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Alex Johnson

Alex Johnson has been part of The Independent's online team since 2007. He also blogs at Shedworking - the only daily updated guide to the lifestyles of shedworkers and those who work in shedlike atmospheres - and Bookshelf, the home of interesting bookshelves, bookcases and things that look like them. He is a half decent snooker player

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Only 9,000 hours away from the Crucible

Posted by Alex Johnson
  • Thursday, 11 December 2008 at 01:18 pm
Of course you need the talent to be a champion in sport, but folk like Jonny Wilkinson and Geoff Boycott didn’t become world class by dint of their natural abilities alone. All the time I’ve spent watching old Woody Allen films, lying on sofas listening to John Dunstable and browsing the internet for interesting sheds, they’ve been out there in all weathers, dispatching balls to the edges of a large field. And yet it could have all been so different…

I was the first of my schoolfriends to start playing snooker and had my first half-sized table, complete with natty waistcoat accessory, when I was 11. Since then I’ve played on and off for the last 28 years and pretty regularly for the last three. It’s hard to estimate how many hours I’ve put in but it’s certainly not the 10,000 which Malcolm Gladwell in his latest book Outliers suggests is the minimum to become an elite performer. I’d guess it’s about a tenth of that, which suggests he’s on the right lines since Ronnie O’Sullivan is probably ten times better than me, more if he’s cueing with his right arm.

Every so often I have dreamy ideas of turning pro following a particularly good frame or, to be honest, even a couple of decent blues into the middle. There are various reasons why I don’t, but the saddest one is that I’m arguably too old to make up those missing 9,000 hours. While 19-year-old Judd Trump is beating Ronnie and 10-year-old Shane Castle is already making century breaks, I’m left two years older than Alan McManus, recently described worryingly accurately at the Pro Snooker Blog as a ‘veteran’. The 11-year-old me could have been a contender. Has the 39-year-old version already lost too much vision?

If I start playing six hours every day – which is 40 hours more a week than I manage at the moment - it’s going to take me about five years to hit Gladwell’s figure. That’s a little formidable but not entirely impossible. My friend Justin Irwin  gave up the day job to try and become a professional darts player (granted, it didn’t quite work out as planned but he did write an excellent book about it, Murder on the Darts Board). All it needs is a little grit and determination and I could be taking on Shane at the Crucible in 2013. And once Annie Hall finishes I shall make a start. Or perhaps tomorrow would be better.


emma_townshend wrote:
Thursday, 11 December 2008 at 06:30 pm (UTC)
Adam and Joe were talking about Malcolm the other day and were laughing because they'd worked out they'd only done about 900 hours of radio. The elation one feels reading that success is only 10,000 hours away! The disappointment, when you do the maths and work out how much that actually is...

Ronnie O Sullivan is tooootally handsome. I love him. (goes off into girly dream)
johnsonalex wrote:
Thursday, 18 December 2008 at 08:48 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure I've spent 10,000 hours doing anything except sleeping and maybe writing Christmas cards.

You think Ronnie's a looker? Better than Tony Knowles? And Kirk Stevens? And Doug Mountjoy?


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