Monday, May 21, 2007

Mind games

Thanks to some recommendations in Liz Ford's blog, I've been working my way through a couple of books on mental training for sports. Mental Toughness Training for Sports and The Achievement Zone.

Most of the mental skills described in the books are nothing new, but I thought I would try to take their advice seriously and see what happens. I've always been skeptical of the whole idea of visualizing, including the oh so trendy "Rules of Attraction" and "The Secret." I do believe that unconscious attitudes affect outcomes and that visualizing is probably a more effective was of influencing the unconscious thoughts than anything involving explicit language.....but still, can I influence muscle memory without actually moving my muscles?

If so, it would be very convenient. I often find myself with time in the mornings when I would like to practice, but alas in this town there aren't any pool halls that open before 11:30. If I could get up at six and get in an hour of practice before work, I would be a very happy girl.

With my new mental training program, I get up in the mornings and I run through my practice routine and also visualize overcoming challenges that are likely to crop up in the Tournament.

For example, I often have trouble focusing from the first shot. Sometimes I need to warm up, and other times I just don't feel the need to bear down until things get a little more interesting. So, I've been visualizing walking up to the table and being focused, doing my pre-shot routine and in the zone from the start.

I'm rather shocked to report, it works! I'm not sure one session is a "slam dunk" as far as evidence is concerned, but tonight I was "on" from the first shot. Yay me! I was shooting great, and then I started shooting faster. I wasn't being very careful about my pre-shot routine (including my aiming rituals), I was going on feel. And then I missed, but got back in. And then missed, and got back in. And then missed, and missed and missed...oops I fell out of the zone.

What I noticed at this point, was that my analytical side had popped back into gear. Why was I missing? I think it was a double whammy of losing my confidence and that image of the ball dropping in the pocket, and then my brain kicking in to think about why all this was happening. The other thing I realize is I probably need to work on my pre-shot routine and either shorten it, or just keep working it until it becomes unconcious--it shouldn't go away just because I'm shooting particularly well.

So, in my morning practice session I can work on that......its great...anytime I want and the per hour rate is a bargain!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Room for improvement

Its been an interesting week or so. Lost a few, won a few, including a nice five or six bar game run on Tuesday night. (And I think it could have gone on longer if I hadn't been ready to leave).

But, in practice, I've been looking for a direction. I've started doing the "Billiards Bootcamp" that Liz Ford recommends in her WPBA bio and that's been a fun change. Drills are broken down into time increments, which I think is really useful. Usually, I will keep working a drill until I get the results I want, but this is sometimes frustrating, and I worry, even counter-productive because somedays you just don't get there.

I've also been practicing the shots I tend to miss, and am missing them a little less frequently. I've been disgusted by my misses on long shots in games. I think this partially a center ball problem (not properly aligning my cue to the dead center), but I also realize that I need to work on my medium speed and high speed stroke. I prefer a softer touch game, and its generally a good idea not to bang the balls around, but in my fundamentals drills, I still tend to start soft and work up the tempo, which means I spend more time on the soft strokes, and kind of short change the more forceful ones. Even sitting here, remembering what if feels like to hit a shot on the harder side, it feels forced. Its not a smooth acceleration to execution.

So, I'm excited....I have a goal!

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


This is my resolution to edit my blogly ramblings. I'm sure that I'm the only one that will ever read my nonsense here....but, just in case, I am resolving to use fewer words and to trim my future posts to haiku poignancy.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Strong finishes

So, I have come to the conclusion that there really no patterns to my game. For awhile, I was starting strong, and then seemed to slide down a slippery slope of sloppiness. Now, I am definitely taking some time to find my rhythm and focus. Is it just a matter of warming up? Or is something else going on?

Last night, I was not playing great and lost 3 games in a row. With my opponent on the hill, I was able to finally dial-in and started shooting dramatically better. For some reason, banks, which are one of the weaker parts of my game, were almost effortless. The speed, english, angle...I was just feeling them.

I'm wondering if I need to be a little nervous, to be on my best game. The pressure of the hill-hill match actually helped. And when I think back to when I first started playing at my local bar, I was nervouse, and I probably played some of my best pool ever. All the boys were scared to play me. But the other night, one of them was asking me what happened to my game...the one he knows I can play. Maybe I've just gotten a little too relaxed there?

But that's comforting to know....that nerves can be a good thing.

And I had some great shots...I remember the feeling. And, when the pressure was on I came through....its good to know I have it in me.