Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Snappy Answers to PCN-Guy's Stupid Questions

Hey folks,
I'm back from Norman, Oklahoma - site of the 2010 WPBA U.S. Open.
I finished in the top half there and if I'm not mistaken that bumps me up into the Top 20 of the WPBA's rankings. I would love to finish the year in the Top 16 (who wouldn't?) so stay tuned for more 2010 results. For now, this is an interview I did recently with Pool Cue News and Review (avaible here courtesy of the sexy PCN-dude):

 This month, we travel to the fine state of Vermont to check in with the lovely, talented and generally effervescent Liz Ford:

1. I understand you recently moved to Vermont. Is there any truth to the rumor that when you become a resident you are forced to stop washing your hair and listen to Phish all day?

No, but they do pass out fire arms and pints of Ben and Jerry’s with your tax returns.

The fire arms bit is a joke, barely, but the ice-cream part is true. As a Vermont resident, the only condiment or toiletry item I’m only allowed is maple syrup; My hair has never been shinier.

2. The glove. Please explain.

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’m a self-hating glove-wearer. It ruins all my outfits but makes me play better. I have skinny fingers with knobby knuckles (SEXY!) and the glove helps me make a tighter bridge.

3. I’ve been told that after you beat that dude in the US Open 10 Ball event, he broke all his cues. Satisfying, insulting or just some stuff that happened?

I always ask someone who is about to break their cues to donate them to me to sell on eBay: so far I’ve had no takers. He said he just wanted to start fresh. Apparently, he came down to the bar later using a splinter from one as a toothpick.

4. A long time ago, you mentioned on your blog that Eliot Smith is your favorite artist (who I happen to dig as well). Is there anyone else you listen to that’s, oh I don’t know, a little more upbeat?

Let’s give some respect to the dead and at least spell his name correctly: Elliott Smith. I try not to wallow in such angsty music anymore (paging Adams? Ryan Adams?) I could listen to nothing but the Beatles everyday for the rest of my life and feel perfectly content.

5. My latest obsession is pool in the mainstream. How did you score that spot on Time Warp?

Um, they scored me?! Actually, they did come to me after finding my website online. I have a background in science and research so it was a good fit. The guy who hosts the show, Jeff Lieberman, has two PhDs and teaches at MIT, so I was proud to help apply some legit science to pool.

6. Gambling and action. Good or bad for pool?

Ask me again when anybody cares about pool. Oh, I’m sorry, did that sound bitter?

7. Please rank the following Frank Zappa albums in order of importance:


One Size Fits All

We’re Only In It For The Money

Freak Out

You Are What You Is

I’m just going to pretend that you asked me which FZ albums are my favorites: Live from the Fillmore East and Just Another Band from L.A.

8. Thanks for playing Liz. Anyone deserving of big pimpin’ before you go?

My booth buds over at PoolDawg and of course the irrepressible Dr. Gary C. Borge, DDS.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Back by popular demand!

I'm not dead. I've been living in Vermont for a while taking a much-needed breather from pool - my first since I started 15 years ago!

Thank you to those of you who've urged me to continue writing, I've listened and now I'm refreshed and ready to continue where I left off.

A few of the highlights from "my time away from pool"
- A 9th place finish at the 2010 WPBA San Diego Classic
- A first-round win at the 2010 Men's US Open 10-Ball

My success during my hiatus has been instructive in and of itself. It seems as though a lot of the chatter in my mind went away and left me with an essential core of my abilities. I'm not saying that I won't be practicing hard again soon, but having perspective and being fresh and full of energy are not without their own merits.

I'll be re-entering the scene with this month's WPBA US Open in Norman, OK. ESPN will begin filming during the quarterfinals, and I'd love to make an appearance!

Of course, I'll be bringing you along in spirit with updates right here...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Gift Packages Keep Getting Better - Awesome deals!!!

Here is the official press release for my gift packages:

An Adventurous Liz Ford Explores Asia – Share in her Experience!

World domination ain't cheap! Liz Ford, WPBA pro and writer on the game, is one of five players chosen to represent the U.S. at the prestigious Amway Cup in Taipei, Taiwan.
She wants you to share in her Asian experience – connect to her on a personal level and adopt a player to root for in international competition by becoming part of her team.

For a contribution of $60 dollars or more, receive:

- a postcard from Liz while she is in Taiwan
- a signed picture of Liz
- a DVD of stroke-training exercises featuring Liz
- a $10 Gift Certificate from PoolDawg
- Free video of your choice from Accustats (priced at $20 or less)

Liz is known for her accessibility to fans, smart wit and insights into the game. She will be giving daily updates and pictures from her adventure on her blog, Sticks and Balls and Holes. Her contribution to the game depends on help from people like you!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Help me get to Taiwan!

2010 Contributor Thank You Gift Packages are now available! For a minimum contribution of $60 you get a signed glossy, a stroke-training DVD made by me and a $10 PoolDawg gift certificate!


Make sure to include any personal message you would like on the photo.

If you are a fan of this blog and would like to see more instructional information, tournament updates and cheeky, home-spun wisdom - please purchase a Gift Package today!

Packages will start shipping on March 1st for those of you who already contributed.

Yee Haw!

Dynamic Shots

Things get a little more sophisticated... just a little, though.

Objectives: Strengthen the basics of cue ball control by performing many similar, but not identical, shots that emphasize the same principal (e.g. speed control, stun angle control, correctly assessing the natural line, etc.) Mental focus is increased in this section but is still pretty low, as you already have a general plan and are learning by repetition.

I will be throwing in a draw speed control drill for myself and probably a couple of others that fit into this category from Phil Capelle's "Practicing Pool."

Here are some of Johan's drills:

Endless Drill
- Each object ball position represents a different variation of this exercise.
- Start with ball in hand behind the center line, pocket the one and bring the cue ball back past the center line. Re-spot the object ball and shoot until you miss or fail to bring the cue ball across to the upper half of the table.
- Move on to the same exercise with the different object ball positions.

Natural Line
- Object is to pocket the 10 in any pocket with ball in hand and using a rolling cue ball (natural line) to carom into balls 1-9.

The Center Line
- Choose any of the "cue balls" (balls 1-7) and pocket the object ball (15) in either corner.
- The "cue ball" must come to rest in the position zone known as the center line (the rectangular area defined by balls 8-11.)
- The "cue ball" then becomes the object ball and you choose any of the remaining "cue balls" to pocket it with the same positional requirement. Repeat with the remaining "cue balls."
- This drill can be played endlessly by resetting the "cue balls" when you have successfully used them all.

Next up, Dynamic Drills...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Single Shots

This is where the adventure begins - Single Shots.

Objectives:  Strengthen aim, alignment and follow-through by building muscles necessary for stroke consistency, reinforcing hand-eye coordination and creating mental pictures of successful shots. This phase is just about pocketing, with the exception of the cue ball requirements of The Mighty X.

My current plan (Johan's suggestions are in red, my additions are in black) -

One-Arm Drill:
- Place object ball two ball-widths from the end rail
- Walk into the shot as you would normally
- Let cue rest on the rail, dropping your bridge hand and placing it on your leg to support yourself
- Make sure that cue is level
- Using a slow back swing and smooth cue delivery, pocket the object ball in the corner pocket

Bert Kinister's The Mighty X with no practice strokes (Volume 12... available here)

The standard shots from PAT1:

Cushion Scare:
- Pocket the frozen ball (9-ball) from each of the cue ball positions (1-ball through 4-ball.)
- The cue ball is frozen to the rail in all positions
- Johan has a thick accent so when he said "cushion scare" I thought he said "cushions care" meaning take care with shots off the rail.  When I mentioned this, he said "No Liz, the cushions don't give a sh*t."

The Cutting Edge:
- Cut each ball in from the center of the table
- Balls are half a ball-width off the rail

Next up... Dynamic Shots

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Setting up a Training Program Dutch Style - Introduction

Over the next few weeks I will be going into each category in depth, but here is the basic recipe for a pre-season training regimen as defined by Johan Ruysink.  It is pretty brutal when Johan conducts a training bootcamp with his country's top players (Niels Feijen, Nick van den Berg, et al.) The schedule is for two weeks or more, five days on, two days off - for ten hours per day (broken down into multiple sessions.)  The idea behind it is similar to weight-lifting - no pain, no gain. Push yourself hard, and your body and brain will have to work to repair themselves, making you a stronger player in the end. 

The system is broken down into five areas of training and each is completed before moving on to the next. These are Johan's terms and then my take on what they mean

1. Single Shots:  Rote training focusing on alignment, stroke and aim with very little attention paid to fine cue ball control.
2. Dynamic Shots: Practicing types of shots and cue-ball reactions (stun, natural roll, draw) in situations that are a little different every time.
3. Dynamic Exercises:  It's heavy-duty drill time! Evil things, like Bert Kinister's "The Ladder."
4. Playing Formats:  Practice games that are played with a partner that make you focus on different objectives.
5. Disciplines and Sparring:  Practicing the actual games (playing the ghost, practicing straight-pool, etc.)  and then on to playing those games with others.

At the end of each session, 20 minutes of training is thrown in on shots that require a unique body movement or position, like the break, shooting jacked-up or jump shots.  The idea is that once you practice these types of shots for 20 minutes your arm and body will be pretty much useless :)

A concept that is essential to this training is that your physical energy should start high and be consumed, but your mental energy should start low and build.  In the beginning you are all arm - hitting shots repetitively and at a quick pace without the laser focus that you would use in a match.  As you progress through the system, your focus and thinking become deeper.  I think there is a nice and logical flow to this kind of program.  You make sure that the basics are there and start layering upon them one step at a time.

Next installment... Single Shots

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Things I Learned in Belgium and Holland - Part 1 of Many

I have been having trouble organizing my thoughts about my trip.  I am working on posting some of the assessment and training drills but they aren't ready yet.  There is so much that I want to share... in the interests of expediency I am going to just start writing things and not worry so much about the big picture.

1. Johan is a fascinating person and it was my pleasure to get to spend the week with him and his family.  It felt like the week was one long conversation that was primarily focused on pool but touched on many of the important aspects of life - music, religion, politics, family, philosophy and humor.  Johan has played every sport known to man and his life has had many, many incarnations so far (he wouldn't have it any other way.)

2. Pool in Holland started in the Coffee Shops.  Not sure why this surprised me at all.

3. I can't believe the lengths I will go to while playing pool to avoid my weaker shots.  My problem shots? Cutting the ball without English, using stun (especially near the rails), and draw with speed control among others.  My patterns are many times geared so that I can avoid the things that I'm not as good at.

4.  Europeans treat the break shot in Straight pool like a break shot.  Break shots are left at a slightly shallower angle and are hammered in using stun, stun follow or stun draw.

5.  The Dutch think it's weird to put too many things on a sandwich.  I taught Johan's kids that Nutella and peanut butter on the same sandwich is not bizarre, it's tasty.

more to come...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

European Update and Liz Ford, Writer? (Me make good words)

After five days of training, I am going to spend the next two in match-ups with two European players, Tamara Rademakers and Katrine Jensen.  Johan will be acting as my coach during these sessions, helping me warm up, helping set my mental state before each match, making me take a break if I need it and completing some post-match analyses.

I'm not sure what it's going to be like as I've never had a coach, only instructors.  The closest I've come to on-site help is working closely with a few of my scotch doubles partners.   I've always been envious of Jasmin and Xiao-Ting for having coaches that travel with them.  I'm sure it is good at times and annoying at times, especially when you are losing or you have a bad attitude (a pool-player? never!)

I'm pretty excited, but I have inputted so much information into my brain in the last five days, that it is going to take me some time to be able to collect and summarize my thoughts.  When I get back to the U.S. I hope to write formally about my experience over here as it has been illuminating, to say the least.

 Columnist Liz is serious, but cuddly.

Speaking of writing, I am now a resident columnist over at PoolDawg.  My articles will be geared toward newer players in the hopes of getting more people interested in the game, all from a place that is south of cheeky and north of snarky. Hopefully, that is nowhere near Stfuland.  Is that where the people who WRITE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS live?

It is getting later and I am getting weirder, so time for bed and hopefully dreams of something other than pool.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ugh, Hello from Belgium...

Just a quick update to say hello from just south of the Netherlands, in Belgium.

It is day two of my training with Johan Ruysink and my weaknesses are being revealed to me one after another.  It is pure torture...

I have hit so many balls in the last 30 hours that I've lost my feel entirely and now I am starting to lose my mind.

I think this is all part of Johan's plan.  He has alluded a few times to "breaking me down" and I think he might be achieving his objective.

I long to be a lazy American again :)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mint Salon

I wanted to give a plug this morning for my two favorite ladies of hair over at Mint Salon, Allison Burr and Charlene Dougan. Allison cuts my hair and Charlene keeps me blonde (it was her idea in the first place.)

They are offering my readers $50 off cut and color (first-timers only!) Just tell them Liz Ford sent ya. Women and men are welcome.

I have been a regular at their salon since they opened and they were kind enough to help style me for my photos. I never feel more like a New Yorker than when I go to their all-white loft space in Hell's Kitchen. Sometimes I go there just to hang out on the couch :)

This is a picture of their handiwork:

I am off to The Netherlands tonight and I will be keeping everyone updated on how Johan Ruysink does as a drill sergeant.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Picture Preview

Okay, so I had way too much fun making some new pictures...
Even though there is more work to be done in Photoshop, I thought I'd post a preview.

I chose the image above as the picture that is going to be included in my $60 contributor thank you package (also includes $10 PoolDawg gift certificate and a lesson dvd... still available pre-sale for $50... just click the donate button to the right.)

I want to take a minute to thank, profusely, the people responsible for making this shoot happen:

Photographer: Sam Muglia
Hair: Allison Burr and Charlene Dougan of Mint Salon
Make-up: Willow Mayor
Creative Consultant: Elke Dochtermann
Clothes Stylist: Jennifer Barretta
Production assistants: Greg Thrasher and Haley Deckle

I am getting ready to go to The Netherlands tomorrow night. I'm excited but still in a little bit of denial that I will be leaving the country for nine days. I spent the weekend in Atlantic City at the Blaze Tour finale. I finished one round out of the money, but I was playing very well.

I'll be checking in all this week with updates and some more pictures.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Photo Shoot

Tomorrow I am going to be taking some new promotional pictures.  I have enlisted the help of all my friends to help push me towards a more "marketable" look. 

Hmmm, marketable...

I am going to suck it up, quite literally, and push myself to up the sex appeal a little. Just a little, hopefully remaining cute and not at all desperate.

True to form, however, I'm sure that I will find a way to put some humor into the pictures.

The best advice I've gotten so far?:

"Bah, you shouldn’t even worry about it.  You’re not going to look desperate unless you decide to really skank it up, and even then you still wouldn’t look desperate.  Just have the photographer do a variety of different poses and avoid the sweaters and cardigans."
 - Anonymous

I'm not sure I know what anonymous is talking about...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Netherlands Adventure is on Deck

I'm the one in the picture, I am crazy...

I made the decision a few days ago to book a trip to The Netherlands.  I will be going there to work with Johan Ruysink, the official head coach of the country.  I met him while I was in Shenyang, China for the World Championships.

I have always admired, what has appeared to me, the European commitment to training and athleticism. My only gauge of this is through the European players that I've met: Physically fit, disciplined, and most importantly taking themselves and the sport seriously. Not coincidentally, their countries take them seriously, too, often paying for them to attend tournaments around the world.

For a long time I've been curious to take a closer look at what players are really doing over there: How do they train? How do they view the sport and their contribution to it? What do they think the future holds for pool?  Mosconi cuppage aside, there is no question that a generation of proper training and attitude has given the European players a great advantage over the rest of us stateside. 

When I found myself on an airport shuttle with Johan, I saw an opportunity (ie. a captive audience) to do a little investigating.  After hearing him talk about a philosophy of training already proven with a cache of champions, I decided to go experience it for myself.  Ten hours a day for five days is what I'm set to do next week.

So, why am I crazy?

I am going to be paying for this experience out of my own pocket, with some help from some gracious supporters, but mostly on my own.  I'm not sure I know anyone else who decides to do stuff like this, that's why I have to figure that I'm the crazy one.

I take myself and this sport seriously, even as WPBA events have dwindled and the BCA has withdrawn support for players to travel to world ranking events.  I would like to set an example for other American players to take themselves seriously and maybe the rest of the country will catch on.

I am still seeking contributions to help fund my insane campaign of seriousness.  In a few weeks I will be pimping a $60 contributor gift package including a sexy pic, a ten dollar PoolDawg gift certificate and a DVD lesson given by me. It isn't ready, yet, but anyone who donates $50 or more now will receive the package.  Call it a pre-sale.

You can contribute by clicking the "donate" button under the Holland thermometer, please make sure to include your mailing address and any special message you like on the picture.

Help me start dragging our comatose sport towards the light...