The following article was originally posted on the rec.sport.table-soccer news group and is re-printed here with the permission of the author, Robert Uyeyama
Snake Shot / Pull Shot
Chapter 1 - Snake Shot
- For Beginners
Chapter 2 - Pull Shot
- Brief Description of the Pull Shot
This FAQ is organized as follows: There are two sections: Part I describes the Snake shot and Part II describes the Pull shot. In each section, there are two sections. Part a) Is a description of the shot for beginners. Part b) Includes more details for intermediate players trying to perfect their shot and learn the different options of the shot.
This FAQ is _NOT_ intended to limit posts to R.S.TS; there are many players on R.S.TS who undoubtedly have good (better) advice above and beyond what is described here. If anything, you may find this file to generate questions, such as clarifications of ideas. This file is intended as a reference from which to _begin_ learning the shots, and you will find it helpful to have a hardcopy with you at the foosball table. Questions may also be mailed to the author. Corrections and suggestions are always welcome, esp on the Snake section, which is still rough.
a) BEGINNER SECTION: If you haven't seen this shot before, you should know that it's currently the second most popular shot in competition; the shot is very fast (unraceable), and can go deadman in the push and pull directions. Although the shot is less effective on many non-Tornado tables, it can still be a hard-to-stop shot. If you are playing on a non-Tornado, make sure the 3-rod has recently been _well_ lubricated, or else the shot may be nearly impossible to execute. Also consider using a "rubber" or a "grip" to increase the catch on your wrist to reduce soreness.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE SHOT: Front pin the ball with the middle man in the center of the table. Then hold the rod's handle on your inner wrist. From here rock the ball back and forth. When you decide to shoot, roll the ball to either your left (push direction) or right (pull direction). Pull up on your arm, rolling the handle until you catch it in your fingers-- this will spin the man backwards (counterclockwise over the top of the rod), striking the ball into the goal. The shot is legally not a spin because from the last point-of-contact to the contact point of the shot is just _under_ 360 degrees; the follow through is legal as long as it too is under 360 degrees and you don't let go of the handle.
SETTING UP THE FRONT PIN in the center of the table with the center 3-man gives many people trouble; often, from a stationary ball in front of the center man, the attempt is made to repeatedly nudge the ball forwards by tiny amounts until it reaches the appropriate distance for a front-pin. This method is time-consuming and you may lose the ball quite often, especially if it becomes a habit and you don't concentrate every time. (Note that on some older tables with a natural forward roll/warp, this method may work fine.) Here is an alternate, commonly-used method: Bring the ball to either your near or far 3-man. Pass it towards the center man. Hold your center man stationary in a back-angled position (i.e. toes-back, head-forward). The ball will then continue rolling and strike the front corner of the stationary center-man's toe, causing it bounce off and roll forward, where it may be quickly pinned with the center man. Adjust the pin so that it is at the CENTER of the field (center dot) because this shot's key is that it can go towards the push or pull directions.
THE GRIP: Now change the grip on your right hand so that your inner wrist is "holding" the handle by applying pressure to the four to five o'clock position of the handle, if you were to look at it straight on. Your palm should not be touching the handle, except perhaps the very outer part of the flesh near your wrist. If using a Tornado, place your wrist so that the left edge of your wrist is snug with the narrow part of the handle; this will allow a faster spin and a faster shot in general. For a push snake it may help to put more pressure on the left (far) side of your wrist; for a pull, try pressure your right (near) side. The shot is this: The pinned ball may be rolled laterally to the left or right, then you will pull your arm up, spinning the rod counterclockwise so that man will spin over the top and strike the ball into the goal. Try it!
O.K., you've tried it but it's not that easy, is it? It just doesn't seem to work at first; don't worry. We'll go through the motion piece by piece, then put it together into a single stroke. Trying to do the whole shot at once is usually impossible in the beginning.
1) First from the front-pin position, practice simply shooting the ball in straight by lifting your arm up fast (i.e. no lateral motion for now). Remember, it's important to catch the rod hard in your fingers. This ensures: 1) A FAST spin (essential); and 2) A legal shot (illegal to let go of the rod). Just practice hitting the ball straight (no angle) and hard as possible-- later, even when you practice your Snake slowly, this spin/shot motion is always done as hard as possible.
2) The next problem is lack of lateral (horizontal) motion. Many people learning the shot try to do the entire Snake "fast", and end up not moving the ball sideways at all, and hitting it straight or missing the ball entirely. In the beginning, practice this separately!
Let's practice the lateral motion separately: hold the ball in the front-pin position using your inner wrist as described earlier. Now, WITHOUT SHOOTING THE BALL, let's see how fast you can move the ball laterally to the side wall. Choose push or pull, and keep the ball's path faithfully lateral, and see how fast you can move the ball. Just let the ball bounce off of the side wall. Also try the other direction (pull/push). (If this is difficult, first use your regular palm-grip rather than your wrist-grip and do the exercise; once you've figured out the concept behind the rod and handle motion with your normal grip, do it with your wrist.) Now, remember that _this motion_ is what you need to do with your wrist when you combine it with the spin-shot to execute your complete snake shot-- don't ignore this part of your stroke; even a lightning-fast shot can't cheat on the full motion. You'll probably ignore it anyways, but at least you'll know what you did wrong...
3) Okay, now you have the "spin" and the "lateral ball-roll". Put the two together, still in SEPARATE and distinct motions. Choose where you wish to shoot the ball, and WAIT for the ball to roll laterally there before you spin/shoot: 1) Roll 2) pause 3) shoot. Don't ignore the pause.
Trust me-- especially if you are missing, do it in two separate motions even if it seems lame to you, because you will learn the timing and be able to move on to the single fluid motion required for the final fast version of the shot. This is important, and that's why I've just repeated it about five times (sorry). When you get the hang of it, gradually smooth out the transition from the first motion to the second while keeping the overall timing the same. Work toward getting the shot stroke into a single motion (with two components): Roll-then-Shoot.
4) But as soon as you have the shot in a single motion, _always_ practice it fast, never slowly. Overlearning the slow version may hinder the time it takes to learn the timing necessary for the desired fast one.
5) Finally, add a recoil as you do your spinning wrist-roll. In other words, if you are executing a push snake, pull the rod hard as you spin. If you are doing a pull snake, push the rod hard as you spin. This will eliminate the problem of your shot going into the wall past the goal.
6) Remember these points:
If you are then having trouble with one side and not the other (e.g. the pull-snake works, but not the push), think about which side of your inner wrist you are using: For a pull-snake you are probably pulling with the RIGHT side of your inner wrist; so, for the push-snake, be aware of that portion of your wrist, and push with it, or even switch to the left side of your wrist. Also, be aware of your shoulder-- the pull snake is easier if your shoulder is further from the table, and the push snake is easier if your shoulder is close to above the edge of the table. Also be aware of having the left (far) edge of your wrist on the narrow part of the handle, and remember your recoil as you spin.
7) Now, for practice, put a defender on the two-man (lift the goalie rod and ignore it) directly in front of your front pin. Make sure you can snake it both ways (push/pull). This is a 1/2 ball-length snake, since you had to move the ball laterally about a 1/2 ball-length to clear the defender. Move the defender a ball-length more to one side. Can you snake around it? Try the mirror-image shot the other way. Congratulations, you have a legitimate snake-shot!
b) INTERMEDIATE SECTION: So you have a snake now. What follows will be tips on: 1) mechanics of optimizing the shot 2) ways to practice the snake shot 3) philosophy toward shooting against a good defense.
1) mechanics of the shot.
Experiment with where you stand. In a doubles game, make sure the defender backs up a little (& even pushes the rods away) to make room for you to stand in front of your five bar so that you have the appropriate posture to shoot the shot; If you do well in singles but not doubles, look where you are standing in singles, and take that space in doubles. Also, experiment with the direction you face, whether it is straight at your opponent, almost directly to your right, or somewhere in between.
Experiment with your elbow angle; try bending it slightly (maintaining your 3 o'clock pressure on the handle) and pointing it out to your right (perpendicular to the rods). Try varying the amount of pressure you put on the handle. Also, find a good position for the front-pin of the ball; there is a good range of the distance your ball can be from your man and still be front-pinned-- find the ideal distance and always use it. Also experiment with your shoulder's distance from the table.
Finally, this last point is one of the most important: There should be a "whip-like" motion to the shot, so that upon execution of the spin, the center man recoils back to the center dot. This is the "recoil" and is essential for the execution of a very good (fast & long) snake. This motion will be explained using the pull-snake as an example; for the push-snake simply consider the mirror-image.
The best way to simply the idea (for the pull-snake), is to think of it as a "shoulder pull-then-push". Roughly, the "pull" corresponds to the lateral-ball-roll, and the "push" to the rollover/spin.
As you begin the shot, your wrist pulls the rod, obviously. Notice too, that your shoulder is also pulling-- exaggerate this motion of the shoulder. Now the hard part: As you are pulling with your wrist, begin to move your shoulder in the push direction. Eventually this whip-like motion will reach your wrist, which will also begin to move (with the rod) in the push direction. That's all there is to it! The really hard part is timing it so that the spin occurs just as you begin to push the rod with your wrist. This is difficult at first because the spin must also occur where you want to shoot the ball, which is at or just after the second dot on a Tornado. This motion helps the ball go straight (not out to the wall) into the goal even with a very fast, very long (laterally) snake shot. Work on the timing so that the ball arrives where you want to shoot it just as the push-whip-motion reaches your wrist. Set up your body before the shot so that your shoulder can do the pull-push motion, and remember again to catch the rod in your fingers. Now practice:
2) For practice, go over everything in 1) as well as the beginner section. Try to analyze what is going wrong, and then you should be able to figure out what part of your shot is lacking. Especially practice the recoil.
Once you have a good motion, all there is to do, is to see how fast, far, and consistent you can shoot. Here's how:
We will set up longer and longer practice shots for you to make. Once you can shoot a certain-length's shot fast and consistently, we will practice its mirror image, then move on to an even longer shot.
Again, we'll use the pull-snake example, but remember to practice the push-snakes just as much! Lift the defending goalie, since we won't be using it for these exercuses. Set up the front-pin, and put the FAR 2-man (from your perspective) directly in front of the ball. To pull-snake around this man requires a lateral motion of 1/2 a ball length. Now for the other extreme, pull the defending rod towards you all the way to the wall. Now, to do a pull-snake around the same far 2-man (i.e. the man not on the wall) requires a lateral motion of about 2 1/2 ball lengths! To do this shot fast and consistently is your eventual goal. This shot is known as the dead-man shot, since the far 2-man is "dead" and cannot move any further since the near 2-man is also "dead" against the wall.
Note than on a non-Tornado, the goals are slightly smaller, so this deadman shot may be impossible-- in this case, put your finger between the wall and the bumper next to the near 2-man-- this one-finger shot should probably be your goal, i.e. going around the far 2-man in this position.
Let's begin with a "three-finger pull-snake". Put three of your fingers between the wall and the bumper next to the NEAR 2-man. (again, near to your perspective). Pull snaking around the far 2-man is called the "three-finger" shot for obvious reasons. This is practically identical to the first example with the defender directly in front of the front-pin-- you must move the ball laterally about 1 ball length. If you can shoot this fast and consistently, move on to a "two-finger" shot. Make sure that out of 5 shots, you are shooting 3 or 4 fast and on-goal. The shot should not be cutting back; it should be shot straight; the cut-back shot may look great, but it's notoriously inconsistent to do fast, and practicing it may sabotage your "real" snake shot. If you can do a two-finger shot, move to a 1 1/2 finger, a 1 finger, a 1/2 finger, and eventually to deadman (0 fingers).
Of course, make sure you can do all of this in the push direction too, or your shot will be basically useless. Remember to do your shoulder pull-push (i.e. "recoil); your center man should recoil and come to rest at about the center dot. To shoot a deadman shot you should strike the ball at just just past the second dot from the end; this is very important, and aiming for this second dot is often MORE accurate than "eyeballing" the deadman defense and aiming to shoot around it. That's it! Just practice longer and longer shots in both pull and push directions, and always practice it fast, never slowly.
3) Trying the shot against a live defense is intimidating at first. Many people will try to race you, especially at first. The most common mistake is to concentrate on racing the defense, which results in shooting the spin too soon, while moving the ball a useless 1/4 or 1/2 a ball length laterally. Remember that your shot is fast, even though it seems slow when you are shooting on a live defense. If you are at least medium-fast at shooting the snake, lateral distance is much more important than sheer speed. Trust me. Also, remember to vary your pull- and push-snakes, otherwise the defender will learn to guard only your preferred side. And in practice, practice shooting the straight snake (i.e. no lateral motion), so that you know an open split when you see it; sometimes it looks closed but isn't, so practice by setting up a smaller and smaller split and seeing if you can hit it. If you hit a straight split on a live defense, you'll find that the pull- and push- holes will be more open the next time you shoot.
Once you can race any set defense, people will begin using a moving defense on you. Decide if it is upredictable or predictable. If the motion is predictable, time it and shoot it in (straight if available, or push/pull if not). Have a friend move the defense back and forth as fast as possible, just to see if you can time it and shoot it straight in. Many defenses, may be predictable as to when one side (push or pull) will open up. Get set up to shoot that hole, and just wait for it to open.
However, a good moving defense will fool you this way; you will expect a hole to open and shoot it, but the defense will already be there, and stay stationary as the ball is shot straight into the waiting man. A good moving defense may set up your expectations, predict your reaction time, then offer a hole then close it-- i.e. the hole will be closed as or before you begin to shoot, differing from a race defense where the race you to the hole after they see you begin to shoot-- sometimes you wil be fooled into shooting at a hole that never opened fully at all! With this kind of a defense, simply sit on the ball; under regulation play, you have 15 seconds per rod, and if you took 2 or three seconds setting up the shot, you still have more than 10 seconds before you shoot. This way, the defense will find it very hard to bait you and to predict your reaction time, since he will not know which hole you are looking at. Hence, if you just wait out a couple of "obvious" holes, your shooting percentage will be higher.
Sometimes a moving defense will be very fast, and very unpredictable. Here, try to study an patterns in openings-- is the straight shot frequently open? Or is the pull more open than the push? Figure it out then try your best. If you get very good at the snake shot, you will begin to see all of the holes as they open, but most average shooters pick a hole then simply wait for it to open. Shooting against a moving defense is very intellectual, and is sometime a psychological game with the defender. Try to develop these analytic skills, and try to play a variety of people with a variety of snake defenses-- go to new playing locations and new tournaments, and as you encounter more defenses, your shot will become better. Along the way, you will naturally develop a good snake defense too! Happy shooting!
a) FOR BEGINNERS: If you've never seen the pull shot, here is the rationale: It can be shot VERY fast, fast enough to race a stationary defense to any hole which is available. In other words, if the defense is blocking the straight shot and any direct angle, simply move the ball around the defenders, and shoot it straight in. When you practice the shot, you are practicing to get the maximum speed at maximum lateral momement. You will even practice the straight shot and a short pull to the middle of the goal.
However at the very first stages of learning the shot, the most common mistake, like with the Snake shot, is to shoot the ball too soon in an attempt at speed without actually completing the full lateral movement. The speed comes from completion of the entire shot stroke as fast as possible, not by short-cuts.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE PULL SHOT
From here, you pull the rod and the ball laterally toward you. As the ball moves laterally across the playfield, the center man lifts, accelerates, moves behind the moving ball, then shoots it straight in. The ball's path from start to finish is roughly "L"- shaped.
If the defense is covering the straight and angle shots from the setup-position (the left side of the goal), this L-shape must be long enough to go around the defense men to the "far" hole (right corner of the goal).
NOTES ON BALL SETUP: The rod begins from a maximally-pushed position. Any less than that, and you are handicapping yourself by giving the defender less goal to defend, and a better chance to block your shot; this is often ignored by beginners learning the shot and by intermediates with less tournament experience. To put the ball in this ideal starting position next to the man can be tough. One can repeatedly nudge the ball until eventually it is set-up.
This is fine, but in regulation play you have only 15 seconds to set-up and shoot the ball, so there is a faster method: push the ball with the near 3-man so that it is lightly passed to the center man. As the ball reaches the (right edge of the) center man, push the rod gently so you slowly decelerate and "cushion" the ball to a stop at or very near to the ideal set-up position. Make any minor adjustments as necessary.
HOW TO SHOOT: Right now when practicing the shot, simply place the ball in the correct starting position by hand, and don't bother wasting your practice time setting the ball up; concentrate on the shooting part. Place a defending two-man directly in front of the ball (leave the goalie rod lifted up). Always begin the shot stroke with the center 3-man touching the ball; if you start not touching the ball, your shot will be unpredictable (because of the small bounce upon contact), especially later when you practice your fast and long pull shots. Now, do the shot very very slowly in two _separate_ motions: 1) Pull the rod so that the ball moves past the defender. 2) Lift your man, and quickly move it behind the rolling ball, and shoot it in. Do "1)... pause... 2)" with a BIG pause for now. Now that you get the general idea, try to do it in a _single_ fluid motion, so that you are lifting your man AS you pull the ball; still keep it slow for now. You will in essence be "tracing" the rear outline of the ball-- you begin at the ball's left side, a you pull (never losing contact with the ball), you lift your man to trace the rear curve of the ball, and when you reach the direct rear of the ball, you shoot it in with a wrist flick. Remember that since the man you set the ball in motion with is also the eventual shooter, you must ACCELERATE and go even faster to get behind the moving ball to shoot it! You may find that practicing with a SLOW acceleration period at the beginning of the shot makes it MUCH easier to learn the motion. However once learned, replace eliminate this slow acceleration and execute the entire stroke quickly.
[If you don't know how to wrist-flick (shoot hard): You should have a fairly good wrist-flick to do this shot. In other words, you should be able to hit a stationary ball hard with your man. If you can't do this yet, practice this: hold the handle with your right hand, then ignore your hand, but don't let go. Just think about your wrist. Try to "throw" it as hard as you can in the down direction toward the floor past the handle; your wrist doesn't hit the floor because obviously it is attached to your arm and hand. Since your hand is tightly holding the handle, the motion will stop abruptly just as you lock your wrist joint. This is the wrist flick. Practice this motion fast and hard, and you will notice that the men on the rod will hit any ball quite hard. Remember to stand a little to your left, away from the rod, to give your arm and wrist good leverage. Even if it doesn't seem to help, keep practicing, and you will soon get it by practicing.]
Practicing a LONGER SHOT: Now we'll practice pulling the ball farther laterally (horizontally). In the exercise above, you hit the pull shot by going around a defender sitting directly in front of the ball's set-up. This time bring (pull the 2-rod toward your right) the defender toward you an inch or so. Practice pulling and shooting around this position consistently; your lateral motion must be longer. Once this is easy, move the defender farther out. Eventually, put the defender in the center of the table, and practice pulling _around_ it.
Advice on this "longer" shot: Although the shot is one fluid motion, it still contains two components; remember not to _shoot_ the ball until it you have _pulled_ it past the defender you have set up. This seems obvious, but it often is a problem when practicing speed on a long shot. Try tracing the shot stroke without the ball at the desired speed. Also try choosing the point on the playing field where you will shoot the ball from-- then keep your eyes on this point and execute your pull, shooting only when the _ball_ _reaches_ _this_ _ point_. In other words, keep your eyes on the playing field, not on the ball nor on the defense (for practice). "Final advice": The following advice on the pull is very, very important: At the point when you shoot the ball, the ball should be slightly behind the rod. Why? If the ball is slightly forward, the shot tends to angle outwards and hit the wall to the right of the goal. Having the ball slightly towards the back helps the ball shoot straight in (by keeping the "angle" in the L-shape 90 degrees or less-- this is known as "squaring off" your shot as opposed to "spraying" it).
b) FOR INTERMEDIATES: The intermediate pull shot section will be divided into three parts: 1) mechanics of the pull shot; 2) practicing the pull shot 3) options against a live defender.
1) MECHANICS OF THE PULL SHOT, general advice: Again, practice everything in a) smoothly and FAST. Remember especially to have the ball slightly in back of the rod when you shoot. Also remember to have a shot that the opponent can't predict when it is coming; hence don't give it away with a slow accleration period at the beginning of your pull, and don't give it away by always shooting it after a consistent amount of time has elapsed after you've setup the ball (i.e. don't do: setup, one, two, shoot... "a 2-second pull"). Always begin the pull motion as fast as possible, and always practice developing a faster pull-shot motion, sometimes by tracing your shot stroke without a ball.
Other things you can do: Use your third and fourth fingers mainly when you wrist flick to shoot the ball. Also, you can experiment with the starting position (backwards or forwards) of the ball; just remember if you start it forward to "lift" the ball (by lifting your man) backwards as you pull it so that it is in a slightly behind-the-rod position when you shoot it.
On standing: Your stance can matter: try standing with your weight on either leg, and try facing your body to the right or diagonally between your opponent and your right. Remember to stand to your left slightly so that the 5-bar is near the middle of your body so that your arm has the correct leverage; ask your defenseman to step back and push his rods out of the way if necessary. Vary your shoulder's distance from the table. Your goal is to find the optimum way of standing and holding the rod so that your "recoil" for your long pull is smooth.
Recoil, the most important thing: What is "recoil", and why is it so important? The idea is to train your arm motion to be the smoothest and fastest "whip"-motion, the end of the "J". The reason is to improve your accuracy by squaring your shot off when you shoot a very long pull as fast as you can. This is what happens to the foosball table: as you shoot the ball after pulling it, the rod is PUSHED so that your center man ends up near the center dot at the end of your motion.
How to develop recoil: Your entire arm should feel like a whip and the "crack" of the whip (at your elbow and wrist) coincides with the shooting of the ball. This means you begin the reversal of the whip-motion _before_ you shoot, i.e. as you are pulling. You can think of this motion as a shoulder & elbow PUSH which you begin as soon as your wrist begins the PULL motion. This push motion will travel down your arm like a whip and reach your wrist, which will then also begin moving in the push direction. This is when you should shoot the ball; this is also the "cracking of the whip." Learn to time the entire shot motion so that the ball and man are in the correct position to shoot your long shot just as your wrist snaps the recoil. Thinking of violently "throwing" your elbow in the push direction as you simultaneously pull with your wrist may help-- other players think of lifting the elbow outwards so that it has leverage to snap the arm forward, somewhat like a karate punch.
The other important part of recoil is body positioning. You must be standing so that your arm is free to snap back and forth smoothly. Hold the 3-rod handle and try the recoiling whip-motion back and forth repeatedly, without a ball and not even pretending to shoot. The motion should not be awkward and should be very fluid even if you continue to whip back and forth. Find a good stance so that your arm is free to do this. You can experiment with standing lower, or more to your left, and make sure your right shoulder is not too close to the table.
2) PRACTICING THE PULL-SHOT-- a list of exercises: Concentrate on shooting three primary pull options flawlessly. (If you think you're flawless, try shooting as many of that option as you can in 1 minute and see how you do under the strain. Can you get in a groove? Can you do 10 out of 10?) The three options are: long, middle, and straight. Even straight is important, otherwise a smart defender will leave straight slightly open and bait you long, where you may want to shoot since it's may seem more impressive to you. The defender is cheating and you'll be left wondering how they blocked your long and middle. Don't fall for it. Have a kickass straight, and after you hit it a few times, your long or middle will be wide open next time.
STRAIGHT SHOT PRACTICE: You can learn when the straight shot is just a few millimeters open... some defenders won't even think it's open! You may not, unless you read this: Set up for a perfect pull by pushing your rod all the way to the far wall. Lift the defending goalie. Set the defending two-bar as follows: ignore the far 2-man by your setup for now, and place the near 2-man so that its near edge is flush with the near edge of the white painted goal line which leads into the goal.
Now pull the 2-rod a little bit nearer so that the near edge of the near 2-man is just past the outside edge of the goal line by 1/8 of an inch. The straight shot is open. Try it, and shoot slowly and very carefully if you need to. Now adjust the 2-man so it is 1/2 inch beyond the outside of the white line. This shot is ****wide**** open. Now you know. Even 1/4 inch is wide open. Practice diligently at 1/8 or 1/4 of an inch past the line. You may need to sweep with a push recoil on your shot to avoid spraying it into the far 2-man. Can you hit 10 out of 10 at 1/4 inch? 1/8 inch? Of course, during a real game, now you must have a perfect pull setup to take advantage of this fraction of an inch!
LONG SHOT PRACTICE: Yes, the pull-shot can be done deadman. (or on a non-Tornado, a one-finger pull should be possible). For this set of exercises, lift the goalie rod and ignore it. Begin by positioning the _far_ defending 2-man (i.e. the one on _your_ left) at the center dot, and see how consistently you can shoot your pull _around_ this defender (i.e. your shot should be going _between_ the two men on the 2-rod). Once you begin to hit 4 out of 5 shots fast and into the goal, pull the defending 2-rod toward you by a finger width or so and try again. This will probably be a three finger-widths (3 FW) shot. (This means the distance from the wall to the 2-rod's bumper on your right is about three finger widths). Practice again until you can accurately shoot 4 out of 5 shots. Then continue progressing to smaller and smaller FW. Once you get to 2 FW, progressive by 1/2 FW increments. A fast 2 FW shot is a fairly good shot, and a 1 FW shot is a very good shot, but continue practicing, all the way up to deadbar (i.e. 0 FW; the defending 2-rod is up against the wall; the bumper is touching the wall; the man is "dead" since it can move no farther).
If you don't believe a deadbar pull can be done: Try this exercise, which is done _slowly_: Set the pull setup with the ball slightly _forward_. Lift the man against the ball as you pull SLOWLY, causing the ball to roll laterally at a slight _backwards_ angle; eventually the ball will roll to be slightly in back of the rod. As the ball is rolling, lift the man and pull the rod (almost) completely to the wall. Wait for the ball to reach you. As the ball reaches you (or on a Tornado reaches the point between the 1st and 2nd dots), shoot the ball hard as you PUSH the rod-- hence you're brushing the ball in the push direction with the front surface of your toe as you shoot. Remember the the ball must be FAR back when you shoot, almost so far you can back-pin it. Doing this fast is much harder, but this should help give you a clue how to do it; to shooting it fast, hitting the ball at the extreme point, and the push-recoil and the backwards ball position are essential, as is shooting the ball accurately between the first and second dots.
If you are up to practicing your 1 fingerwidth to deadbar shot, and working on speed try this method, which is a modified version of an exercise described by Todd Loffredo. You can setup a 1 FW defense with the 2-bar if you want. Then place the ball between the first and second near dots on your 3-rod. You will practice shooting the ball in without actually pulling the ball. Set the rod up for a normal pull except tilt the men back up so that your near 3-man doesn't disturb the ball you just placed by the first two dots. Have a very loose grip concentrating on your fourth and fifth fingers. Now pull the rod as fast as you can and snap the ball in as hard as you can, again concentrating on the fourth and fifth fingers only. Don't worry about recoil, and just hit it as hard as you can straight in. See how many you can hit in in 30 seconds. Can you shoot 10 out of 10? Now try the same motion with a regular setup where you start with the ball on your far 3-man, and use the same loose grip, extra-fast pull, and hard snap between the 1st and 2nd dots.
PRACTICING YOUR MIDDLE SHOT Try the same motion from the last paragraph from "practicing your long shot." Think of your arm and fist, and pull in and push out like a punch in one motion as fast as you can. In other words, as soon as you've started to think of moving the ball, you should already begin your hit/push-recoil. This shot should be absolutely unraceable. Practice going around the 2-man but threading the shot so that it doesn't spray into the nearby goalie man; set up a tight shot corridor that you can hit a straight through, and practice it diligently with your middle pull. Remember that your push-recoil is the most important here... concentrate on the push-ending rather than the pull-beginning. Continue until you are 10 out of 10, or can do a decent number in a 60-second "shoot as many as you can" groove test.
PRACTICING FOR REAL TOURNAMENT PLAY You must be proficient at all three options. If you can hit any hole reliably, you will keep the defense guessing. If you burn a long, the straight may be open the next time around, or vice-versa, as they try to protect the shot you just hit. Conversely, if your previous shot looks good again (wait a full 10 seconds to be sure) and the defense just isn't learning, shoot the same shot over and over, even if it's the straight. Be careful about giving away your shot by tensing your arm or your shoulder, or dropping your elbow. Also be careful about shooting after a predictable amount of time has elapsed, for example 3 seconds: setup wait 3 shoot; setup wait 3 shoot; setup wait 3 shoot. If this happens the defense can open a hole wait almost 3, and close it, and your fastest shot is blocked by the defense's brains. Be smart, and vary the time between your setup and shot execution. Use your full 10-15 seconds often to get a good look at the moving defense; otherwise you may be falling into for a defensive timing bait. Sometimes shoot just after or during your setup.
3) OTHER SHOT OPTIONS: In general you should be able to race a moving defense, and especially a set-defense, to the far post. If the defender begins on the far post, the split (center) or straight shot should be open. If you can't race them to these holes, you should practice your shot speed, rather than relying on tricking your opponent with too many "shot options".
Your main options will be the hairline-accurate straight shot or the very-long shot, so continue practicing your long-pull until you can reliably hit the dead-man pull, or more realistically for non-pros, a one-finger pull. Practicing the straight shot so that you are confident in shooting it every time the hole opens by even 1/8 of an inch of the near 2 man past the outside of the white goal line (see above, PRACTICING THE STRAIGHT SHOT).
These other options are for those times you have a "slow" day, or encounter a defense which can usually stop you for some reason, or for variety on non-tournament nights, or a tricky option to show off. The options described will be: brush-split, the dead-man "straight," and various fakes. Remember these are mostly tricks and not the essentials needed for tournament wins.
BRUSH-SPLIT (SLICE): This shot is an angle shot used especially when the defender uses his far 2-man (the one farthest from the ball's setup) to guard "long" and the goalie to guard "short". The angle shot between the two men are open. Instead of chipping a sharp angle shot, which tends to be inaccurate at high speeds, you will brush-down (pull-brush) the back of the ball with the front of your man's toe. The resulting spin will angle the ball correctly, your control of the shot will be great with practice, and to the opponent the brush movement looks misleadingly like a genuine attempt at a pull. You can vary the aim of your angle, but in general you can aim somewhere near the far post by aiming at the receding edge of the moving two-man who is guarding long. This is also called a "slice".
If you don't know what a "brush-down" is: The idea is that you put spin on the ball which causes it to roll at an angle. The spin is created by scraping the back of the ball gently but _as fast as you can_ with the front of your man's toe. An _extremely_ subtle wrist flick will help improve velocity as well as the severity of the angle.
FAKES AND VARIATIONS: If your pull isn't fast enough to beat the defense try fakes now, and practice a faster shot later. A "lift" fake is when you suddenly lift the man, not touching the ball, hoping for the defense to flinch, opening the straight shot. A "roll" fake is when you lift the man and brush the ball slightly backwards (but not very far laterally), hoping for the defense to flinch from the straight shot; the "roll" fake is often effective if the defense has seen too man lift-fakes and is simply waiting for the ball to move :). A far-man fake is like a lift fake except you lift the man and pull the rod all the way, not touching the ball, and shooting the straight shot in with the far man. Also, you can do a lift fake then immediately do your real far-post pull shot as the defender is recovering from flinching; this is often very effective when the defender is successfully racing you to the far post. The next fake-variation is most satisfying at the end of this series: First do a fast far-post pull and "burn" the defense (i.e. race them successfully). Now, since the defense is expecting a fast, long pull, for your next shot do the far-man fake, and shoot the straight shot in with the far man as they flinch. Now, they will be on guard for this far-man fake, so do this: lift your center man and pull the rod as if attempting another far-man fake; the defense will not flinch from the straight shot. But as the far-man approaches the ball, instead of shooting the straight shot, kick-pass it laterally to the center man, who is waiting to shoot it into the far post.
DEADMAN STRAIGHT SHOT: This is for when the defense is using the near 2-man (from your perspective; on your right) to guard the short pull instead of the other 2-man. For practice, simply have the defense pull its 2-rod to the wall (push to your left from your point of view). You will find that hitting the straight shot is barely impossible from the pull setup. If only you could move the ball a little to the left! Here's how to do it: Very gently but quickly PUSH-brush the back edge of the ball, then immediately PULL-brush as you shoot. This will cause the ball to move slightly to the left, clearing the dead man, then angle in toward the near post of the goal.
Other pull setup variations include: 1) pull the ball, but don't shoot it. Instead pass it from the near three-man back to the center man, who shoots it straight in from the original starting position. 2) pull the ball, go around to its right side and execute a push shot. 3) shoot a bank shot from the pull set-up position. 4) shoot an unexpected pull to the far post while apparently cushioning your ball to the pull setup.
PULL SHOT PSYCHOLOGY: Just consider what the defense is thinking, and shoot appropriately. If they are insistent on an ineffective race-defense, stick with your long shot. If you have just hit a split shot to the middle, they may be more cautious next time about the middle, leaving the long or straight open again. And above all don't underestimate the straight shot, for it will be there more often than you think, especially if you have practiced the 1/8 inch straight.
Also, don't let the defense out-think you. If you are suddenly being blocked consistently, examine yourself. Are you ignoring the straight? Are you shooting a pull 3-seconds after your setup every time? Are you giving away your shot motion by your shoulder dropping? Remember to use your full 15 seconds...
SUMMARY: To begin getting a good competitive "tournament" shot, simply master the FAST far post pull and the straight shot, and later, the split shot.. The brush-split (slice) is also moderately important. The roll fake may also come in handy for a point at the most. The other variations and fakes are only if your pull shot isn't performing, or you just wish to show off.