Rollover/Snake Shot (Offensive)
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.
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.
- 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
- A fast spin (essential);
- 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.
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…
Okay, now you have the “spin” and the “lateral ball-roll”. Put the two together, still in seperate and distinct motions. Choose where you wish to shoot the ball, and wait for the ball to roll laterally there before you spin/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
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.
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.
Remember these points:
- Fast lateral motion
- Immediate hard spin afterwards
- A fast spin catching the handle with your fingers
*Recoil as you spin in the opposite direction of your shot.
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.
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!
So you have a snake now. What follows will be tips on:
- Mechanics of optimizing the shot
- Ways to practice the snake shot
- Philosophy toward shooting against a good defense
Mechanics of the shot
Remember what was described in The Motion: the fast lateral motion of the ball, the essential fast spin, the grip on the narrow part of the handle, the pressure at 3 or 4 o’clock, choosing the left or right side of your inner wrist. Make sure you do all of these. Without the fast lateral motion, your shot will easily be raced; without the fast spin, your shot may not go straight and instead spray out to the wall; without using the narrow part of the handle, your spin may come too late, or too slow; without the pressure at 3 or 4 o’clock and choosing either your left or right side of your inner wrist, your shot will be erratic and inconsistent. Also, if your lateral motion still isn’t working, remember to to rock the ball slightly in the pinned position so that you have an idea of how the ball is going to roll when you do your motion. So, if you have any of these symptoms, work on the associated points first. 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
For practice, go over everything in Mechanics of the Shot 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 exercises. 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.
The Shot Against a Live Defense
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 unpredictable 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!
Copyright: © 1996 Robert Uyeyama
- 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).