Asking The Right Question

On Thursday night I was playing in a cheap $20 race to seven 9 ball match. I lost the first two games, then bore down and won five straight racks to take a 5-2 lead. I was well on my way to winning the next rack, having run balls 1 through 8, but I missed the 9 ball shot as illustrated below. The miss proved to be a huge turning point in the match, and I subsequently lost 6-7.

Later that night as I replayed the match in my head, I kept asking myself why I missed the shot. I thought about possible explanations. I thought about factors that contributed to the miss, the thoughts that were in my head when I took the shot, my lack of focus, my lack of adherence to my normal pre-shot routine, etc. I identified several things I had done wrong, and promised myself I would work on them in future practice sessions.

This morning as I was lying in bed, still thinking about (brooding over?) the lost match, I suddenly realized I was asking myself the wrong questions. Sure, figuring out why I missed the tough shot and improving upon those parts of my game is a valid path to getting better, but was that really the most important question for me to be pondering? As I reflected on this, it became apparent to me that the most important question was really this: “How did I get myself into a situation that required me to attempt such a difficult shot?” Of all the items that may have contributed to the missed shot, the most glaring factor was poor execution of my PREVIOUS shot which directly led to the subsequent abhorrent position that I found myself in.

Given that there are a limited number of hours in a day, how should I allocate my practice time? In other words, how do I get the most bang for my practice buck? Should I spend time trying to refine my shooting and aiming techniques to an extreme level of precision, or should I simply work on improving my ability to move the cue ball from one simple shot to the next? The answer for me was glaringly obvious… work on my cue ball control. A couple hours working on cue ball routes will yield quicker and better results for my overall game than the same amount of time spent refining my already pretty good shooting and aiming skills.

The next time you miss a shot, ask yourself this question: “Did I miss the shot because of a simple execution error, OR did i miss the shot because I had to take a difficult shot which resulted from poor cue ball control from a previous shot?” If you are an APA level 2-4 player, it’s likely your miss was the result of an execution error. APA level 5-7 players primarily miss shots due to cue ball position errors which lead the shooter to progressively more difficult shots until a miss is inevitable. Think about it, then use your practice time wisely!

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6 responses to “Asking The Right Question

  1. Great way of thinking about it. Always be positive and look for a solution. Keep up the good work.

  2. When I am practising I know what I “should” be doing when I feel a little mental kick of reluctance/annoyance. I.e. it would be easier/more fun to practise some other thing rather than that thing I have to force myself to do, i.e. force myself out of the comfort zone and into the learning zone. The little mental ‘aaggh’ moment is the tip off.

  3. I find myself doing the exact same thing! I almost always know why I missed a certain shot (mechanics or pre-shot routine) – then later realize that even though that shot should be within my pocketing abilities, I should never have to shoot that shot in the first place! I know that my CB control is the reason I don’t run racks nearly as often as I should. But, with my very limited time at the table, I almost never get to properly practice anymore.

    I still carry a target in my cuecase for whenever I want to practice getting somewhere, but I don’t spend as much time as I should on it. Getting to the position is important, but for me, I think it’s more important to accurately see the CB path. There are plenty of times when I see a path but the CB doesn’t react as I saw. Either I’m over-stroking or under-stroking the ball. The best example I can come up with is where I have to stun the CB into the corner and let the spin carry me back out to the center. Something like this: http://pool.bz/P/?@3ALgF1BYAE4CYkW4DTsF3PHcS3QHcT3kHcS3kJjv4kBtl4kWoh3lHcT3lJjs4lQvl4lbSD4lEqC4uBWM@
    for example. The natural path takes into a collision and/or a snookered position. But if I just stun enough with appropriate english, I can get perfect on the 2. A lot of times, I either overstroke it and scratch in the corner, or understroke it and die off the 2nd rail leaving me behind the blockers.

    It’s those types of situations that will kill my run.

    • Hi Johnny, I tried to view the diagram but couldn’t get the pool.bz app to cooperate. There must be some technical issue on their end, as it kept asking me for my email address, but never gave me a field to enter it. Frustrating!!! Good luck with your routes!

  4. Ah yeah – I think they want all users to be registered members of the site to see the layouts. usually, if you just log in to the main site then try the link again, it’ll work. *shrug*

  5. I took a screenshot, it’s this path – for reference. http://www.johnny101.com/images/stunthroughcorner.jpg

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