maybe that’s not it

i’ve had some interesting discussions with people about aiming lately.  a couple of players told me of the uncertainties about their aim; during two separate discussions i came to a realization.

when i watched these players shoot, they both had kinks in their forms that prevented them from hitting the ball accurately.  the way i look at aiming is basically how you eyeball your shot.  once you get down to actually shoot, it’s no longer just the aim, it’s also your body alignment, your bridge hand position, your stance, the space between your head and the cue, and the way you stroke (and possibly more).  if any of these parts is out of line, it may cause you to miss where you want to hit the ball.  when that happens, cognitive dissonance occurs and your brain rushes to fill in an explanation.  i don’t have any scientific data to support this theory, but i think the most common explanation (or excuse) your brain creates for this scenario is “there is something wrong with my aim”.  it is possible your aim is off, but that may not be the case.

when we miss, it’s important to do a thorough system check and figure out which part, or parts, malfunctioned so we can pinpoint the problem. the way i do it is basically to close my eyes (mentally at least; you don’t have to physically shut your eyelids), and run through every part of my movements from sighting the shot to hitting the ball.  i try to remember everything i did on the shot and compare it to the routine i’ve developed.  did i stand funny?  feet too close together?  did i stand higher or lower than normal?  was my arm swing loose and effortless?  when i run these things through my head, i can usually find the problem, and i’ll pay more attention on the next shot.

a coach (or a second pair of eyes) is enormously helpful here, since your coach can spot the problem areas and correct them to make sure everything lines up, if you’re not seeing your mistake(s).  (if you’re not good at remembering what you did on your missed shots, you pretty much have to rely on your coach/teacher to find the mistakes.  :P)  of the two players i talked to, the first one was jumping up on shots and the second one had a hitch in his stroke.  since they were missing, they just attributed the miss to their aim and didn’t look elsewhere.  the really sad thing is that some players become convinced that their aim is the only thing wrong with their game, and spend the rest of their lives trying to find that magical aiming system that’ll make everything better.  unfortunately, it’s a mistake in thinking that no one can help them correct.

i’ve been very fortunate to have developed the habit of doing system checks on myself when i miss.  it may be helpful to analyze your entire form the next time you miss, or have your coach/teacher/friend watch you and give you feedback.  it could be the aim, but it may be something else entirely.

last but not least, the glorious sight from last week’s popeyes gorgefest.

worth every penny.  😀

6 comments on “maybe that’s not it

  1. *snif snif* You said this so elequently. *snif*

    I had this exact discussion with a couple friends of mine last week. We’d been discussing aiming systems and one of them said to me, “…but you always seem to know exactly where to aim. I try to use the same system, but I’m missing…I’m just not seeing the right aim point”. When I switched from talking about aiming to talking about mechanics, their eyes glazed over. I showed them how to identify mechanical errors and work on it. Later in came back to the table and they were still working on aiming….”do I use the ghost ball here, or do I shoot edge to edge, or do I use the shadow method…”. *sigh*

    • Later in came back to the table and they were still working on aiming….”do I use the ghost ball here, or do I shoot edge to edge, or do I use the shadow method…”. *sigh*

      frustrating, ain’t it? 🙄

      i see enough of the hardheadedness that i wrote this post. i mean, if your mechanics don’t allow you to hit where you aim at, it doesn’t matter if you have olympic-level aim, you still won’t hit the target. i think a lot of pool players know how to aim, it’s just they don’t have the fundamentals to let them hit that aim point. in time, they begin to doubt their ability to aim even though the problem sits elsewhere. what can i say, people like the cure-all short-cut magic pills that solve everything.

      *snif* thank you for appreciating this post . . . *snif*

  2. While all of this is very true – it wonders me how different players approach and take their shots. It could be the same shot, and two players with two different sets of fundamentals will still make the ball. I believe that everyone “sees” the same thing differently (if that makes sense). If two players are coached and told where the point of contact is, while the same, will continuously hit in different spots until they figure out what works for them to make the ball.

    “Practice is the best of all instructors”.

    • you’re totally correct there. it’s true that people look at the same object differently. as long as you’ve acquired skills that’ll allow to hit what you aim at it is fine. the thing is to not convince yourself that aim is the only problem before you have a chance to analyze other parts of your game; that’s kind of like a doctor giving you morphine before any diagnosis has been made. (i’m sure quite a few people will want that doctor though! :P)

    • you know, your comment about people seeing the same thing differently reminds me of gorgia’s arguments on the mind, which was later named solipsism. very interesting comment; thanks!!

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