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Applying Neuroscience to Pool - 07-08-2019, 03:17 AM

With the advent of the use of Sabermetrics in baseball, statistical analysis has ballooned in sports. Joan Vickers started the trend years ago with her recognition that success in targeting skills were related to visual behaviors she called "quiet eyes". While Sabermetics was more about big data comparisons of players and putting a dollar value on how often players got on base, quiet eyes measured timing variables.

A company, DeCervo, has been bringing new neuroscience findings into baseball. By analyzing batter decisions they’ve found that a key difference between good at bats and poorer at bats is related to swinging or not swinging. They’ve used their findings to help train batters to start to swing earlier on pitches in the strike zone and to lay off pitches outside the zone. Their initial findings were that better batters were better at laying off bad pitches. It was the decision to not swing that intrigued me.

Other research scientists in neuroscience made a different but related finding. They found out that in players who were successful in executing a skill, the part of the brain related to prediction, lit up prior to and during execution. This finding was true of hits and misses by the same player or compared to other players.

The question that emerged was since pool is more self paced and not reactive, like baseball, if a decision making matrix could be developed that allowed players to use the science. If a player doesn’t have a definitive sense of success when down, don’t both findings, the ability to not pull the trigger and the need for a sense of a positive outcome, seem relevant?

If so, when during the time at the table, should it occur? In fact, was there more than one relevant decision point to pass through?

Descriptions by pros suggest at least three decision points. First is the away from the table, deciding on the shot moment. That decision should be made from a horizon sighting position and needs to be decisive. I’ve seen Efren at this stage get down to "try on" a shot then get up and start over. In fact, I’ve seen him do it multiple times on the same shot. The point is to pick a shot, then commit. Don’t stay down if you haven’t picked and committed (don’t step up to the plate/ask for time).

Next comes the alignment and aim decision. The player decides where to bridge and how. Maybe an extension or rest is needed. Once again, success certainty and commitment are key. Without them, "take the pitch", get up or don’t get down.

Finally, the execution phase needs time to assess the delivery through the ball. That assessment must include a certainty of success prediction component, if we are using the neuroscience to guide us. Once that is felt, the eyes need to re-find the target and focus in on the exact impact needed, to control both balls. If all elements are in place, the sensed stroke is allowed to happen. Without certainty, don’t pull the trigger.

Is this not the old trio of ready, set, go - reinvented?

It’s more than making three commitments or transitional mindsets. The commitments emerge from the certainty level reaching a tipping point for the decisions. That predictive nature is based on level of certainty. Unless it is high enough it is time to re-assess.

Being willing to stop and start over or re-group, to me, is the equivalent of the baseball hitter being able to be keyed up to hit but then disciplined enough to take a pitch. Not swinging when it’s not right is as important as swinging when it is.

Aren’t we all guilty of pulling the trigger on some shots when in fact we should get up and start over? Discipline of this sort is recognized in baseball. Isn’t it just as important in pool? We need to recognize it as part of an arsenal of skills necessary in development of an expert game.

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Thumbs up 07-08-2019, 04:08 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Imac007 View Post
With the advent of the use of Sabermetrics in baseball, statistical analysis has ballooned in sports. Joan Vickers started the trend years ago with her recognition that success in targeting skills were related to visual behaviors she called "quiet eyes". While Sabermetics was more about big data comparisons of players and putting a dollar value on how often players got on base, quiet eyes measured timing variables.

A company, DeCervo, has been bringing new neuroscience findings into baseball. By analyzing batter decisions they’ve found that a key difference between good at bats and poorer at bats is related to swinging or not swinging. They’ve used their findings to help train batters to start to swing earlier on pitches in the strike zone and to lay off pitches outside the zone. There initial findings were that better batters were better at laying off bad pitches. It was the decision to not swing that intrigued me.

Other research scientists in neuroscience made a different but related finding. They found out that in players who were successful in executing a skill, the part of the brain related to prediction, lit up prior to and during execution. This finding was true of hits and misses by the same player or compared to other players.

The question that emerged was since pool is more self paced and not reactive, like baseball, if a decision making matrix could be developed that allowed players to use the science. If a player doesn’t have a definitive sense of success when down, don’t both findings, the ability to not pull the trigger and the need for a sense of a positive outcome, seem relevant?

If so, when during the time at the table, should it occur? In fact, was there more than one relevant decision point to pass through?

Descriptions by pros suggest at least three decision points. First is the away from the table, deciding on the shot moment. That decision should be made from a horizon sighting position and needs to be decisive. I’ve seen Efren at this stage get down to "try on" a shot then get up and start over. In fact, I’ve seen him do it multiple times on the same shot. The point is to pick a shot, then commit. Don’t stay down if you haven’t picked and committed (don’t step up to the plate/ask for time).

Next comes the alignment and aim decision. The player decides where to bridge and how. Maybe an extension or rest is needed. Once again, success certainty and commitment are key. Without them, "take the pitch", get up or don’t get down.

Finally, the execution phase needs time to assess the delivery through the ball. That assessment must include a certainty of success prediction component, if we are using the neuroscience to guide us. Once that is felt, the eyes need to re-find the target and focus in on the exact impact needed, to control both balls. If all elements are in place, the sensed stroke is allowed to happen. Without certainty, don’t pull the trigger.

Is this not the old trio of ready, set, go - reinvented?

It’s more than making three commitments or transitional mindsets. The commitments emerge from the certainty level reaching a tipping point for the decisions. That predictive nature is based on level of certainty. Unless it is high enough it is time to re-assess.

Being willing to stop and start over or re-group, to me, is the equivalent of the baseball hitter being able to be keyed up to hit but then disciplined enough to take a pitch. Not swinging when it’s not right is as important as swinging when it is.

Aren’t we all guilty of pulling the trigger on some shots when in fact we should get up and start over? Discipline of this sort is recognized in baseball. Isn’t it just as important in pool? We need to recognize it as part of an arsenal of skills necessary in development of an expert game.
Very cool thread. I think that most misses occur due to indecision. I know i'm guilty big-time of not getting back up and re-doing my pre-shot routine. Funny you mention "quiet eyes". A few yrs back they did a study of top putters on the tour and this phrase was used quite a bit. Same concepts you mention: aiming, decision making and execution. Better putters were far more regimented in this area. Same as top pool players. https://golfsciencelab.com/quiet-eye-putting/

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07-08-2019, 06:33 AM

Very interesting. I remember reading an article about the womenís USA softball team improving their batting averages because the coach wrote a different letter on each softball in batting practice. The batters had to call out the letter on each ball while batting. This heightened their eye focus on the pitched balls.

Back to pool, at the time of tip contact with the cue ball, are most pro players focused on the cue ball or object ball?
  
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07-08-2019, 07:15 AM

I am unsure if the matter is:
A- best practices, or
2. Making a simple task complicated
  
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Which ball is the wrong question
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Which ball is the wrong question - 07-08-2019, 10:41 AM

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Originally Posted by aaronataylor View Post
Very interesting. I remember reading an article about the womenís USA softball team improving their batting averages because the coach wrote a different letter on each softball in batting practice. The batters had to call out the letter on each ball while batting. This heightened their eye focus on the pitched balls.

Back to pool, at the time of tip contact with the cue ball, are most pro players focused on the cue ball or object ball?
From Wikipedia
"[Quiet-eye theory] is deceptively simple: Before you perform an action, you focus your gaze on the salient aspects of your goalóthe rim, the catcherís mitt, the malignant tissue, and so on. In recent years, using eye-tracking technology, researchers have found that locking onto the relevant stimulus during the right time frameótypically the few hundred milliseconds before, during and after the movementógreatly improves your chances of success.
ó David Kohn, The Atlantic (What Athletes See)

Professor Joan Vickers is credited as the originator of quiet eye theory, and has been working on the topic since the early 1980s."


While journalist David Kohn positioned the quiet eye gaze behavior as covering the time frame from before through after execution, that is different from what was observed in golf and basketball. Of course, each sport creates a different situation. In basketball where the key gaze location was the basket front rim, the execution of a free throw places the ball and hands between the eyes and the rim. Obviously the player is not looking there in the execution phase. Similarity, in golf putting, the hole is often outside the visual range when looking at the back of the ball.

The finding of researchers was that once the initial pre-skill gaze has been concluded and movement was started, there was no gaze location. It was like the looking/seeing part of the task was over. In fact, in pool exhibitions, the pro often turns the head away or closes his eyes during execution. Trusting in the straight stroke, alignment and certainty in their ability are the keys to success, not where they are looking at impact.
  
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07-08-2019, 11:14 AM

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Originally Posted by Black-Balled View Post
I am unsure if the matter is:
A- best practices, or
2. Making a simple task complicated
I like simplicity
Put the ball in the hole


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Things happen fast - description takes longer
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Things happen fast - description takes longer - 07-08-2019, 11:55 AM

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Originally Posted by Black-Balled View Post
I am unsure if the matter is:
A- best practices, or
2. Making a simple task complicated
Each situation at the table is different. Planning the initial pattern for a run takes longer but is needed. A pro golfer with a hot putter was interviewed. They asked his secret. He said that it was being confident in the ability to start the ball on any line he chose. That allowed him to focus on the pace. A version of that applies to pool. Each shot, besides safety play, has two parts, pocketing and position. The difficulty of the pot will dictate how much focus can be allocated to position.

The difference between the gaze in quiet eye of a novice compared to a pro was just over a half second longer for the pro. My description, depending on your reading speed, takes eons longer in comparison. Often the shot is obvious, that amounts to immediate certainty. Likewise with alignment without impediments. A readying stroke or two followed by a stop to appraise if the complete shot, pocketing and position are sensed with certainty and itís a go. Find the target in detail and execute, trusting the stroke. That zeroing in on the target takes about a half second longer but research is telling us it works.

Ultimately see it, feel it, do it, repeat. Doing what works and knowing why, add to confidence and certainty. Put whatever label on it you want, just sharing.
  
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07-08-2019, 12:22 PM

Object Ball most definitely.



Quote:
Originally Posted by aaronataylor View Post
Very interesting. I remember reading an article about the womenís USA softball team improving their batting averages because the coach wrote a different letter on each softball in batting practice. The batters had to call out the letter on each ball while batting. This heightened their eye focus on the pitched balls.

Back to pool, at the time of tip contact with the cue ball, are most pro players focused on the cue ball or object ball?


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Link to Joan Vickers quiet eye site
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Link to Joan Vickers quiet eye site - 07-08-2019, 12:55 PM

http://www.quieteyesolutions.com/
  
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07-08-2019, 09:15 PM

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Originally Posted by Imac007 View Post
With the advent of the use of Sabermetrics in baseball, statistical analysis has ballooned in sports. Joan Vickers started the trend years ago with her recognition that success in targeting skills were related to visual behaviors she called "quiet eyes". While Sabermetics was more about big data comparisons of players and putting a dollar value on how often players got on base, quiet eyes measured timing variables.

A company, DeCervo, has been bringing new neuroscience findings into baseball. By analyzing batter decisions theyíve found that a key difference between good at bats and poorer at bats is related to swinging or not swinging. Theyíve used their findings to help train batters to start to swing earlier on pitches in the strike zone and to lay off pitches outside the zone. There initial findings were that better batters were better at laying off bad pitches. It was the decision to not swing that intrigued me.

Other research scientists in neuroscience made a different but related finding. They found out that in players who were successful in executing a skill, the part of the brain related to prediction, lit up prior to and during execution. This finding was true of hits and misses by the same player or compared to other players.

The question that emerged was since pool is more self paced and not reactive, like baseball, if a decision making matrix could be developed that allowed players to use the science. If a player doesnít have a definitive sense of success when down, donít both findings, the ability to not pull the trigger and the need for a sense of a positive outcome, seem relevant?

If so, when during the time at the table, should it occur? In fact, was there more than one relevant decision point to pass through?

Descriptions by pros suggest at least three decision points. First is the away from the table, deciding on the shot moment. That decision should be made from a horizon sighting position and needs to be decisive. Iíve seen Efren at this stage get down to "try on" a shot then get up and start over. In fact, Iíve seen him do it multiple times on the same shot. The point is to pick a shot, then commit. Donít stay down if you havenít picked and committed (donít step up to the plate/ask for time).

Next comes the alignment and aim decision. The player decides where to bridge and how. Maybe an extension or rest is needed. Once again, success certainty and commitment are key. Without them, "take the pitch", get up or donít get down.

Finally, the execution phase needs time to assess the delivery through the ball. That assessment must include a certainty of success prediction component, if we are using the neuroscience to guide us. Once that is felt, the eyes need to re-find the target and focus in on the exact impact needed, to control both balls. If all elements are in place, the sensed stroke is allowed to happen. Without certainty, donít pull the trigger.

Is this not the old trio of ready, set, go - reinvented?

Itís more than making three commitments or transitional mindsets. The commitments emerge from the certainty level reaching a tipping point for the decisions. That predictive nature is based on level of certainty. Unless it is high enough it is time to re-assess.

Being willing to stop and start over or re-group, to me, is the equivalent of the baseball hitter being able to be keyed up to hit but then disciplined enough to take a pitch. Not swinging when itís not right is as important as swinging when it is.

Arenít we all guilty of pulling the trigger on some shots when in fact we should get up and start over? Discipline of this sort is recognized in baseball. Isnít it just as important in pool? We need to recognize it as part of an arsenal of skills necessary in development of an expert game.
I mentioned about "Quiet Eyes" many years ago.

Ok, where are your sources on what you mention? Can you post up links on where you found this?
  
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07-08-2019, 09:17 PM

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I like simplicity
Put the ball in the hole
Richard, I agree with you.

Still, we're "dancing with the devil" and going even more deeper and complicated than it needs to be... for "science". lol
  
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07-08-2019, 10:08 PM

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Originally Posted by aaronataylor View Post
... at the time of tip contact with the cue ball, are most pro players focused on the cue ball or object ball?
"Cue ball last vs. object ball last" has been the subject of many threads on AzB over the years. Here's one from 2 years ago:
https://forums.azbilliards.com/showthread.php?t=453555.

The majority (but by no means all) of the top pool players on most shots are looking at the object ball at the moment the cue tip contacts the cue ball.
  
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07-08-2019, 10:22 PM

For further research I suggest
A book: The Performance Cortex: How Neuroscience Is Redefining Athletic Genius
https://www.amazon.com/Performance-C.../dp/B074LY21K7
Is a good place to start. I’ve posted the link to Joan Vickers site. I read hundreds of abstracts and articles monthly, and many have been on predictive cognition. The specific one on the matrix of brain areas that activate during successful execution eludes me at present. I’m just sharing insights from personal research, not producing peer reviewed abstracts for academia. Gift horse and mouth comes to mind for those that demand "proof".

https://decervo.com/

Last edited by Imac007; 07-08-2019 at 10:36 PM.
  
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07-09-2019, 04:34 AM

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Originally Posted by SlickRick_PCS View Post
Richard, I agree with you.

Still, we're "dancing with the devil" and going even more deeper and complicated than it needs to be... for "science". lol
All the technical analysis and science forced into the process always makes me think of the guys I have seen that were completely whacked out of their minds on substances of all sorts...and played pool far better than I ever will.

Not sure I care about taking the apex of a turn at an additional 5mph, when it is still 1/2 the speed of a good driver's time.
  
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07-09-2019, 04:41 AM

In all stick-and-ball sports, pros reset their stance if something is off. Since pros sometimes sight in as they lower their body into the stance, you can see Efren and others sometimes pause about halfway down for yet another checkpoint. The OP advice is good.

Quiet Eyes research has been done here at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Gaze with relaxed (mostly) unblinking eyes at the target for two seconds before the final pool stroke. Don't do left-brain thinking at that time, simply take in the whole ball/target/situation, without judging.

Two seconds is LOT longer than most people think or pause between checkoff point/last practice stroke and final stroke. Up your game!


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