more than an “instant.” When a player has an obvious “pause” between the end of their back-swing and the beginning of their forward-swing, I like to refer to it as a “deliberate pause” or a “distinct pause.” Here, the implication is clear: the cue is held stationary (stopped) for more than an instant.
Strictly speaking, if the cue stops only for an “instant,” there is no “pause.” An “instant” does not involve any passage of time. A “pause” does imply a “stop” (zero speed) for a distinct amount of time. For example, when a free-swinging pendulum changes direction at is highest point, it does “stop” for an “instant,” but it does not “pause.” The speed gradually and smoothly changes from negative (in the backward direction) to positive (in the forward direction), through zero. The speed does not stay at zero for any amount of time. At the tiniest fraction of a second before the speed is zero, the pendulum is moving slowly in one direction (negative speed); and at the tiniest fraction of a second after the speed is zero, the pendulum is moving slowly in the other direction (positive speed). The speed is zero only for an “instant.” Not even the smallest fraction of time passes during that instant.
This explanation applies to any speed (i.e., there is nothing special about zero). For example, consider the cue speeding up gradually between 1 mph and 5 mph. The speed hits 3 mph for only an instant during the acceleration, but there is no “pause” at 3 mph. Now, if you stop accelerating at 3 mph, and hold the speed constant at 3 mph for a period of time, then you could say there is a “pause” in the acceleration. Again, the smooth transition through a speed of zero is no different. If you don’t hold the speed at zero for a distinct period of time, then, strictly speaking, there is no “pause.”
People will interpret the word “pause” in different ways; but as long as one is clear and consistent with the meaning, and people know what you mean, that’s all that matters. Again, I like to use the phrase “deliberate pause” when there is a distinct “pause” in the action (i.e., the stop occurs for more than just an “instant”). For example, both Allison Fisher and Buddy Hall (and others) obviously have a “deliberate pause” before their final forward stroke. The phrase “pause for only an instant” is also OK when there is no “deliberate pause”; although, it is strictly not proper. When somebody rushes or jerks the transition between back and forward motion, there still is a “stop for an instant” (because the cue still changes direction and has zero speed for an instant). I would call this a “pauseless and rushed” transition.
Why should I “pause”?
The pause at the set position allows your eyes to focus and verify both the tip contact point on the cue ball and the target aiming line (see quiet eyes for more info). For the “pause” at the end of the backstroke, see item 4 in the stroke “best practices” document. Adding a deliberate or distinct “pause” helps some people prevent themselves from rushing the final back stroke and from rushing the transition to the final forward stroke. Jerking this transition can cause stroking errors.
If you watch a hundred top players and also watch a hundred ball bangers, here is what I think you will notice:
set position: On average, the top players are stopped like an oak tree in the set position for a notably longer time. The bangers have variable set pauses that are often short and sometimes they don’t pause at all.
final backstroke The top players–nearly all of them– will bring the cue back slowly following the longish set pause. The bangers will bring the cue back faster.
backstroke pause Some of the top players pause; others don’t. Some of the bangers pause; others don’t. The differences you will note are not so much whether the players pause but rather how smooth and fluid the transition is. Part of the bangers problem with smooth transition is not really a problem with the backstroke pause/nopause. Rather it is collateral damage from the final backstroke problem. Bringing the cue back too fast encourages a jerky transition. Add a backstroke pause if it floats your boat. But if you’re adding it to fix a jerky transition, then you may just be enabling the real (too fast backstroke) problem.
Because when there is a mechanical error in the stroke it usually happens in the transition from back stroke to forward stroke. Simply put, the end of your backstroke is the start of your forward stroke. So if the backstroke does not come back right, the forward stroke is adversely affected. A slow drawback, and slight pause eliminates this problem. Also the pause is when you re-focus on the ob’s contact point. Yes “re-focus”. During the practice strokes your eyes are scanning back and forth. When you are ready a back stroke and transition can for a split second distract your focus, even if you don’t take your eye off the ball! A slight pause allows you to re-focus, or burn with intensity that vital little bit. It makes one simply react to the target from the trigger position without the distraction of having any moving parts going on at the same time.
Players with less experience get in a hurry to shoot a shot. Doing so they snatch the cue back. I have a phrase I like to use. “Finish Your Backswing”.
“Gradually” bring the cue tip to the C/B and pause, let your focus go from tip placement to the O/B during this pause, “Gradually” start the cue back, (this is important because a snatch will make your backswing short) slight pause, then slowly start forward, no matter the power needed. This is the transition area. If you start forward fast, you just wasted the preparation needed to make a smooth stroke.
What you’ll find, once you learn to slow down your stroke, you’ll hit the cueball exactly where intended. The reason pool players never excel is they don’t grasp the importance of these fundamental movements. You have to be accurate and quick movements will surely make you loose your focus.