Updated: Mar 5, 2019
My wife has a particular issue with her eyes. I am told this particular problem is quite common; it involves one eye having a very different focal length to the other. Her optician tells her, however, that the brain can do something very clever in order to retain focused vision, namely, it can automatically use one eye a bit more, or a bit less than the other, as required. In her case, the brain automatically uses the vision from her left eye for objects further away, and her right eye for nearer objects to varying degrees and magically blends the images in order to retain good focus. (A bit like an automatic 4WD system on a car, which adjusts for grip and uses drive on whichever wheels it deems necessary). The strange thing is that the individual does not usually perceive this shift, it feels seamless.
Now to the snooker part. I was coaching a pupil today and he had been having great difficulty in striking the CB centrally, and was also having difficulty knowing where to put his chin on the cue to line a shot up. This has been causing him confusion and frustration over a number of years. In particular he was continually hitting the CB with right hand side and could not stop doing this. What was going on here?
Following a few questions it became obvious that something unusual was happening here. It turns out he focuses on nearer objects (the Cue Ball - CB) with his right eye and objects further away (the object ball) with his left. In other words, he has a issue with his vision that is similar to my wife’s. This meant that on the same shot, he could appear to be both cueing directly down the line of aim and cueing across it (depending where he focused his eyes) ! No wonder this was causing him great problems with alignment.
His approach when lining a shot up, was to put the cue under his chin nearer to his left eye, based on seeing the whole shot. This meant, however, that when his chin was on the cue & he was looking at the CB (his brain used his right eye for this) he was now looking across the line to the CB. He then compensated by hitting the CB to the right of centre (giving the incorrect impression of hitting the CB in the centre.)
I’m not qualified to understand what’s happening from a medical perspective, however we did now understand the symptoms of the problem a little better, so we were in a position to start looking at some possible solutions:
• Firstly to mention and to get this out of the way, he also had some issues in dropping his elbow which was inadvertently adding right-hand-side, which was simpler to diagnose and treat.
• In terms of striking the CB in the centre, this was corrected fairly readily by using a marked up white ball to change his perception of where the centre of the ball is.
• There needs to be a trip to an Optician to discuss what’s happening and get a qualified professional opinion on whether vision correction might help
• In terms of what we could do there and then, his difficulties suggested that there might be a need to move his head from side to side on the cue, depending on where his eyes are focusing. (At least one top professional appears to do something similar to this). However, this is unconventional and sounds like it has the potential to cause other problems. We ruled this out, for now at least!
• With some experimentation, however, he did get an immediate and startling level of improvement, using his right eye to line shots up with, so we’ve gone with that for now. Whether or not our logic and approach was sound, it did produce great results in this initial session at least and he was over the moon.
It has to be said that we’re both expecting the problem will re-emerge at some point. There are other issues to consider not even touched on here, such as how the position of the head on the cue might affect a player's balance and stance. For right-handed, right-eyed players, for example, putting the cue under the right eye can lead to the cue going too far away from the body, leading to other problems. At least we’re prepared, and have some idea as to why problems may have been occurring and have made a decent start.
This does raise the uneasy possibility that many players may have this, or similar, problems to a greater or lesser degree but we just don’t realise it because the effects are too subtle to spot. Aiming is clearly far from simple, involves things that as coaches we’re not qualified to comment on and doesn’t make the task of improving any easier, but then again, no-one ever said it would be easy.
Finally, this particular example is a great one, as it shows some of the things I like about coaching It’s about far more than how to stand, and passing on information about technique, which requires a good level of knowledge - but limited skill. The key is understanding why certain approaches are good and what happens if they're not used, which you can only really see by watching what lots of players do, close up. Getting players to actually improve is usually about problem solving, fault diagnosis and coming up with potential solutions, which plays to my strengths as a mathematician & former analyst in business. The only true test of whether an approach or technique is correct is if it produces good results or not. If a solution doesn’t work, then something else needs to be tried. If you come for coaching with me, you’ll get individual & tailored coaching based on your current habits, not a textbook based teach-in. I hope this also gives some insight into why I believe an effective coach has skills that are not the same as the skills required to play the game. I hope to see you soon.