Arrrrrgggghhh! There is one particular shot that seems to be my Waterloo. I have depicted the shot in Figure 1, and I have no idea why this shot continues to give me problems. Earlier today, I had a few minutes between meetings, and I stopped by the company billiard table (yes, I’m spoiled) figuring that I’d throw the balls out and practice for a couple minutes. This shot came up at least 4 times, and I missed three of them. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? How can I make shots that are easily ten times more difficult, and yet I still miss this easy one?!
Thinking back to Daniel Coyle’s book, The Talent Code, Daniel explained the role of myelin in the brain, and how it helps to create nerve signal superhighways. These superhighways enable a person to recreate thoughts or actions relatively effortlessly and repeatedly. For example, when you first learn to ride a bike, the nerves involved in maintaining your balance have not been optimized by myelin, so you have difficulty maintaining your balance. When you practiced riding your bike (and failing) over and over again, the nerves involved in motor coordination developed thicker coats of myelin, and soon you developed a ‘talent’ for riding bikes. The ‘talent’ learned was not just cerebral, it is actually a very real biological structure that has been built in your body. That’s why people say that you never forget how to ride a bike. In actuality, the issue is not that you don’t “forget,” it’s that your body has been physiologically programmed to remember the skills necessary for bike riding.
Back to pool. Why do I keep missing this simple shot? The only explanation that I can come up with is that throughout my years of playing, I’ve always had trouble with this shot, and whatever error in aiming I’m making, I’ve been reinforcing that error over and over again. Hence, I’ve biologically programmed my brain to miss it. When I get down to shoot the shot, my brain says, “Yes, that’s it. Go ahead and shoot.” When I actually pull the trigger and shoot, guess what? I miss! Damn Brain! DAMN MYELIN!!
How do we rectify this situation? I need to build a new neural pathway that delivers the expected results, and somehow block off the pathway that leads to misses. Sounds like I need another deep practice session to work just on this shot and try to build a new habit. Easier said than done. Building a new habit that is so closely related to an old (bad) habit is going to be very difficult, because throughout the process, my brain will be screaming, “NO! Don’t do it that way! Do it MY way!!” Arrrrggghh!
Well, enough talk. Time to get back to the table.