Mental Game - (long) The role of aiming systems in peak performance.

sixpack

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Mental Game - The role of aiming systems in peak performance -
sixpack - 2009 - AZB forums

I've been thinking about this for a while but I haven't had the time to put it down. The recent resurgence of aiming system threads convinced me to make time though :)

Most golfers know the best way to ruin a duffer's game for a while is for them to buy them a lesson. In pool, this conversation usually centers around 'aiming systems'. The thread Johnnyt started about aiming systems makes this point: Get confused with aiming systems and ruin your game until you either master the new system or give it up and go back to your old system.

We all play with a certain amount of 'feel.' The picture in our mind of what our bodies are doing in a particular situation is what gives us that feel. If what our body is doing is the same as what we think it's doing, then we play great. If it's not, then we don't. The REAL problem comes in when we've been doing it wrong the same way for so long that our body isn't really doing what we think it's doing at all, but instead is balancing out a bunch of errors that give the desired result. Then if you start to struggle and find something to correct - it throws off the balance.

What really illustrated this point to me was when I learned how to putt (golf) properly. All of the sudden I wasn't making any putts. Why? Because I couldn't read greens worth a damn but my putts were so wild that some of them fell anyway. Once I had a consistent stroke they were ALL missing. LOL. In pool, the desired result is the ball going in the hole and the cueball going where it's supposed to (within our tolerance threshold). Better players have a smaller tolerance threshold. In my opinion, this is why most players never improve. Not because they don't change their skills, but rather because they don't change their expectations of what constitutes a good shot vs. a bad shot. i.e. their tolerance threshold.

In other words, our mental image of what's happening does not match the physical movement that is actually happening. The prime symptom of this is the following: if you try harder you're less likely to play well. When you have that tough shot to win the match and you absolutely positively have to make it --- and you shoot the 9b into the first diamond. It's because you don't know what to aim at. Or because your stroke isn't straight. When you play by feel, your body adjusts and corrects for errors in your aiming, stance, swing, grip, etc...to help you make the ball. When you try hard to make that shot, you might think "ok, just stroke straight through" when in reality, you can't make the shot if you stroke straight because you aren't used to aiming with a straight stroke.

The levels to mastery of any skill are:
Unconscious incompetence - You have no idea what you're trying to do or how to do it. Woo! We're playing pool!
Conscious incompetence - You have an idea of what to do, but you can't do it well yet. Usually this player is very frustrated.
Unconscious Competence - You don't know what you're doing exactly, but it's working for you. Main symptom is cracking under pressure. Or needing to 'let it happen' instead of 'making it happen.'
Conscious Competence - You know what to do and can do it well. Focus usually improves your game.
Instinctive Competence - You are so good at knowing what to do and how to do it that you don't have to think about the particulars and can focus on the nuances and the strategies within strategies.

Most pool players get stuck in Unconscious Competence because pool is a game that it's easy to be relatively successful at without really knowing what you're doing. You can beat most people in a bar on a given night without ever playing position or even knowing that people do play position. And you can learn to make balls by trial and error without ever really learning what you're aiming at. This path leads to Unconscious Competence.

The 'intellectuals' as I like to think of them generally get stuck at Conscious Competence or incompetence. They can do everything well and know what to do, but they lack that super-high gear because they won't allow themselves to rely on instinct.

Good gamblers and pros are generally in the last category (although I'm convinced that in pool and golf there are pros from each of the last three categories). They can make every shot and play position without thinking about how to play position. In other words, they just say "I want the ball to be there" and their body automatically does what it has to do to make the ball and have the cue ball end up perfectly. When we're in the zone, this is where we are. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are examples of this from the golf realm. All understood the game perfectly and constantly refined their physical game to match their mental image of the game. But yet, under pressure allowed their instincts to take over.

In this context, aiming systems help move you from Unconscious competence to Conscious incompetence to Conscious Competence. They can't take you past that though by themselves.

If you are stuck in Unconscious Competence, aiming systems will help you move first to unconscious incompetence (don't know the system and can't execute) and then to conscious incompetence (know what you're trying to do, but can't do it yet) and then to conscious competence (know what you need to do and can do it).

An important note here is that if you're stuck in Unconscious Competence an aiming system by itself isn't going to help you. You likely have several things that are balancing each other out and so 'fixing' any one thing will lead to having to fix other things. If you are stuck here, the fastest way to improve is to work with an instructor who can help you figure out a number of things simultaneously. But you have to be patient because it will get worse before it gets better.

If you're dedicated to becoming a great player - first figure out where you are. That will tell you how to proceed. Aiming systems might help you. Fundamental instruction might help you. It might be that the main thing you need to do is internalize all the physical and mental aspects of the game to reach your top potential.

UI - Best way to improve is to decide to improve.
CI - Best way to improve is to practice and get some instruction on the fundamentals. Learn about aiming systems, throw, spin, position play.
UC - Best way to improve is to start focusing on patterns, safety play and strategy. High level 'playing' type of instruction is best for this.
CC - Best way to improve is to put yourself in pressure situations. Play, play, play. At this level it's all about the miles and hours of play. You need to internalize every aspect of your game. Don't waste time trying to figure out your errors, if you start missing balls, go to an instructor immediately and sort it out before it becomes a habit.
IC - Gamble, Compete, Repeat.

Thoughts?

~rc
 

Jaden

"no buds chill"
Silver Member
Best post I've seen in a long time....

Mental Game - The role of aiming systems in peak performance -
sixpack - 2009 - AZB forums

I've been thinking about this for a while but I haven't had the time to put it down. The recent resurgence of aiming system threads convinced me to make time though :)

Most golfers know the best way to ruin a duffer's game for a while is for them to buy them a lesson. In pool, this conversation usually centers around 'aiming systems'. The thread Johnnyt started about aiming systems makes this point: Get confused with aiming systems and ruin your game until you either master the new system or give it up and go back to your old system.

We all play with a certain amount of 'feel.' The picture in our mind of what our bodies are doing in a particular situation is what gives us that feel. If what our body is doing is the same as what we think it's doing, then we play great. If it's not, then we don't. The REAL problem comes in when we've been doing it wrong the same way for so long that our body isn't really doing what we think it's doing at all, but instead is balancing out a bunch of errors that give the desired result. Then if you start to struggle and find something to correct - it throws off the balance.

What really illustrated this point to me was when I learned how to putt (golf) properly. All of the sudden I wasn't making any putts. Why? Because I couldn't read greens worth a damn but my putts were so wild that some of them fell anyway. Once I had a consistent stroke they were ALL missing. LOL. In pool, the desired result is the ball going in the hole and the cueball going where it's supposed to (within our tolerance threshold). Better players have a smaller tolerance threshold. In my opinion, this is why most players never improve. Not because they don't change their skills, but rather because they don't change their expectations of what constitutes a good shot vs. a bad shot. i.e. their tolerance threshold.

In other words, our mental image of what's happening does not match the physical movement that is actually happening. The prime symptom of this is the following: if you try harder you're less likely to play well. When you have that tough shot to win the match and you absolutely positively have to make it --- and you shoot the 9b into the first diamond. It's because you don't know what to aim at. Or because your stroke isn't straight. When you play by feel, your body adjusts and corrects for errors in your aiming, stance, swing, grip, etc...to help you make the ball. When you try hard to make that shot, you might think "ok, just stroke straight through" when in reality, you can't make the shot if you stroke straight because you aren't used to aiming with a straight stroke.

The levels to mastery of any skill are:
Unconscious incompetence - You have no idea what you're trying to do or how to do it. Woo! We're playing pool!
Conscious incompetence - You have an idea of what to do, but you can't do it well yet. Usually this player is very frustrated.
Unconscious Competence - You don't know what you're doing exactly, but it's working for you. Main symptom is cracking under pressure. Or needing to 'let it happen' instead of 'making it happen.'
Conscious Competence - You know what to do and can do it well. Focus usually improves your game.
Instinctive Competence - You are so good at knowing what to do and how to do it that you don't have to think about the particulars and can focus on the nuances and the strategies within strategies.

Most pool players get stuck in Unconscious Competence because pool is a game that it's easy to be relatively successful at without really knowing what you're doing. You can beat most people in a bar on a given night without ever playing position or even knowing that people do play position. And you can learn to make balls by trial and error without ever really learning what you're aiming at. This path leads to Unconscious Competence.

The 'intellectuals' as I like to think of them generally get stuck at Conscious Competence or incompetence. They can do everything well and know what to do, but they lack that super-high gear because they won't allow themselves to rely on instinct.

Good gamblers and pros are generally in the last category (although I'm convinced that in pool and golf there are pros from each of the last three categories). They can make every shot and play position without thinking about how to play position. In other words, they just say "I want the ball to be there" and their body automatically does what it has to do to make the ball and have the cue ball end up perfectly. When we're in the zone, this is where we are. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are examples of this from the golf realm. All understood the game perfectly and constantly refined their physical game to match their mental image of the game. But yet, under pressure allowed their instincts to take over.

In this context, aiming systems help move you from Unconscious competence to Conscious incompetence to Conscious Competence. They can't take you past that though by themselves.

If you are stuck in Unconscious Competence, aiming systems will help you move first to unconscious incompetence (don't know the system and can't execute) and then to conscious incompetence (know what you're trying to do, but can't do it yet) and then to conscious competence (know what you need to do and can do it).

An important note here is that if you're stuck in Unconscious Competence an aiming system by itself isn't going to help you. You likely have several things that are balancing each other out and so 'fixing' any one thing will lead to having to fix other things. If you are stuck here, the fastest way to improve is to work with an instructor who can help you figure out a number of things simultaneously. But you have to be patient because it will get worse before it gets better.

If you're dedicated to becoming a great player - first figure out where you are. That will tell you how to proceed. Aiming systems might help you. Fundamental instruction might help you. It might be that the main thing you need to do is internalize all the physical and mental aspects of the game to reach your top potential.

UI - Best way to improve is to decide to improve.
CI - Best way to improve is to practice and get some instruction on the fundamentals. Learn about aiming systems, throw, spin, position play.
UC - Best way to improve is to start focusing on patterns, safety play and strategy. High level 'playing' type of instruction is best for this.
CC - Best way to improve is to put yourself in pressure situations. Play, play, play. At this level it's all about the miles and hours of play. You need to internalize every aspect of your game. Don't waste time trying to figure out your errors, if you start missing balls, go to an instructor immediately and sort it out before it becomes a habit.
IC - Gamble, Compete, Repeat.

Thoughts?

~rc

All's I can say is this is the best post I've seen in a while.....

Jaden
 

grindz

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
Then comes...

some other variations....

'Hittin' 'em great'.... where you've internalized all the conscious work

'playing like a machine'.... the highest level of conscious competence
Johnny Archer and Ralph Souquet come to mind

'in Deadstroke'.... the very highest level of conscious competence with a smidge of unconscious

'in The Zone'..... half and half conscious and unconscious

'unconscious'.... when you just see and know w/out any language involved
and there is no difference between "pure" thought and the reality on the
table......... Earl, Keith, and Efren come to mind..... I'd like to live here!


You've really encompassed all of these in your extremely well written synopsis. Tap tap tap to you sixpack for your thread.. greenies to you!!!

td
 

sixpack

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
some other variations....

'Hittin' 'em great'.... where you've internalized all the conscious work

'playing like a machine'.... the highest level of conscious competence
Johnny Archer and Ralph Souquet come to mind

'in Deadstroke'.... the very highest level of conscious competence with a smidge of unconscious

'in The Zone'..... half and half conscious and unconscious

'unconscious'.... when you just see and know w/out any language involved
and there is no difference between "pure" thought and the reality on the
table......... Earl, Keith, and Efren come to mind..... I'd like to live here!


You've really encompassed all of these in your extremely well written synopsis. Tap tap tap to you sixpack for your thread.. greenies to you!!!

td

I like it!

~rc
 

ShootingArts

Smorg is giving St Peter the 7!
Gold Member
Silver Member
excellent post!

This is a truly great post. It breaks down the stages to advancement slightly differently than I have seen it done before but the key is understanding the last few stages. In some sports, including pool, a person can reach the highest level of play at your "Conscious Competence" level. Other sports demand that you advance to the highest level. At the highest level playing pool is a lot like driving a car down a gently curving country road. You want things to happen and they happen, you don't even think in words that you want these things to happen. You want to pocket a ball and you want the cue ball right there and it happens.

Hu

Mental Game - The role of aiming systems in peak performance -
sixpack - 2009 - AZB forums

I've been thinking about this for a while but I haven't had the time to put it down. The recent resurgence of aiming system threads convinced me to make time though :)

Most golfers know the best way to ruin a duffer's game for a while is for them to buy them a lesson. In pool, this conversation usually centers around 'aiming systems'. The thread Johnnyt started about aiming systems makes this point: Get confused with aiming systems and ruin your game until you either master the new system or give it up and go back to your old system.

We all play with a certain amount of 'feel.' The picture in our mind of what our bodies are doing in a particular situation is what gives us that feel. If what our body is doing is the same as what we think it's doing, then we play great. If it's not, then we don't. The REAL problem comes in when we've been doing it wrong the same way for so long that our body isn't really doing what we think it's doing at all, but instead is balancing out a bunch of errors that give the desired result. Then if you start to struggle and find something to correct - it throws off the balance.

What really illustrated this point to me was when I learned how to putt (golf) properly. All of the sudden I wasn't making any putts. Why? Because I couldn't read greens worth a damn but my putts were so wild that some of them fell anyway. Once I had a consistent stroke they were ALL missing. LOL. In pool, the desired result is the ball going in the hole and the cueball going where it's supposed to (within our tolerance threshold). Better players have a smaller tolerance threshold. In my opinion, this is why most players never improve. Not because they don't change their skills, but rather because they don't change their expectations of what constitutes a good shot vs. a bad shot. i.e. their tolerance threshold.

In other words, our mental image of what's happening does not match the physical movement that is actually happening. The prime symptom of this is the following: if you try harder you're less likely to play well. When you have that tough shot to win the match and you absolutely positively have to make it --- and you shoot the 9b into the first diamond. It's because you don't know what to aim at. Or because your stroke isn't straight. When you play by feel, your body adjusts and corrects for errors in your aiming, stance, swing, grip, etc...to help you make the ball. When you try hard to make that shot, you might think "ok, just stroke straight through" when in reality, you can't make the shot if you stroke straight because you aren't used to aiming with a straight stroke.

The levels to mastery of any skill are:
Unconscious incompetence - You have no idea what you're trying to do or how to do it. Woo! We're playing pool!
Conscious incompetence - You have an idea of what to do, but you can't do it well yet. Usually this player is very frustrated.
Unconscious Competence - You don't know what you're doing exactly, but it's working for you. Main symptom is cracking under pressure. Or needing to 'let it happen' instead of 'making it happen.'
Conscious Competence - You know what to do and can do it well. Focus usually improves your game.
Instinctive Competence - You are so good at knowing what to do and how to do it that you don't have to think about the particulars and can focus on the nuances and the strategies within strategies.

Most pool players get stuck in Unconscious Competence because pool is a game that it's easy to be relatively successful at without really knowing what you're doing. You can beat most people in a bar on a given night without ever playing position or even knowing that people do play position. And you can learn to make balls by trial and error without ever really learning what you're aiming at. This path leads to Unconscious Competence.

The 'intellectuals' as I like to think of them generally get stuck at Conscious Competence or incompetence. They can do everything well and know what to do, but they lack that super-high gear because they won't allow themselves to rely on instinct.

Good gamblers and pros are generally in the last category (although I'm convinced that in pool and golf there are pros from each of the last three categories). They can make every shot and play position without thinking about how to play position. In other words, they just say "I want the ball to be there" and their body automatically does what it has to do to make the ball and have the cue ball end up perfectly. When we're in the zone, this is where we are. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are examples of this from the golf realm. All understood the game perfectly and constantly refined their physical game to match their mental image of the game. But yet, under pressure allowed their instincts to take over.

In this context, aiming systems help move you from Unconscious competence to Conscious incompetence to Conscious Competence. They can't take you past that though by themselves.

If you are stuck in Unconscious Competence, aiming systems will help you move first to unconscious incompetence (don't know the system and can't execute) and then to conscious incompetence (know what you're trying to do, but can't do it yet) and then to conscious competence (know what you need to do and can do it).

An important note here is that if you're stuck in Unconscious Competence an aiming system by itself isn't going to help you. You likely have several things that are balancing each other out and so 'fixing' any one thing will lead to having to fix other things. If you are stuck here, the fastest way to improve is to work with an instructor who can help you figure out a number of things simultaneously. But you have to be patient because it will get worse before it gets better.

If you're dedicated to becoming a great player - first figure out where you are. That will tell you how to proceed. Aiming systems might help you. Fundamental instruction might help you. It might be that the main thing you need to do is internalize all the physical and mental aspects of the game to reach your top potential.

UI - Best way to improve is to decide to improve.
CI - Best way to improve is to practice and get some instruction on the fundamentals. Learn about aiming systems, throw, spin, position play.
UC - Best way to improve is to start focusing on patterns, safety play and strategy. High level 'playing' type of instruction is best for this.
CC - Best way to improve is to put yourself in pressure situations. Play, play, play. At this level it's all about the miles and hours of play. You need to internalize every aspect of your game. Don't waste time trying to figure out your errors, if you start missing balls, go to an instructor immediately and sort it out before it becomes a habit.
IC - Gamble, Compete, Repeat.

Thoughts?

~rc
 

unknownpro

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I would add that most players focus on the cueball/object ball contact point on the object ball, even pros, and therefore must be unconscious of what they are actually doing to play at a high level. It leads to exactly what you described. Many, if not most, dogged shots under pressure are actually the best strokes the player has delivered in a match.
 

ugotactionTX

I'm in dead rack!
Silver Member
great post! Although, I'm somewhere around comatose incompetence...

rep for you just for sitting there long enough to type all of that! (plus the good info :D)
 

RascalDoc

RascalDoc
Silver Member
nice!!

Mental Game - The role of aiming systems in peak performance -
sixpack - 2009 - AZB forums

I've been thinking about this for a while but I haven't had the time to put it down. The recent resurgence of aiming system threads convinced me to make time though :)

Most golfers know the best way to ruin a duffer's game for a while is for them to buy them a lesson. In pool, this conversation usually centers around 'aiming systems'. The thread Johnnyt started about aiming systems makes this point: Get confused with aiming systems and ruin your game until you either master the new system or give it up and go back to your old system.

We all play with a certain amount of 'feel.' The picture in our mind of what our bodies are doing in a particular situation is what gives us that feel. If what our body is doing is the same as what we think it's doing, then we play great. If it's not, then we don't. The REAL problem comes in when we've been doing it wrong the same way for so long that our body isn't really doing what we think it's doing at all, but instead is balancing out a bunch of errors that give the desired result. Then if you start to struggle and find something to correct - it throws off the balance.

What really illustrated this point to me was when I learned how to putt (golf) properly. All of the sudden I wasn't making any putts. Why? Because I couldn't read greens worth a damn but my putts were so wild that some of them fell anyway. Once I had a consistent stroke they were ALL missing. LOL. In pool, the desired result is the ball going in the hole and the cueball going where it's supposed to (within our tolerance threshold). Better players have a smaller tolerance threshold. In my opinion, this is why most players never improve. Not because they don't change their skills, but rather because they don't change their expectations of what constitutes a good shot vs. a bad shot. i.e. their tolerance threshold.

In other words, our mental image of what's happening does not match the physical movement that is actually happening. The prime symptom of this is the following: if you try harder you're less likely to play well. When you have that tough shot to win the match and you absolutely positively have to make it --- and you shoot the 9b into the first diamond. It's because you don't know what to aim at. Or because your stroke isn't straight. When you play by feel, your body adjusts and corrects for errors in your aiming, stance, swing, grip, etc...to help you make the ball. When you try hard to make that shot, you might think "ok, just stroke straight through" when in reality, you can't make the shot if you stroke straight because you aren't used to aiming with a straight stroke.

The levels to mastery of any skill are:
Unconscious incompetence - You have no idea what you're trying to do or how to do it. Woo! We're playing pool!
Conscious incompetence - You have an idea of what to do, but you can't do it well yet. Usually this player is very frustrated.
Unconscious Competence - You don't know what you're doing exactly, but it's working for you. Main symptom is cracking under pressure. Or needing to 'let it happen' instead of 'making it happen.'
Conscious Competence - You know what to do and can do it well. Focus usually improves your game.
Instinctive Competence - You are so good at knowing what to do and how to do it that you don't have to think about the particulars and can focus on the nuances and the strategies within strategies.

Most pool players get stuck in Unconscious Competence because pool is a game that it's easy to be relatively successful at without really knowing what you're doing. You can beat most people in a bar on a given night without ever playing position or even knowing that people do play position. And you can learn to make balls by trial and error without ever really learning what you're aiming at. This path leads to Unconscious Competence.

The 'intellectuals' as I like to think of them generally get stuck at Conscious Competence or incompetence. They can do everything well and know what to do, but they lack that super-high gear because they won't allow themselves to rely on instinct.

Good gamblers and pros are generally in the last category (although I'm convinced that in pool and golf there are pros from each of the last three categories). They can make every shot and play position without thinking about how to play position. In other words, they just say "I want the ball to be there" and their body automatically does what it has to do to make the ball and have the cue ball end up perfectly. When we're in the zone, this is where we are. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are examples of this from the golf realm. All understood the game perfectly and constantly refined their physical game to match their mental image of the game. But yet, under pressure allowed their instincts to take over.

In this context, aiming systems help move you from Unconscious competence to Conscious incompetence to Conscious Competence. They can't take you past that though by themselves.

If you are stuck in Unconscious Competence, aiming systems will help you move first to unconscious incompetence (don't know the system and can't execute) and then to conscious incompetence (know what you're trying to do, but can't do it yet) and then to conscious competence (know what you need to do and can do it).

An important note here is that if you're stuck in Unconscious Competence an aiming system by itself isn't going to help you. You likely have several things that are balancing each other out and so 'fixing' any one thing will lead to having to fix other things. If you are stuck here, the fastest way to improve is to work with an instructor who can help you figure out a number of things simultaneously. But you have to be patient because it will get worse before it gets better.

If you're dedicated to becoming a great player - first figure out where you are. That will tell you how to proceed. Aiming systems might help you. Fundamental instruction might help you. It might be that the main thing you need to do is internalize all the physical and mental aspects of the game to reach your top potential.

UI - Best way to improve is to decide to improve.
CI - Best way to improve is to practice and get some instruction on the fundamentals. Learn about aiming systems, throw, spin, position play.
UC - Best way to improve is to start focusing on patterns, safety play and strategy. High level 'playing' type of instruction is best for this.
CC - Best way to improve is to put yourself in pressure situations. Play, play, play. At this level it's all about the miles and hours of play. You need to internalize every aspect of your game. Don't waste time trying to figure out your errors, if you start missing balls, go to an instructor immediately and sort it out before it becomes a habit.
IC - Gamble, Compete, Repeat.

Thoughts?

~rc

really a good breakdown ..... well written ... green to you sir!!
 

sixpack

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I would add that most players focus on the cueball/object ball contact point on the object ball, even pros, and therefore must be unconscious of what they are actually doing to play at a high level. It leads to exactly what you described. Many, if not most, dogged shots under pressure are actually the best strokes the player has delivered in a match.

Can you elaborate a little on your first point? I think I know where you're going but I think you'll do a much better job of explaining it than I will.

Thanks!
~rc
 

sixpack

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
This is a truly great post. It breaks down the stages to advancement slightly differently than I have seen it done before but the key is understanding the last few stages. In some sports, including pool, a person can reach the highest level of play at your "Conscious Competence" level. Other sports demand that you advance to the highest level. At the highest level playing pool is a lot like driving a car down a gently curving country road. You want things to happen and they happen, you don't even think in words that you want these things to happen. You want to pocket a ball and you want the cue ball right there and it happens.

Hu

Exactly! Most of us who have been playing for a long time have experienced that to some degree. The top tier pros experience it a lot.
~rc
 

skip100

AzB Silver Member
Silver Member
I would add that most players focus on the cueball/object ball contact point on the object ball, even pros, and therefore must be unconscious of what they are actually doing to play at a high level. It leads to exactly what you described. Many, if not most, dogged shots under pressure are actually the best strokes the player has delivered in a match.
This seems questionable at best.
 

Bob Jewett

AZB Osmium Member
Staff member
Gold Member
Silver Member
This seems questionable at best.
I agree but unknownpro has not been with us for 8 years.

It might be true for the player who has stacked patches on patches on broken fundamentals who only fixes one problem on the shot. For fairly competent players a missed important shot often seems to be due to a failure of fundamentals, such as letting up on the shot.
 

mrpiper

Registered
These are nice steps to performance improvement over time. As I look back, this was pretty much my history, albeit unconsciously.

Now days, whenever my game begins to wain, I have a quick fundamentals checklist in my head. I can pretty quickly figure out what I am missing. For me, the most frustratingly common culprit is simply not keeping my head down and watching the shot after follow through. The actual translation for that is, "I get in a hurry".

One thing not really discussed in this solid wisdom is the ability to maintain concentration. I truly wonder if that is either medical, or inherited. For me, I can dig in and be in the game for a few racks, but to stay on point and concentrate for rack after rack like some of the pros is an absolute impossibility for me. The skill is there, but the concentration isn't.

This is why I am a musician, martial arts instructor, salesperson, Bible teacher, pool player, roller skater, children's magician, cyclist, avid camper, and (former) golfer. My mind can not stay in one place for more than a brief time, then I have to move on in the rotation.
 
Last edited:

philly

AzB Gold Member
Gold Member
Silver Member
These are nice steps to performance improvement over time. As I look back, this was pretty much my history, albeit unconsciously.

Now days, whenever my game begins to wain, I have a quick fundamentals checklist in my head. I can pretty quickly figure out what I am missing. For me, the most frustratingly common culprit is simply not keeping my head down and watching the shot after follow through. The actual translation for that is, "I get in a hurry".

One thing not really discussed in this solid wisdom is the ability to maintain concentration. I truly wonder if that is either medical, or inherited. For me, I can dig in and be in the game for a few racks, but to stay on point and concentrate for rack after rack like some of the pros is an absolute impossibility for me. The skill is there, but the concentration isn't.

This is why I am a musician, martial arts instructor, salesperson, Bible teacher, pool player, roller skater, children's magician, cyclist, avid camper, and (former) golfer. My mind can not stay in one place for more than a brief time, then I have to move on in the rotation.
Focus is everything, or should I say maintaining focus.
That, to me at least, is the biggest difference between the players that almost always cash and those that do not.
I think you get to a certain level when getting shape is pretty much the easier part of the game.
It is the consistent potting of balls and the focus required to do that which is the difference.
 

BC21

https://www.playpoolbetter.com
Gold Member
Silver Member
Focus is everything, or should I say maintaining focus.
That, to me at least, is the biggest difference between the players that almost always cash and those that do not.
I think you get to a certain level when getting shape is pretty much the easier part of the game.
It is the consistent potting of balls and the focus required to do that which is the difference.

Each shot must be treated like a job task, from start to finish, fully focused. And that's what makes it so hard to do. Every shot is work.

To consistently perform quality work with fewer mistakes, we have to develop the habit of paying attention to what we're doing. We have to focus 100% on every task - every shot.
 

Ratta

Hearing the balls.....
Silver Member
Mental Game - The role of aiming systems in peak performance -
sixpack - 2009 - AZB forums

I've been thinking about this for a while but I haven't had the time to put it down. The recent resurgence of aiming system threads convinced me to make time though :)

Most golfers know the best way to ruin a duffer's game for a while is for them to buy them a lesson. In pool, this conversation usually centers around 'aiming systems'. The thread Johnnyt started about aiming systems makes this point: Get confused with aiming systems and ruin your game until you either master the new system or give it up and go back to your old system.

We all play with a certain amount of 'feel.' The picture in our mind of what our bodies are doing in a particular situation is what gives us that feel. If what our body is doing is the same as what we think it's doing, then we play great. If it's not, then we don't. The REAL problem comes in when we've been doing it wrong the same way for so long that our body isn't really doing what we think it's doing at all, but instead is balancing out a bunch of errors that give the desired result. Then if you start to struggle and find something to correct - it throws off the balance.

What really illustrated this point to me was when I learned how to putt (golf) properly. All of the sudden I wasn't making any putts. Why? Because I couldn't read greens worth a damn but my putts were so wild that some of them fell anyway. Once I had a consistent stroke they were ALL missing. LOL. In pool, the desired result is the ball going in the hole and the cueball going where it's supposed to (within our tolerance threshold). Better players have a smaller tolerance threshold. In my opinion, this is why most players never improve. Not because they don't change their skills, but rather because they don't change their expectations of what constitutes a good shot vs. a bad shot. i.e. their tolerance threshold.

In other words, our mental image of what's happening does not match the physical movement that is actually happening. The prime symptom of this is the following: if you try harder you're less likely to play well. When you have that tough shot to win the match and you absolutely positively have to make it --- and you shoot the 9b into the first diamond. It's because you don't know what to aim at. Or because your stroke isn't straight. When you play by feel, your body adjusts and corrects for errors in your aiming, stance, swing, grip, etc...to help you make the ball. When you try hard to make that shot, you might think "ok, just stroke straight through" when in reality, you can't make the shot if you stroke straight because you aren't used to aiming with a straight stroke.

The levels to mastery of any skill are:
Unconscious incompetence - You have no idea what you're trying to do or how to do it. Woo! We're playing pool!
Conscious incompetence - You have an idea of what to do, but you can't do it well yet. Usually this player is very frustrated.
Unconscious Competence - You don't know what you're doing exactly, but it's working for you. Main symptom is cracking under pressure. Or needing to 'let it happen' instead of 'making it happen.'
Conscious Competence - You know what to do and can do it well. Focus usually improves your game.
Instinctive Competence - You are so good at knowing what to do and how to do it that you don't have to think about the particulars and can focus on the nuances and the strategies within strategies.

Most pool players get stuck in Unconscious Competence because pool is a game that it's easy to be relatively successful at without really knowing what you're doing. You can beat most people in a bar on a given night without ever playing position or even knowing that people do play position. And you can learn to make balls by trial and error without ever really learning what you're aiming at. This path leads to Unconscious Competence.

The 'intellectuals' as I like to think of them generally get stuck at Conscious Competence or incompetence. They can do everything well and know what to do, but they lack that super-high gear because they won't allow themselves to rely on instinct.

Good gamblers and pros are generally in the last category (although I'm convinced that in pool and golf there are pros from each of the last three categories). They can make every shot and play position without thinking about how to play position. In other words, they just say "I want the ball to be there" and their body automatically does what it has to do to make the ball and have the cue ball end up perfectly. When we're in the zone, this is where we are. Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan are examples of this from the golf realm. All understood the game perfectly and constantly refined their physical game to match their mental image of the game. But yet, under pressure allowed their instincts to take over.

In this context, aiming systems help move you from Unconscious competence to Conscious incompetence to Conscious Competence. They can't take you past that though by themselves.

If you are stuck in Unconscious Competence, aiming systems will help you move first to unconscious incompetence (don't know the system and can't execute) and then to conscious incompetence (know what you're trying to do, but can't do it yet) and then to conscious competence (know what you need to do and can do it).

An important note here is that if you're stuck in Unconscious Competence an aiming system by itself isn't going to help you. You likely have several things that are balancing each other out and so 'fixing' any one thing will lead to having to fix other things. If you are stuck here, the fastest way to improve is to work with an instructor who can help you figure out a number of things simultaneously. But you have to be patient because it will get worse before it gets better.

If you're dedicated to becoming a great player - first figure out where you are. That will tell you how to proceed. Aiming systems might help you. Fundamental instruction might help you. It might be that the main thing you need to do is internalize all the physical and mental aspects of the game to reach your top potential.

UI - Best way to improve is to decide to improve.
CI - Best way to improve is to practice and get some instruction on the fundamentals. Learn about aiming systems, throw, spin, position play.
UC - Best way to improve is to start focusing on patterns, safety play and strategy. High level 'playing' type of instruction is best for this.
CC - Best way to improve is to put yourself in pressure situations. Play, play, play. At this level it's all about the miles and hours of play. You need to internalize every aspect of your game. Don't waste time trying to figure out your errors, if you start missing balls, go to an instructor immediately and sort it out before it becomes a habit.
IC - Gamble, Compete, Repeat.

Thoughts?

~rc
Nice words full of iron my friend!

All you ve written are based what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Nideffer came out with, when they started to work on studying the "Flow" and reaching peak performance and how to reach it. Later on imo Ravizza went to another stage using this stuff- and puttin it into clearer explanations and how the unconcsious and concsious has to work like "simultanously".

Aiming is a topic, where it s easy to make you struggle- and as Bob also said, in most cases the miss comes because of mechanical errors.
But :p : Mechanical errors also are forced by wrong thinking ( not believing in what you see) or just overall struggling.

You are what think you are- and: What you see is what you get :)
So you better pay attention to think positive- and make sure to avoid negative thoughts.

And of course: make sure you never have flaws in delivering a straight stroke ( unfortnuatley you cannot buy a stroke :p )

again- great article Sixpack :) Hope you re doin well.
 
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