The Name Game

In preparation for my deep practice session tonight, I reviewed the first 5 basic shots in “The Pro Book,” and noticed something odd.  Several of the shots had descriptions that contained the following sentence: “Learn the name of each shot first, the line second, and the speed last.”  When I read this, I thought the suggestion of learning the name of each shot was really silly, so I ignored the advice.

In my workout, I practiced shots 1a, 1b, 2a, and 2b.  Shots 1a and 1b are stop shots with distances 1/3 and 2/3 the length of the table.  The object ball must be pocketed, and the cue ball must come to a complete stop when it collides with the object ball.  In my first practice session I found these shots to be easy, and I mastered both of these shots fairly quickly.

Shots 2a and 2b were more challenging.  They were shots both with a distance of 1/3 the table length, but after the cue ball collides with the object ball, the cue ball must draw backwards.  On shot 2a, the cue ball must travel directly backwards and return to within 5 inches of its starting point.  On shot 2b, the cue ball must draw backwards and travel to within 5 inches of a spot twice the distance as in shot 2a.  In my one hour session tonight, I spent 45 minutes on these two shots.

And now for the weird part of this story.  Remember my comment about not wanting to learn the name of the shots?  During my practice session, at one point I was making shots 2a and 2b about 30-40% of the time.  I then thought about the strange statement in the book.  For fun, I said, “Shot 2a.”  I then shot the shot, and guess what?  The ball returned to within 5 inches of the target.  I’m sure you’re thinking, “Yeah, sure!”  Believe me, I’m still saying that now.  I started experiementing, and noticed that when I didn’t name the shot, my success rate was between 30-50%.  When I named the shot, my rate was 50-65%.  Please don’t ask me to explain this.  I don’t know if the phenomena is real or just a statistical anomoly, but as long as it works I’ll keep doing it.  If the effect pans out, I can imagine me walking around the table, muttering under my breath like Rainman, “2a….13b…7d…1b.”  Who knows?  Anyone have any thoughts on this?

Although I’ve mastered shots 1a and 1b, I certainly have not mastered shots 2a and 2b.  For my next practice session, I’ll continue with shots 2a and 2b, and add two or three new shots.  I will not consider a shot to be mastered until I’m able to make the shot 80 or 90 percent of the time.  So far, I’m on my schedule.  I’ll give another update in a couple days.

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2 responses to “The Name Game

  1. Michael,

    Great Blog, and a wonderful goal you have set for yourself. Maybe too ambitious, but who am I to rain on your parade!

    Bert Kinister, in his first tape, has 30 shots for the student to learn, and as Bob Henning does, the shots require not only making the shot but positioning the cue ball precisely. Anyway, he also names the shots and he also stresses remembering the shots by name.

    In his second video he runs rack after rack (like 10 or 12) of 9 Ball (7 foot table) but as he’s doing so he speaks the number of the shot out loud. It’s like 9 Ball paint by numbers.

    I think the idea of naming the shots, and strongly associating the name with the shot in the student’s mind is to strengthen the pathways in the brain by creating an association between a verbal idea and a kinesthetic one. This association can not only help you to remember the shot, but help to call up the memory more quickly and more surely.

    If you watch pros play, they will often touch the tip of their cue to a spot on the table where they want the cue ball to stop. This is another association technique. Though nonverbal, it’s even more effective because the connection between the cerebrum and the cerebellum is weaker for verbal input.

    Have you ever told yourself “don’t leave the cue ball there” and then watched as the cue ball rolled exactly to the only spot you didn’t want it to go? The negative doesn’t get understood, so make sure that when building you associations and visualizations, that they are always done in a positive way rather than a negative.

    Again, best of luck with this blog. I’m adding you to my blogroll if you don’t mind.

    • John, thanks for the information. I was not aware that Bert Kinister also named shots. I laughed out loud when I read your advice about not telling yourself to “not leave the cue ball there,” only to watch in horror as the cue ball went exactly where you told it not to go. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done that! It certainly makes sense that where ever your attention goes, so goes the cue ball. I’m also very interested in the concept of verbal, visual, and kinesthetic associations and their influence on athletic performance. Sounds like a great area for research! Thanks for reading my blog!

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