Well, today is the day I start evaluating fundamentals. As I mentioned in a previous post, I was not able to bring my cue stick with me on this trip, so I needed to improvise. Yesterday, I located a K-Mart in Aguadilla and bought a very cheap $30 cue stick: a Minnesota Fats “Hustler” cue. It is a 19 ounce solid grey graphite wrapped cue with a nylon butt wrap and polished stainless steel joint. It is light years away from the Searing cue that I normally play with. It is, however, much better than the other cue they were selling, which had light bulbs built into the handle that were designed to flash brightly when the cue stick strikes a cue ball. (Seriously, I’m not making this up!) What a great example of marketing gone bad!
I got back to my hotel room last night, and realized I was very lucky in that the business desk located in my room is exactly 31 inches in height, just within the standard specification for a pool table. I also was able to secure a Coke bottle in the hotel lobby, so I now have all the items necessary for me to work on fundamentals from my hotel room. Yippee!
Here’s the setup: table in the middle of the room, coke bottle lying on its side, the neck of the bottle pointed down the long axis of the table. I face the opening of the Coke bottle as if it were a cue ball, get into my stance, and go through my mental checklist to make sure my stance and body position are correct. I then slowly execute my stroke. The shaft of the cue stick should enter the neck of the Coke bottle and proceed into the bottle without touching the mouth of the bottle. If my mechanics are solid, there will be no side to side motion; if my bridge is solid, there will be no vertical movement; if my back arm is stroking properly (absolutely nothing moving but the part of my arm from the elbow down), the cue stick will not touch the Coke bottle as it enters and exists the neck of the bottle. Easier said than done.
Taking a cue (no pun intended) from Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, I’m slowing the action down to an unbelievably slow speed to make sure that the proper neurological circuits are firing. Don’t want to build myelin in the wrong places! Somewhere in the back of my mind, I can hear Lawrence Welk’s calm steady voice as I slowly stroke the cue stick, “A one and a two and a three…” I’m building myelin, building myelin, building myelin. Hummm. I can tell this is going to get challenging. I wonder how many times I can stroke, and still maintain the same intensity of thought? Maybe I should just stroke ten or twenty times, then stand up and say to myself out loud, “Great Shot!,” then get down and do it again. Focus! Focus! Ok, stand up…“see” the cue ball…now get into my stance…review the stance checklist…now slowly stroke, stroke, stroke…focus on the imaginary cue ball…stroke, stroke, stroke…the Coke bottle will tell you if you screw up…stroke, stroke, stroke… “Shut up mind! I’m trying to concentrate!”…stroke, stroke, stroke…
I can tell this is going to take some time. After about 30 seconds, I’m to the point where I want to toss my cue stick across the room and run down the hallway screaming like a crazed banshee warrior. Maybe it’s time for a break? Speaking of breaks, I think it’s time for breakfast!
My guess is that developing the mentality that links this kind of drilling to the reward centers of the brain is a key step.
Excellent observation John! Thanks for reading my blog and for providing this insight. I’ll see if I can develop some sort of reward mechanism as part of the drill to provide positive feedback to the brain and help with motivation.
I try to remember the physical sensations that I get during internal rewards. The tingle up the back of the spine, the sense of phantom pressure in the back of my throat, rising into my sinuses, the feel of my heart pounding…
And remembering helps to associate that feeling with the hard practice.
I’m very suspicious of practice away from the table, since without feedback, you don’t know if you’re improving or making the situation worse.