Developing Expertise In Pool

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Evergruven
Thanks for the willingness to join the conversation and contribute. Every comment here is appropriate from a particular perspective. There is no analysis paralysis if you know the answers. Experts know what to do in most situations. Not knowing what to do causes over analysis, hesitation and a lack of commitment. Uncertainty lives with ignorance. Every player is at a stage in their development. I’m asking about how the advanced player might makes the transition to expert. Choosing the right differentiator can springboard a player, the wrong focus can put or keep him in the middle of the pack.
 

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
"keep it simple" can be a valuable approach, and if you want it bad enough,
and put a little work in, I think things are more likely to go your way,
things you might not even realize or have thought about..
those little things you allude to. they're there, but there's a lot to be said for doubling down on one's strengths,
spending time on what comes naturally, what we find easy to control,

I especially love this part of what you wrote. Getting focused on what needs to be done and simply executing doesn’t tax the brain and can lead to a selflessness state they call the zone. Plus, of course motivation is paramount. And, the thing about doubling down on strengths is crucial for players preparing for any key competition. The focus on the practice table needs to shift from finding weaknesses then finding the details needed for strengthening, to a very different approach. The practice focus for big events is to make an inventory of strengths and then set up situations on the table where you can highlight those skills. It’s about polishing skills. Think about all the ways you can create situations that can play to your strengths. The idea too of focusing on what you can control. Hint: It’s not the opponent.
 
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jeffj2h

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
It helps if the player knows what's actually possible. I've seen lots of impossible shots attempted, usually in what they are trying to do with the cue ball. Like shots Efren couldn't make.

I really like this concept and it was driven into me by watching so many hours of AccuStats matches. Billy and Grady would discuss several options to some tricky shot and Billy would say "Well Grady, I don't think that shot is available". For them, the word 'available' indicated whether a certain CB path was physically possible.
 

jeffj2h

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
The OP asked about mechanics.

The first lesson I ever took was RandyG's 3-day class, which focuses mainly on mechanics. After I practiced that and got my mechanics and pre-shot routine down, I took weekly lessons for three years from Bert Kinister. Bert is a king at devising drills that teach important concepts of pocketing, CB control, and strategy.

Later I felt really lucky to have stumbled into this sequence: I learned mechanics. Then I did countless drills and studied pattern play and strategy. Good way to go.
 

evergruven

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Think about all the ways you can create situations that can play to your strengths. The idea too of focusing on what you can control. Hint: It’s not the opponent.

yep..most folks think to improve you *must* improve your weaknesses directly..
while there is truth to this, often you can improve weaknesses by focusing on the strong part of your game.
it sounds crazy but not only will focusing on your strengths give you a great shot at fast improvement by itself,
but over time, you might also find your weaknesses shored up as a result.

sort of related, I'm now reminded of a quote/question about success-
do you love winning more than you hate losing or vice versa?
we all hate to miss a shot, lose a game or a match, but when you succeed/win, what's your reaction?
personally, I bemoan losses way more than I celebrate wins, but I'm currently working to balance that out more.
maybe kind of a way to grow out the ol' strengths..
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
you only get to hit that white ball

You only get to hit the white ball with your stick. Focus on that ball almost to the exclusion of the object balls. When you plan a shot properly it is impossible to make half of it. Either you will miss shape and the pocket or you will make both.

You can cut an eight and a quarter to eight and a half inch circle out of a sheet of typing paper. Do that, and when practicing put that circle down before every shot to show where you are putting the cue ball. After you get above 90%, cut a seven inch circle. Once to ninety percent, keep cutting a smaller circle. Don't stop until you get to a three inch or smaller circle. When you can put the cue ball in a three or four inch circle consistently you will find that the object balls "have to fall in the holes". What annoyed me the most was making half of the shot, either pocketing the ball and missing shape or making shape and not pocketing the ball. That meant I had made a mental error and the shot was doomed before I ever hit the cue ball.

I spent two to three years focusing on cue ball control, thousands of hours. At the end of that time I could play on seven foot to snooker tables and not embarrass myself. While I relaxed a little after that time period the cue ball has been my primary interest ever since then. That most particularly includes when shooting the money ball. Pick a spot for the cue ball and shoot the money ball just like every other balls. That went a long ways towards keeping me from missing the money ball.

Everyone's mileage may vary of course, not just one way to gain pool skills. Chasing the cue ball worked for me.

Hu
 

JazzyJeff87

AzB Plutonium Member
Silver Member
I like this thread double O. The examples you gave of people mastering their sports were all reactive type activities. That’s where I do my best without a doubt. I was in a line of work/lifestyle that demanded attention, quick and accurate reactions, commitment to a decision. For me that kind of stuff came naturally, I never liked any of the common American sports but I could step up and play any at a decent level in a short time..I might be a bit small for football though.

Pool is so different it’s unreal. Everything is just sitting there. No quick reactions will be forced from your subconscious. You have all the time in the world to make a mistake.

I definitely practice awkward cueing and I break ugly racks and see what I can do. I set donuts out on tricky racks that I break and I’ll practice that layout until I can run it or find the spot to play a lockup safe. I think these things help me a lot but they are not necessarily taking me to the next level. For me the next level would be more of a mental thing. Staying out of my own way, not sabotaging myself with doubts, keeping in that perfect mind set. It’s a lot easier reacting and responding to something outside yourself than it is to make something happen with stationary objects.
 

BC21

https://www.playpoolbetter.com
Gold Member
Silver Member
The brain is truly remarkable. Expertise in any skill is derived from successful repetition of actions, programming your brain.

Technically, learning and skill development is the result of synaptic connections, the firing/activation of neurons connecting within the brain, forming pathways that allow us to quickly recognize, remember, and perform complex tasks. More repetition leads to more permanent pathways, so the more you do something consistently over and over and over again you are essentially paving these pathways.

Synaptic connections aren't exactly permanent though. These pathways have some plasticity, the ability to be changed or rewired with changing conditions. In other words, good and bad habits are programmed in the same manner within the brain -- through repetition -- but neither are permanent. You can always change the pathways to suit your desires, but it takes consistent repetition of the actions you wish to master.
 
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Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Thinking about what you have direct control over

You only get to hit the white ball with your stick. Focus on that ball almost to the exclusion of the object balls. When you plan a shot properly it is impossible to make half of it. Either you will miss shape and the pocket or you will make both.

...What annoyed me the most was making half of the shot, either pocketing the ball and missing shape or making shape and not pocketing the ball. That meant I had made a mental error and the shot was doomed before I ever hit the cue ball.

I spent two to three years focusing on cue ball control, thousands of hours. ...That most particularly includes when shooting the money ball. Pick a spot for the cue ball and shoot the money ball just like every other balls. That went a long ways towards keeping me from missing the money ball.

Everyone's mileage may vary of course, not just one way to gain pool skills. Chasing the cue ball worked for me.

Hu

This is what this thread should be about. For Hu, the finer and finer nuances of how and where cue ball contact is made and where both balls are destined to end up, is a whole. He doesn’t tell us that speed is also an integral part of that execution and that in some cases he has multiple places he can hit the cue ball with different speeds and paths to the pocket and or final position. After thousands of hours his decisions are at a much more nuanced level than 90° for stun and 30° for ¼ to ¾ ball. He knows the difference between a cue ball that kicked and a skid. He understands that a ball with any kind of spin is less susceptible to either. His connection to the cue and cue ball are different by now.

In psychology there is a concept called extended self. The idea is that we are sensing more than our bodies. We pick up a plate at a buffet and then navigate to our table past numerous obstacles with an extended awareness of our body and the plate as one. Our cars become extensions when we stick one leg in then another and put it on like a pair of pants or shoes, all extensions. Then we play dodge ‘em in traffic as one.

The cue and cue ball become extensions when we let them. I choose to experience the cue and ball as one sometimes. When near the rail the front of the ball is not blocked but the face is. When I see a straight in shot I zero in on both contact points and how they need to mesh. The cue extends as one to the front of the cue ball.

Thanks for the help. This type of sharing will only act as a teacher for those at the stage where it can emerge as such, for them.
 

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Non-reactive vs reactive

I like this thread double O. The examples you gave of people mastering their sports were all reactive type activities. That’s where I do my best without a doubt. I was in a line of work/lifestyle that demanded attention, quick and accurate reactions, commitment to a decision. For me that kind of stuff came naturally, I never liked any of the common American sports but I could step up and play any at a decent level in a short time..I might be a bit small for football though.

Pool is so different it’s unreal. Everything is just sitting there. No quick reactions will be forced from your subconscious. You have all the time in the world to make a mistake.

I definitely practice awkward cueing and I break ugly racks and see what I can do. I set donuts out on tricky racks that I break and I’ll practice that layout until I can run it or find the spot to play a lockup safe. I think these things help me a lot but they are not necessarily taking me to the next level. For me the next level would be more of a mental thing. Staying out of my own way, not sabotaging myself with doubts, keeping in that perfect mind set. It’s a lot easier reacting and responding to something outside yourself than it is to make something happen with stationary objects.

I remember a story about a baseball power hitter going golfing. A golf instructor in the group asked him which he found harder, the golf swing or baseball. He said definitely baseball. His response was to the effect that the golf ball was just sitting there, not traveling upwards of 100 mph. He echoed your sentiment. There are finer distinctions that have been observed in passive targeting as well. Joan Vickers noted that better putters, free throw shooters, etc. gazed longer at targets and scanned target lines more accurately than poor players. She called the practice "quiet eye". The distractions and challenges may be different but as you know situational nuances can be fun too.

Efren Reyes tends to do a similar type of practice. He throws the numbered balls onto the table then with ball in hand he starts to run the balls. If he misses he either pushes the ball missed into a hole and continues, he sets up the ball again to retry, and if he misses again he will retry. If he misses position and even hooks himself, he does a kick or safe as he would in play.

The idea of practicing problem shots is good advice for beginners especially. With beginners I set up a simple shot like a straight in off the spot. Once they are pocketing it regularly I add distracting balls. They don’t interfere but they compete in our consciousness for attention. Balls near the cue shaft, a port between balls for the cue, cue ball or object ball. It starts to bring table conditions into practice.

I’m sure your methods would improve players games. I’m not sure if it will give advanced players the edge on enough games to be the real difference makers. Expert players simplify the game more. Efren didn’t break the balls. I think breaking produces tougher lies. His practice is more in line with making sure he gets out when it’s there. More about developing a flow and the feel for connecting shots. After breaking pros try to rearrange problem balls early in a planned run. If they can’t they often look for that lock up safety you mentioned. I’m sure the breaking out of problem balls is one of your strategies, not specified. The discipline of implementing the strategy is probably the difference maker. Too many very good players will make that extra pot, then leave themselves a tougher safe. It’s like a baseball hitter knowing when not to swing, even at a strike.

Can you name one specific area you worked on with the ugly racks that stood out and was a difference maker later in play? I hear commentators talking about pros taking what the table gives them. Avoiding trying to do too much seems relevant.

Thanks for the appreciative intro.
 
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DecentShot

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
My take is probably more fatalistic. I believe you need to be born with talent to make a ball go where you want with another ball, THEN those guys work on it, and get great. Everybody else is on the outside. The pros don't have secrets, that word is only used to sell books and DVDs.
 

DynoDan

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Like any athletic activity related to ‘hand-eye’ coordination, the ability to perform well unconsciously relies on neural synapses only properly formed during the most receptive window (the teen years, when learning capability goes into overdrive). If you have to think much about doing it, you’ve probably already missed the boat.
I don’t believe anyone who first learned the game in a later stage of life, could ever match the skill level of those properly trained within that crucial learning window. Michael Jordan, one of the greatest athletes of all time (who’s thought processes were likely not overly complex when he was sinking baskets), couldn’t learn to hit a fastball.
 

Low500

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Evergruven
Thanks for the willingness to join the conversation and contribute. Every comment here is appropriate from a particular perspective. There is no analysis paralysis if you know the answers. Experts know what to do in most situations. Not knowing what to do causes over analysis, hesitation and a lack of commitment. Uncertainty lives with ignorance. Every player is at a stage in their development. I’m asking about how the advanced player might makes the transition to expert. Choosing the right differentiator can springboard a player, the wrong focus can put or keep him in the middle of the pack.
In my opinion, your comments here are some of the best ever made in this pool shooting website. (which is indeed rare in this world of crumbling values).
Even more pathetic than pure ignorance is the situation of those "who don't know what they don't know"..........yet they pontificate with all the "know it all" pomposity and arrogance of a wizard. Thereby polluting the minds of other unknowledgeable players and ruining many of them forever.
That's a good insight you have there, mister. I salute you.
:thumbup2:
 

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Consistency

Now I’m going to suggest some differences that might make a difference in taking your game to the next level. Each will be a separate post.

The first is consistency. You can set up a shot, with donuts for example, and repeat it over and over. It’s something you can measure and track. Improvement is trackable. Alex P. talked about allotting a time frame to work on an element of his game. That session is then solely devoted to that. If he has set aside 5 hours to reach a particular standard and he has reached it in only 2 hours, he suspends the session. He went in with an objective. Consistency is about that very thing. Pick a level you want to reach, it must be reachable, from your current level, then focus on the incremental improvement to get there.

It must also have what I call functional intent. The thing you strive to improve (intent), must have some consistent function in the overall performance/execution matrix. Obscure skills might fascinate and engage you, however, rarity of use doesn’t translate into everyday consistent performance. One of the key elements is to have a good model of consistency.

Years ago starting from the effect of how we empathize with what we see, a coaching method emerged. When players watch pros in competition, then go and play immediately after, their performance often improves. They execute at a higher level than normal, however, the effect tends to be temporary, wearing off all too soon. This was during the era of the introduction of music videos on tv.

Noting the phenomenon of what I dubbed the music video effect, a different reaction was noted. Listening to a new song on the car radio was different than seeing the video. Once the video is seen, if the song plays on the car radio, images like those in a Miley Cyrus video or an MJ moonwalk, emerge in our consciousness. As coaches we decided to harness this.

Ideal models for players at their current level were hard to sort out. Adult bodies and body types failed to meet what was needed for younger players. Then it dawned on us that consistency involved players themselves become better versions of themselves. We set up video cameras and taped each player performing. The tapes were then edited and a master tape created when the player executed successfully using good technique. A tape highlighting success after success was created. Then a soundtrack was considered.

Super learning techniques used specific brain wave producing music, baroque was ideal. We soon rejected that idea. Our functional intent here was to associate the images with the music to trigger them later. Any music the player liked without already existing visual links would work. Players chose their own soundtrack.

A videotape was created for each player. Then an audio cassette was produced with the execution sounds and soundtrack combined. Players were to watch the tape passively before a competition or practice. During play if all was going fine, players just continued. However, if performance could use a boost, during a break, simply listening to the cassette was suggested. In short, the results were a success.

That process was long and arduous in the era it was devised. With the technology today nearly everything could be thrown together to view and listen on a single handheld device. Earbuds could help players keep in form at the table, during execution, especially with the ability to turn audio on and off easily.

This is just one idea. What do you do to bring out your most consistent self?

Since I posted this I found an interesting quote.
Aldous Huxley was less gentle. He called an individual who was insistently consistent a “fanatical monomaniac.” If it works, stay with it; if not, make a change. Necessary adjustments aren’t indications of inconsistency; they are indications of enlightenment.”
 
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ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
emotional temperature

My biggest issue for consistency is emotional temperature. When I learned how to raise and lower it as needed it helped a lot.

Hu
 

logical

apart of their 'semi public'
Silver Member
This place is getting really odd lately. Quick, somebody start a thread about chalk.
 

SBC

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Pool is all about execution, imo.

My exact thoughts. Execution under pressure is what separates the men from the boys. No matter what you know it's being able to deliver consistently when it counts.

You see great practice players who never test themselves. We need real competition to be the proving ground.
 
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