by Ron Shepard
Ernie, On Rec.Sport.Billiard asks:
Why do we and they (the pros) miss those easy shots?
It's a question that has troubled many players for many years. Watching pro matches it's astonishing how often they miss dead-easy shots just as we commonly and frustratingly do too often.
Whenever it's discussed the usual reasons are offered: took my eye off the ball, was watching the position more than the shot, the pressure got to him, that pocket's strange, forgot to chalk, I stood up, etc.
Most often it seems to be just plain taking the shot for granted because it was so easy, or similarly -- careless PSR for the same reason. Maybe it's frequently something more psychological, as if we want to punish ourselves, strange as that sounds.
Ron Shepard responds:
The miss is the "effect", but there are multiple "causes". In addition to the above, which I think of as "false confidence", there is also impatience and laziness. I think I'm particularly vulnerable to this. I set up for a shot, and there's something that doesn't feel right (foot position, body position, bridge position, head position, elbow alignment, etc.), but I think to myself that it's alright, I'm "close enough" and the shot will probably go anyway, so I go ahead and pull the trigger. It is just plain old laziness. When I'm shooting well, I don't do this, it is mostly when I'm a little off. In fact, when I'm shooting well, I actually seem to enjoy the whole process of shooting, including lining up the shots, so I don't even consider at some subconscious level skipping over that chance to line up the shot the right way.
There is also a kind of self-consciousness that I think affects players, particularly league players or first-time tournament players. This isn't exactly "ego", or "false confidence", it is slightly different. It is that feeling that other people are watching you play, so you sort of pretend to go through the steps of lining up the shot, getting into stance, and executing, but you really didn't do those steps, you just pretended to. So on your practice strokes, you don't really know where you are supposed to hit the object ball, and your stance is all out of whack, and you might not even know exactly where the cue ball needs to go afterwards, but your teammates are all watching you so you don't want to get up and do things right because it might show some kind of weakness or indecisiveness or uncertainty. In reality, it is the fact that you know you aren't lined up, yet you are considering shooting anyway, that is the real weakness in your technique and that you should be fighting. I am mostly (not always, but mostly) past this for league and tournament play, but I expect this will affect me if I ever play a game recorded for TV.
$.02 -Ron Shepard