How do you ‘unlearn’ bad habits?

7Baller

New member
I’ve been playing pool for over 40 years without ever being shown how to play & as a result I’ve acquired a number of bad habits, the worst of which is a ‘chicken wing’ where my elbow moves out to the side as I shoot resulting in the cue not moving in a straight line. Over the last year I’ve been doing drills to correct this but I still do it whenever I’m under pressure or simply not concentrating. I have two questions, firstly are there any drills to specifically address this problem & secondly, how can I stop myself from reverting to old habits when playing a match?
 

FranCrimi

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I’ve been playing pool for over 40 years without ever being shown how to play & as a result I’ve acquired a number of bad habits, the worst of which is a ‘chicken wing’ where my elbow moves out to the side as I shoot resulting in the cue not moving in a straight line. Over the last year I’ve been doing drills to correct this but I still do it whenever I’m under pressure or simply not concentrating. I have two questions, firstly are there any drills to specifically address this problem & secondly, how can I stop myself from reverting to old habits when playing a match?
Chicken wings are a stance issue. It's due to crowding your arm over the line of the shot with your torso. First find the line of the shot (the path of the cue ball to the object ball) and extend it off the table and on to the floor. You're probably straddling that line. If you're right-handed move left to where only your right foot is on the line and your left foot is about shoulder-width left of the line. Face the table more and don't face sideways so much. You should feel a slight lean to the right when you get down over the shot.

If you don't correct your stance, you won't ever correct the chicken wing issue. Everything we do in pool is based on a habit. So to correct an error, you need a lot of repetition to carve a new neuro-pathway into your brain so it becomes automatic. In competition you may find yourself going back to your original stance for awhile because your sub conscious mind is still reacting to the stress of the moment in the old way. Just keep practicing the new way. You will need weeks of repetition to change an old, embedded habit.

Do you really play 7 Ball?
 

7Baller

New member
Chicken wings are a stance issue. It's due to crowding your arm over the line of the shot with your torso. First find the line of the shot (the path of the cue ball to the object ball) and extend it off the table and on to the floor. You're probably straddling that line. If you're right-handed move left to where only your right foot is on the line and your left foot is about shoulder-width left of the line. Face the table more and don't face sideways so much. You should feel a slight lean to the right when you get down over the shot.

If you don't correct your stance, you won't ever correct the chicken wing issue. Everything we do in pool is based on a habit. So to correct an error, you need a lot of repetition to carve a new neuro-pathway into your brain so it becomes automatic. In competition you may find yourself going back to your original stance for awhile because your sub conscious mind is still reacting to the stress of the moment in the old way. Just keep practicing the new way. You will need weeks of repetition to change an old, embedded habit.

Do you really play 7 Ball?
Thanks for the advice, I will check my stance as you suggest.
A 7-baller is when you win a rack of 8 ball & your opponent still has all his 7 balls on the table. It’s just a silly bragging rights thing.
 

FranCrimi

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Thanks for the advice, I will check my stance as you suggest.
A 7-baller is when you win a rack of 8 ball & your opponent still has all his 7 balls on the table. It’s just a silly bragging rights thing.
Wait a minute. I just reread your original post. You threw me off a little with the 'chicken wing' thing. What you're doing is called steering, not chicken wing. It's usually caused by being anxious, and you unconsciously try to steer the object ball into the pocket with your shooting arm. There are a couple of things you can try to correct the problem. You may be looking up towards the pocket too soon when you're shooting. Trust your pre shot routine and stay focused on the cue ball and object ball. Don't worry about where the object ball is going when you're down on the shot. At that point you should just be aiming for the cue ball to hit the spot you want on the object ball.

Sorry about the wrong advice, but if you ever do have a chicken wing, you can try what I wrote before. Haha.
 

chefjeff

Nazis are back.
Silver Member
Time and effort.

I restarted my "career" at age 35. It took me more than a decade of lessons and practice and play to finally rid myself of past setup and stroke errors.

I doubt there is an alternative to time and effort.


Jeff Livingston
 

JuanM

Active member
I’ve been playing pool for over 40 years without ever being shown how to play & as a result I’ve acquired a number of bad habits, the worst of which is a ‘chicken wing’ where my elbow moves out to the side as I shoot resulting in the cue not moving in a straight line. Over the last year I’ve been doing drills to correct this but I still do it whenever I’m under pressure or simply not concentrating. I have two questions, firstly are there any drills to specifically address this problem & secondly, how can I stop myself from reverting to old habits when playing a match?
curious.

what sort of drills have you been doing to practice shooting while not concentrating, or under pressure?
 

7Baller

New member
curious.

what sort of drills have you been doing to practice shooting while not concentrating, or under pressure?
The drills I’ve been doing have been to try to stop my elbow from moving away from my body. These include hitting an object ball down the centre of the table & having it come back to hit the cue ball, and also playing follow on straight-in shots so that the cue ball goes into the same pocket as the object ball.
 

JuanM

Active member
The drills I’ve been doing have been to try to stop my elbow from moving away from my body. These include hitting an object ball down the centre of the table & having it come back to hit the cue ball, and also playing follow on straight-in shots so that the cue ball goes into the same pocket as the object ball.
those are good. pretty big for the mental side to me, but i meant a little more specific...

after i started doing stroke drills, they did help a lot, but something else still lacks.

for example, a perfect run to the 8 in 8 ball in a tournament; every shot i am seeing the straight lines, speed just right. But then I dog it with that swoop-across-the-cueball accidental-english stroke w/ a speed more akin to a break shot.

next practice session i set up the 8 where it was, try to relive the run mentally (the good part i mean, the seven good strokes off a dry break)...try to recreate situation as best i can right up to the point before i went off the road.

Now i'm not sure if this part is healthy/counterproductive/toxic or what, but i usually stand there a minute wallowing in the emotional rewards that come with an idiot stroke sending an 8 ball nearly a full diamond off course. anger, frustration, despair, sadness, whatever....just a brief period...sackcloth and ashes, for my people mourn...

then i try to let it go, and practice the shot in a neutral mood. Start to finish. From survey the table right up to the moment the cueball stops.

thats where i'm at right now. i have the years of accumulating bad habits to deal with, but at least the practice has improved.

have you looked into this? https://www.zerox-billiards.com/mental-system-pool-players
 

gregcantrall

Center Ball
Silver Member
Barry Stark is a premier snooker coach and has this series of instruction videos on YouTube.
I find his instructions spot on. If a coach is unavailable his knowledge can be helpful.
I like his instruction style he demonstrates in Coaching Session-Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3.
edit: looks like I borked the links. Part 1 is video #96 part 2 is 97 and 3 is 104. If the links only get you to the list.
 
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dquarasr

Registered
DISCLAIMER: I am a novice, 4 in 9-ball APA. I have been working on my game. First off, I bought Mark Wilson's book. Great resource.

I, too, am working on removing the chicken wing tendency. I would line up, and shoot spot-to-spot, and invariably, the CB had right spin on it. I recorded myself via my iPhone and a simple A-frame picture frame as a mount for the phone. I strongly encourage you to do this for objective feedback. I noticed I was moving my elbow away from my body, in addition to dropping my elbow. In spite of what Mark's book said about clearance (and if you'll note, Fran mentioned it, too), I shot, over and over and over and over and could NOT eliminate the chicken winging even without a clearance problem.

So I experimented with Mark's strict "orthodox" stance. which itself is eye-opening and wonderfully foundational. In my particular situation, I have trouble with aiming because of having broken my neck in 2010; I simply cannot reliably position my head on my neck comfortably in the totally "orthodox" stance. So I slightly modified my stance to slightly more open a la snooker players, so I can more readily keep my face square to the shot.

At the same time I raised my elbow, and concentrated on keeping it "behind me". I watched Van Boehning v. Strickland, and compared their stances, shoulder alignments, and arms, and noticed that their right shoulder, head, and left arm were in much straighter alignment than mine. (I am right-handed.) So I tried to emulate this, again, via video recording. By concentrating on keeping my left hand extended, and my right arm "behind me" (an exaggeration - it's really in-line with the shot line), I have (mostly) eliminated the chicken-wing tendency.

Disclaiming: I have yet to try this in competition, but so far in practice it is serving me extremely well. My cue control and impact points have improved - dramatically. We'll see how this works in a match lasting longer than my typical practice session.

I am in the infancy of this discovery and making it rote. But here are the salient points: 1) Experiment with stance such that whatever provides the best, most natural solution, becomes more easily repeatable. 2) Use video. It's really easy these days to video yourself using a smartphone. 3) It doesn't hurt to emulate successful pro players, as long as you are adapting their styles to your style, physique, and physical limitations. 4) Drill. A lot. I'm still working on this as I've only recently discovered my own epiphany. I am wholly aware that a "miracle cure" this week can totally disappear next week.

Please, instructors, feel free to pick my observations apart. I am still learning this frustrating yet rewarding sport, and have SO MUCH yet to learn.
 

FranCrimi

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
DISCLAIMER: I am a novice, 4 in 9-ball APA. I have been working on my game. First off, I bought Mark Wilson's book. Great resource.

I, too, am working on removing the chicken wing tendency. I would line up, and shoot spot-to-spot, and invariably, the CB had right spin on it. I recorded myself via my iPhone and a simple A-frame picture frame as a mount for the phone. I strongly encourage you to do this for objective feedback. I noticed I was moving my elbow away from my body, in addition to dropping my elbow. In spite of what Mark's book said about clearance (and if you'll note, Fran mentioned it, too), I shot, over and over and over and over and could NOT eliminate the chicken winging even without a clearance problem.

So I experimented with Mark's strict "orthodox" stance. which itself is eye-opening and wonderfully foundational. In my particular situation, I have trouble with aiming because of having broken my neck in 2010; I simply cannot reliably position my head on my neck comfortably in the totally "orthodox" stance. So I slightly modified my stance to slightly more open a la snooker players, so I can more readily keep my face square to the shot.

At the same time I raised my elbow, and concentrated on keeping it "behind me". I watched Van Boehning v. Strickland, and compared their stances, shoulder alignments, and arms, and noticed that their right shoulder, head, and left arm were in much straighter alignment than mine. (I am right-handed.) So I tried to emulate this, again, via video recording. By concentrating on keeping my left hand extended, and my right arm "behind me" (an exaggeration - it's really in-line with the shot line), I have (mostly) eliminated the chicken-wing tendency.

Disclaiming: I have yet to try this in competition, but so far in practice it is serving me extremely well. My cue control and impact points have improved - dramatically. We'll see how this works in a match lasting longer than my typical practice session.

I am in the infancy of this discovery and making it rote. But here are the salient points: 1) Experiment with stance such that whatever provides the best, most natural solution, becomes more easily repeatable. 2) Use video. It's really easy these days to video yourself using a smartphone. 3) It doesn't hurt to emulate successful pro players, as long as you are adapting their styles to your style, physique, and physical limitations. 4) Drill. A lot. I'm still working on this as I've only recently discovered my own epiphany. I am wholly aware that a "miracle cure" this week can totally disappear next week.

Please, instructors, feel free to pick my observations apart. I am still learning this frustrating yet rewarding sport, and have SO MUCH yet to learn.
Good observations. Just make sure you're not confusing a chicken wing issue with a steering issue. There's a difference. A chicken wing issue is when your elbow is already tilted out when you're in your stance. A steering issue is when you move your elbow in or out during your stroke. A chicken wing is a 100% stance issue, but even with a corrected stance, the player will have to adapt to the feel of the arm hanging straight down from the elbow in the new stance. The chicken wing will have become the player's comfort zone and the adjustment will feel awkward. This is normal until new habits can be established. Unwanted side spin is not necessarily a result of having a chicken wing. Many players play well with one, however, it does restrict your stroke and your ability to let your stroke out when you need it.

A steering issue is caused by a player developing a bad habit during stroking. This usually stems from one of two possibilities: 1) Not trusting his setup to where he feels he must 'steer' his cue in the proper direction during the stroke, or 2) An anxiety response where the player is steering the cue ball into the object ball, or the object ball into the pocket, which is actually out of his control. These are the cases where unwanted side spin may wind up being applied.
 

straightline

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
With technical habits, the best way is to go in slow motion where you can isolate the problems and apply relevant compensation. I think all players should be in tune with their chops and have a good overview on development as well as maintenance. Without the BCA cookie cutter template, the best you can do is emulate the players you admire and put in the time to work it out the best you can. If you work with a certified BCA cookie cutter, your time will be spent trying to fit a curriculum of ideals. Either way can fail or succeed but I think the former path would at least put you on a path of self help more in tune with the self teaching you've built all this time.
 

dquarasr

Registered
Good observations. Just make sure you're not confusing a chicken wing issue with a steering issue. There's a difference. A chicken wing issue is when your elbow is already tilted out when you're in your stance. A steering issue is when you move your elbow in or out during your stroke. A chicken wing is a 100% stance issue, but even with a corrected stance, the player will have to adapt to the feel of the arm hanging straight down from the elbow in the new stance. The chicken wing will have become the player's comfort zone and the adjustment will feel awkward. This is normal until new habits can be established. Unwanted side spin is not necessarily a result of having a chicken wing. Many players play well with one, however, it does restrict your stroke and your ability to let your stroke out when you need it.

A steering issue is caused by a player developing a bad habit during stroking. This usually stems from one of two possibilities: 1) Not trusting his setup to where he feels he must 'steer' his cue in the proper direction during the stroke, or 2) An anxiety response where the player is steering the cue ball into the object ball, or the object ball into the pocket, which is actually out of his control. These are the cases where unwanted side spin may wind up being applied.
Thanks, Fran. Sorry to hijack the thread a little, but as you describe it, it's not chicken-wing; it's steering. But in my case, it was not caused by trusting my setup, or anxiety. I simply had no way of ensuring my elbow doesn't come out the way my stance was. I tried and tried to envision my forearm coming straight in my foreswing but no matter how much I concentrated on it, it would come out about 1.5 - 2".

The only way I reduced it, and seem to have eliminated it, was to make a MUCH straighter line between my bridge hand, my left shoulder, my head, and my grip shoulder, elbow, and hand. Previous iterations of my stance had my shoulders more square to the shot than the aforementioned pro Shane (I did a side-by-side comparison using a video frame of my own stance and Shane's and noticed the difference in shoulder alignment).

The only problem I have now is with my neck, as I had mentioned, I broke my neck in 2010, and getting my face square to the shot while my shoulders are in line with the shot is not easy for me, and after 30-45 minutes becomes painful (the C5/C6 disk starts to encroach on the nerve going to my left arm - which is why, when I fractured my C4 vertebra, my left shoulder, arm, and hand were paralyzed, and didn't fully recover for three months while my C5/C6 disc fully resorbed).

So I am continuing to work through adjusting aiming with sometimes less-than-optimal head position. It's an ongoing process, honing my foot placement (it's a little more open than Wilson's "orthodox" stance) yet still having shoulders lined up such that I deliver the stroke without my elbow going right or dropping. I notice it's much straighter when I really focus on keeping my elbow high, and not dropping it - AT ALL.

EDIT: (Sorry, this is mostly a repeat of what I said in post #13. :rolleyes:)
 

Imac007

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I’ve been playing pool for over 40 years without ever being shown how to play & as a result I’ve acquired a number of bad habits, the worst of which is a ‘chicken wing’ where my elbow moves out to the side as I shoot resulting in the cue not moving in a straight line. Over the last year I’ve been doing drills to correct this but I still do it whenever I’m under pressure or simply not concentrating. I have two questions, firstly are there any drills to specifically address this problem & secondly, how can I stop myself from reverting to old habits when playing a match?
Rather than trying to tinker with something broken try a different mindset. Build an entirely new stance, based on current knowledge. That was my solution. Start with this.
The Barry Hawkins analysis seems relevant.
Basically it says to start with your vision centered while standing, behind the cue.
The cue is already on line and care must’ve taken to keep it there.
Keeping your head over the cue you need to move your body sideways to move beside the cue.

Assuming a right handed player the process is as follows:
With your weight on the left cross your right foot in front of you and just past tge cue line line.
Shift the left foot far enough left to allow room to stand beside the cue.
Weight needs to shifted onto the right foot now in order for the lower body to shift left.
The left foot now takes the weight freeing the right.
The right foot can now step forward beside the cue and parallel to it.
The left foot can now be placed laterally or an inch or two advanced of a perpendicular location.
The still on line head should be looking down the cue directly forward of the right shoulder and hanging arm holding the cue.
If you have ever shot one handed, the tip on the table should have a familiar feel.
Adjust a bit as you find the one handed slightly stooped stance.
You are going to need to put the bridge hand in place under the cue.
At this point the hanging bridge arm is likely beside a left knee that may have bent for comfort.
if not it is time to bend the left knee and rotate the hip angle squarer to the cue ball.
The right knee will lock back straightening the back leg.
The hip angle is now in perfect position to bend from the hips folding you forward along the cue line.
The back flattens and the right shoulder moves ahead and forward along the cue line until the forearm is vertical and the chest has moved to the still on line cue.
If you started with a slight downward angle to the cue plane the chest to cue should still feel comfortable.
The cue arm should be vertical and the grip holding the cue with a vertical thumb.
The right foot is beside the cue line and not under it.
Your right hip is no longer in the way of the cueing arm.
The rotated hip plane with bent left leg and straight right is balanced at all points from standing to down looking along the cue.
A final look at an example.
So my advice is not to fix. Rebuild completely instead. Hope the description is complete and easy to follow.
 
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