practice makes perfect . . . sort of

let me just be perfectly clear that i’m not writing this post to puff up my own game; that is absolutely not my intent.  i know where my game is at, and it’s nowhere near what people would consider “good” by any means.  well, maybe one step above protozoan creatures.

over the years of playing pool, i’ve seen my game stagnate, improve, drop, and just about every other direction in between.  but lately, i found myself improving, particularly in the stroke department.  now i don’t have a great stroke, but compare what i have now to what i had back then, it’s not even close.  needless to say, i’m very happy with my improvements so far, and i hope i improve some more in the future.

at my favorite PH, i see lots of regulars that grind it out day in and day out; some have been at this game for 30-40 years, maybe more.  for no apparent reason, their game just stay the same.  not getting worse (which is good), but not growing either.  just the same thing year round.  so why is it that i have made progress, but the regulars stay where they are?  wouldn’t common sense tell us that the regulars would get better as well, having been very diligent in showing up and putting in daily practice time?

the only logical reason i can think of is, perhaps, resistance to change, and be merely content with what they can do at the table NOW, as opposed to what they could do in the future.

i think that people tend to stick to certain routines and habits; it’s human nature, and one that’s difficult to break.  at any morning, you can expect to see people willingly stand in long lines at your local java joint, waiting to get that hot coffee in their system so they can function the rest of the day.  (and many will repeat that routine around break and lunch time.)  or look at the people that get up to run in the morning; rain or shine, you can expect to see the same faces at the same parks/trails, steadily jogging along.  habits and routines, once developed, are hard to break.  so it is with pool.

over the past two years, i had to seriously break my bad habits that i’ve developed in order to get better.  after going through the process, i know first hand how difficult it was (and is) to break old, bad habits to learn new ones, and how big the temptations were to just go back to the old routine.  when i was struggling, i knew i could just give it all up and go back to my old ways; i could make shots with my old form, so why should i care?  however, i also knew that yes, it would make a difference, that my new form WOULD pay off long-term if i stuck with it.  so i did.  month after miserable month, i stayed with my new form and struggled like crazy on the table, literally could not make a ball, could not move the cueball right, and could not mount any kind of meaningful offense or defense against anybody.  i hated it.  i hated that feeling of helplessness and incompetence, but i stayed with it.  now, i’m enjoying the dividends, knowing that i made a good decision.

why did i stay with my new form?  well, because it makes sense.  when i first learned about the techniques (the loose, natural swing i wrote about in previous posts), it was so logical and simple i knew it had to work.  (KISS is your best friend in pool.)  i tried to describe some of what i learned to others, but you could see the immediate rejection; i might as well have told them that they would contract gonorrhea, and they wouldn’t have rejected it faster.  so i kept my mouth shut and worked on these techniques myself.  in the end, no one else wanted to listen, so i practiced these things alone as usual.  (this resistance theme is pretty typical in my PH.)  and as usual, i’m the only one enjoying the payoff.  oh well.

so practice doesn’t necessarily make perfection.  practicing sound, basic, and simple techniques though, will.  so do yourself a favor.  find a reputable teacher, one that will tell you straight, no-nonsense techniques, seriously take his/her advice, and be willing to endure the growing pains.  it’ll do you a world of good.

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2 comments on “practice makes perfect . . . sort of

  1. Exciting stuff! Congrats on sticking with it and having the motivation to improve. I’ve also seen the same resistance to improvement. Change is difficult. Change is scary. It’s difficult for most people (or rather, all people) to admit their shortcomings, face the unknown, and risk failure. But failure is a requirement if you are going to push yourself to the edge or your current capabilities. You must fall down, learn from your mistakes, and get back up and improve. Stick with it…your game will definitely improve.

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