Saturday, March 31, 2007

More work woes

It was another week where work was really getting in the way of my best pool. Sometimes you have to wonder where my priorities are!

I've joined a new league on Wednesday nights, which I really enjoy because its not handicapped, and it gives me a chance to test my skills without a player. Its also a round robin format, so you have to be able to play a game, sit out for awhile and then jump back in and get focused again.

I did okay on Wednesday, winning 2 out 3, but never really found my stroke until the very last shot. I had an easy key ball shot on a ball in the jaws, but I hit it just the right speed and english to get straight in on the 8 in the side. Just as I had imagined. But, I had asked to leave early, because I expected to have to jump back on the computer and work into the night.

Instead, the work didn't come down the pike until the next morning and unfortunately went into the wee hours of the night on Thursday. At 9:30, I actually left work to go play my match so we didn't have to forfeit, knowing that I would have to go back to the office and probably be there all night.

I never got all that comfortable in the venue. Maybe it was my late arrival, but there just wasn't that much atmosphere. The guy I was playing was as high as a kite, but a decent enough shooter. I should have been out when I scratched on a long shot. I even overheard the other team say, "she's going to scracth", but I foolishly thought I could control the speed. Almost worked. Should have gone off the rail. Luckily, my opponent scratched and I had ball in hand on the eight. But I was so chicken doing a shot into the side that I asked for a time out and even had my coach line up the cue ball. For some reason, I had trouble seeing the shot and I could just see it bouncing off the corner. Okay, so I'm a wimp, but I won.

I'm also haunted by a shot that I missed. It was a thin cut, that I didn't expect to make, but thought would block the pocket, but I hit it way too hard for that to be a possiblity. I just didn't take time to feel the shot.

So, stance and feel.

So, what's the lesson from this week.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Focus is a fickle mistress

Ugh. 0-4. Ouch.

The fact that in the middle of my match I was on my laptop and answering emergency calls from the New York office, probably did not help. After I took a call at the beginning of my match I felt guilty for not working, and my game slipped.

However, an interesting thing happened...the moment the match was over, I just started hitting balls and they were zooming in dead center pocket.

Hmmm, so, what's the lesson here?
a. I'm thinking too much. Last night,I seemed to alternate between shooting too quickly or being way too careful. Maybe working on my rhythm will help keep my head out of the shot.
b. I was actually pretty confident going into the match. Maybe too confident?
c. I play better when I play early. Maybe I need to stop playing the last match of the night?

While a,b & c are all true, I think the real lesson here is one from the Pleasures of Small Motions..."The simple rule find those goals that engage your attention and interest on that night..."

I like winning. But I really don't mind losing as long as I play well. So, if I'm playing well, I sometimes need to stay on top of myself to keep the actual "win" in mind. When I'm playing poorly, I seem to think only about the "win." Last night, all I was really thinking about was winning and getting out of there so I could focus on work. And, of course, exactly the opposite happened.

Its funny, because just last week in a practice session, I was missing everything (kind of last night). I couldn't find a rhythm. I was either careless or too careful (sound familiar). And then I decided to shift my focus and shoot ALL my shots with draw. Out of 10 shots, I missed only once. Draw shots! With my tendency to put accidental english on them! Crazy. But it was just enough of a shift to get me focused.

So when my mind was occupied at work, and I wasn't playing well, maybe I should have shifted my focus from trying to W-I-N and focused on having fun, feeling the smoothness of the stroke, remembering just how much I enjoy pool and being a student of the game.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Playing it smart or playing it too safe

I've missed a week of posting, and so I have two matches to cover since the end of my pool fast (which lasted all of 6 days). In match number one, I played a SL6. Last week, I played an SL3 who I've played before.

Match number one, I lost two games, where I really couldn't do much, or didn't. The breaks were wide open, and I wasn't left much of a shot. I couldn't get focused and thought this could be embarrassing. And then in the third game, the break was a dud, and I thought, now this could be a match after all. The remaining four games were all close, all strategic battles. I managed to win only one, but a victory was in striking distance. And I felt victorious that despite the large gap in skill level I was able to make a match out of it.

But....there were whispers from the other side...I heard the word "defense" more than once. My teammate called a time out on me and got angry that I wouldn't remove the ball that was blocking my opponents one remaining shot. If I took that shot, he thought I could run out. I had four balls left on the table. I couldn't see a pattern that I felt I could do, not even close. I just couldn't shoot that ball. It was hill-hill. I couldn't do it. (In the end, I miscued and left the cue ball in the one place on the table he could sink it, so we'll never know if it worked....)

So flash forward to match number two. Having lost the other match. I've given some consideration that I might have been wrong and gone for the run out despite my instincts otherwise. Afterall, the point is to "win", not to "not lose". Again, its hill-hill with my oponent. He's down to his last two balls. I have four or five on the table. He's only a three, but the pattern left for him is not hard. And I have an open shot, a run out I can see, although I haven't been shooting that consistently and if I miss, it pretty much hands it to him. Fortunately, our senior player was in the house and called a time out to point out a shot, makeable, but not easy, that would leave my opponent blocked. I take the shot, (genuinely try to make it) and leave the pocket blocked, my next turn at the table, I have my best run of the night and win the match.

I'm not sure what the lesson is here. I do think I sometimes play too defensively and have probably lost matches because of it. At my level, I'm not sure when I'm being realistic about my ability and when I am underestimating myself. And when to listen to my gut, and when to listen to my teammates.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Pool Fast

No sooner had I set up this blog, than I decided I had been playing too much pool. Yes, it is possible

I love pool. But I've been noticing a feeling of obligation rather than joy when I go to practice or play. If I'm being totally honest, I have to admit I have been using my commitment to practicing pool as an excuse to avoid other things that needed my attention.

That just can't be good for my game. Or my life. So, I have put my cue in the corner and starting a pool fast. See you again when its time.....