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Goal Setting. ~ Paul Potier

There is a famous quote by Benjamin Franklin that goes something like this: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”

If you are someone who wants to become a better pool player, you should take heed from this powerful statement. Setting goals is a key ingredient to accomplishing pretty much anything in life, and becoming better at pool is no exception.

When a student hires me to be their private coach, the first step we take is discovering what level they are currently at. To do that I have the student play a game of pool (their choice of game) so I can analyse all their habits and skills, and determine exactly what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Then we discuss what level he or she ultimately wants to get to. So, that is the first goal that we set as a team. I call this the “Dream Goal.” It might be too early for us to be sure that the Dream Goal is actually attainable. This is what my student wants to achieve however, so we write it down and set our sights on it anyway.

The next step is to discuss the time and effort that the student is ready and able to put into accomplishing his or her goals. This is when we come back to reality and set mini goals that we both believe are attainable in the time frame that we have committed to.

For example: Bill’s current skill level is B, and his goal is to become an A+ level player in four months. But Bill can only commit to four hours a week of practice time for the entire four months — so I would have to recommend that he change his goal or increase the amount of practice time, or both. Everyone is different. What is doable for one student may be impossible for another. However, committing only four hours per week to practice and wanting to reach a goal of three skill levels above your current level in four months is unattainable to almost anyone.

Setting mini goals along the way to reaching a major goal is important in a person’s development. But setting unattainable goals can be very dangerous. After each coaching session we agree on an action plan that includes the why, what, when, and how to improve one or more specific skills that are important to reaching the goal.

During each of our coaching sessions we begin by discussing the failures and/or successes that the student has had in improving the skills that they have been practicing. After that brief discussion, I do another game analysis to evaluate him again.

We then spend most of the session working on developing new and/or better habits to improve the skills we have decided to work on. At the end of each session, we commit to a plan of action and make any necessary changes to our goals. Most of the time the changes to the goal are minute, and just need a little tweaking. Other times we need to make major changes to the goal.

The key to success is not the goal itself. It is actually the act of setting goals, developing an action plan, committing to the plan, reflecting on the plan, tweaking the plan, and constant awareness of the reason you are carrying out the plan in the first place.

It is very easy to become complacent in reaching your goals if you stop reflecting and allow yourself to lose interest in the goal and the plan. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind” comes to mind for me when I think of some players who don’t reach their goals because they stop following their action plan.

Another key ingredient to goal setting is understanding what it means — in performance — to reach the various levels of ability. During the 1990s and in the first few years of this century, The BC Handicap Weekly House Tournament Program was alive and very popular.

At one point there were more than a dozen pool rooms in BC that used our handicap grading system, format, and rules of play for their weekly 9 Ball tournaments. In order to place a player into the correct skill level, we used the simple but effective explanation described below.

This 10 level rating system gave players an ability to realize where they were on the totem pole. Playing in the weekly tournaments gave everyone a more precise way of calculating skill levels, and encouraged them to set goals that were attainable (like trying to get to the next level above them.)

This was a very healthy environment for motivating pool players to get better. I hope this rating system helps you. It is quite simple, it is easy to understand, and it served it’s purpose well for more than 10 years and well over 500 members.

Skill Levels and Explanations

This is a 10 level system used in the North American Northwest. We have been using this system since 1993. We found that using a system with fewer levels was not accurate enough, and more levels are too complicated and difficult to manage. This system doesn’t differentiate between age, sex, disability or nationality.


This is the highest skill level anyone can reach. It is literally an elite group of players and limited to the top 100 players in the world. A player must have won a major tournament with top professionals in it and proven consistently that they can compete with the best players in the world. Many states, provinces, and even some countries don’t have a single player at a P+ level.


The players at this level are absolutely fantastic. Some of these players have skills equal to the P+ level, but most players are just slightly weaker. Approximately 2,000 players worldwide are P level. In North America some States and Provinces don’t have a P level pool player, but others might have three or four of them.


These players are great. They are often the best players in town and would be expected to win most local weekly tournaments. They consistently run many racks in 9 Ball or 8 Ball, and sometimes look unbeatable. However, they don’t always make decisions as well as P and P+ level professionals do, and are not quite as consistent. These players are at the average professional level. This level is equal to a seven handicap in the APA/CPA system.


These are very good players. They are just good enough to qualify as professionals, but not as consistent as A+ and higher levels. They are capable of running four or fice racks in 9 Ball when they get hot, but sometimes can play like a B. You never know what to expect from an A level player. This level is equal to a seven handicap in the APA/CPA system.


These players have decent cue ball control and pretty good knowledge. They are very good amateurs and can often run a rack or two. However, they miss often and make some bad decisions. They are generally either new players who haven’t developed their game yet, or have played for a long time and have very bad habits that keep them from getting better. This level is equal to a six handicap in the APA/CPA system.


These players have some knowledge but are generally lacking in cue ball control and decision making. They are decent amateurs and may run a rack or two from time to time if the situation is easy enough. This level is equal to a five handicap in the APA/CPA system.


These players might sometimes play like a B+ but other times look like they have no idea at all. They generally have many bad habits and don’t have much knowledge. However, they may run a rack every once in a while. Most of the time they may run two or three balls and then get in trouble. This level is equal to a four handicap in the APA/CPA system.


Slightly better than a beginner. Some of these players may have a little knowledge and ability, but have trouble with almost every situation. They may be able to shoot a ball into a pocket, but don’t have good cue ball control. They can’t run a rack, and would have difficulty running more than three or four balls on purpose. This level is equal to a three handicap in the APA/CPA system.


This is a beginner with some ability. They might be able to sink a ball or two but cannot run four balls on purpose. They have almost no knowledge and very little, if any, cue ball control.


This is a beginner with no knowledge or cue ball control. Almost any ball they might make would be a fluke.

Enjoy the Process!

I have coached many people to reach their personal goals, including becoming top professionals. I enjoy helping people with their pool game and my constant goal is to make my next lesson the best one I’ve ever taught. When I am teaching, my focus is not to merely teach, but rather to help the student learn. Photo: Flickr/Ian Livesy Editor: Hannah Blue

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