Firstly, thank you for your About.com articles on billiards!
I am particularly interested in your series on the "big secret" billiards stance. I'm writing because several times your directions include, and the "secret" seems to hinge on, moving your head "straight down."
In three-dimensional space from a standing position, literally this can't be done (the head can't move in a straight-down vertical line going through the neck, between the shoulders and splitting the torso, etc.)
Attached is an image/sketch I created--it shows two scenarios that achieve downward motion of the head in pool, the "purple" scenario is curving the spine by bending (and in practice also bending slightly at the hips/waist).
The side view I've drawn shows the spine curve/bending, the top view shows the resulting head position in purple.
The "blue" scenario is a straight bending at the hips/waist, resulting in the maximum downward motion of the head [see top view for the resulting and inappropriate (I think?) resulting head position on the other side of the cue/aim line.
What do you mean by straight down, where the head "naturally" wants to go?
Your pictures of the stance are helpful, however since they are taken askance from the line of aim, and do not show a birds eye and sideways view, it isn't possible (for me at least) to determine exactly how the key body elements are aligned.
Let me know if my question requires further detail or if it doesn't make sense; really looking forward to hearing your thoughts!
Thank you, Ben, for your thoughtful comments and your kind words about the instruction here at this Pool and Billiards About.com GuideSite. Let me address your questions about head placement. I'll start with some questions for you and for other readers:
How does "head in" batting in baseball work best? Would you bend so that your head is right over the baseball bat or lay it back and out of the way of the swing? Of course, you'd keep the head down but not forward instead.
Would you hunker down over a golf ball to ensure your head was above the ball or behind the ball and above the torso instead? "Head down" means almost the same in pool as in golf-not over the shot but over the torso as you described, Ben.
Does a great basketball shooter get their head right behind the ball or is it behind their hands instead during most shots?
The average/awful/typical league pool player often makes a terrible mistake-even I am prone to this mistake unless I prep my stance in a proper fashion. The mistake comes by shoving the head over the cue stick from the chin and forward to "see" the shot at hand as well as possible.
The arm is thus constricted in movement, the neck and upper back are twisted until pain ensues and a chiropractor is needed after a few sessions, and a lot of shots sink while nearly as many are pushed off line.
There is a simple solution. See if you can apprehend it for yourself. If not, I'll happily guide you.
First, your diagram, Ben, as shown accompanying this article, is certainly correct. If you begin the stance with two feet together and then step toward the stance in the manner I have described elsewhere, that is, with your left foot for a right-handed player and vice versa, then the head must come down and forward toward the shot.
For many players, this type of stance set works wonders. But if you were committed to having your head move straight down instead, lowering from its starting position toward the table, how could you do it?
Break from reading now, stand, and take a few moments to work out having your head come straight down. Use a mirror alongside your body if you need. Read on when you're ready, but your experimentation will lock in the key move I'm about to share with you.
Here you go, Ben: If you move your left foot forward to bring the torso and head to turn to about 45 degrees off the shot line (the classic stance step) and also move your right foot backwards and stick your behind out as you sit to the shot, your head will come straight down instead.
Important: Bend from the hips and not from the waist as you mentioned. You want to sit down to the shot in space for two reasons, including a) excellent balance and solidity during the stroke and b) so you avoid neck and back aches in the future.
*Sitting down to the shot rather than bending over the shot lengthens your lower spine and actually makes your back feel better after a few hours' play.
*Sitting down to the shot will bring your head straight down, rather than crowding your upper body, head and neck along the shot line and interfering with smooth shooting arm movement.
*Sitting down to the ball, as a final side benefit, will help keep your head from popping up to watch the shot as it rolls--the first sign of a player who misses often.
Further, this two-foot move (one forward, the other back) only works if you first measure your body to the shot using the cue stick as described in this very important and never-elsewhere seen "cue ruler" stance method. To bring the head directly downward, simply insert a step after #3 on that article's page, by moving your rear foot backward as your front foot comes forward or just after it has come forward.
Try it and let me know, Ben (and About.com readers). A "laid back" head can see the balls' cut angles taken together, the cue ball and the target object ball, much better than crowding the shot.
When done correctly, your stance will have a head turned about 45 degrees to the shot line. The chin may be above the cue stick--or not at all, as described in this important pool stance and eyesight article.
And as a bonus, here's a three-page article on using your chin and head on unusual (difficult to aim) shots. Get your "pool head down" and watch your league handicap go up, readers.