Saturday, October 8, 2011

Trust issues

I wanted to make it at least a month without posting now that I'm retired, but I also really wanted to share an interesting thought from Dr. Patrick Cohn's Sports Insight Newsletter:

Trust in your skills is the ability to let go of controlling thoughts during execution and rely on what you have already trained in practice. Trust is not the same mental skill as confidence. Trust happens during execution, whereas confidence precedes execution. The more confidence you have in your ability to hit the jump shot in basketball, for example, the greater likelihood of you trusting your shot.

I guess I had never really thought about the distinction between trust and confidence...but I can think of moments where I got down on the shot and I was confident I was going to make it. For some reason, I wanted to make sure I made the shot, so instead of trusting my stroke and letting it flow, I tried to control it, and missed.

Having made some changes fairly recently, I don't really trust my stroke right now. Its a new, unproven relationship. If I fall into a rhythm where I'm not really thinking about anything, my stroke works great, better than ever, but to trust it in a moment where I'm thinking "I need to make this ball," I can't help but try to grab the steering wheel (sending the ball crashing into the rail). Trust can take time do grow, I guess, but its just so strange that when things are most important, our instinct can be to do the thing that will mess us up. And that's just one of the reasons why we can't stop playing this crazy game, I guess.

**Dr. Cohn is a sports psychologist who coaches junior and professional athletes and has a number of mental toughness training resources, including a podcast, newsletter, a subscription website (which has some free stuff on it), CD/book programs (which Tyler Eddy mentioned in an interview with Samm Diep). His podcast "Get Psyched For Sports" alternates between answering a listener question and interviews with athletes or other sports psychology experts--its a great free resource.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The time has come the walrus said

More than a month has gone by since my last, very brief post. In that time I've considered a topic here or there, composed a few lines as I waited for the bus, figuring at some point, I would sit down at a computer and post at least something. And then yesterday, I realized that maybe, perhaps, for now, I was done. Not that I don't have anything more to say, but for whatever reason, I'm not drawn to say it here. So, I am announcing the retirement of Pool Minnow, sort of.

Having a blog is a little like having a goldfish. It doesn't have to be high maintenance, but you do need to feed it a little bit every now and then. It can survive awhile without changing the water, but even if the fish is okay, you feel guilty and if you wait too long, well, it just dies. The whole time it takes up space on your counter and on your to-do list, and even if you stay on top of the care and feeding, someday, its still destined to be a floater. (I don't know if that's really a good analogy, its been over 20 years since I owned any fish.)

I was a true beginner when I started this blog, and I'm still several trips to the sun and back away from being an expert. I've managed to fumble my way towards the mediocre middle...still waiting for the day when I'd feel like I earned the right to even wear one of OMGWTF's "HACK" shirts. (I still consider myself "sub-hack"). But somehow it seems right to kind of finish things here, and move on to a new phase. I'll probably post from time to time, pimp the latest RadioLab story, that kind of thing. Maybe at some point I'll be inspired to come back or start even start a new blog (although I'm kind of attached to the name).

Blogging has been a great experience in ways I never imagined. I always knew it would be a good way to record my experience and reflect on my life in pool, but my favorite thing about it has been connecting with people (both virtually and in person), who I would have never otherwise met, most of whom are in my blogroll. So thanks for reading, commenting, subscribing and allowing me to be a part of your online procrastination. It has been an honor.

Well, see you in the pool hall! (But don't interrupt me when I'm practicing!!!:-)


Sunday, July 17, 2011


A super quick blog post....I watched the end of the British Open today (yes, golf, not pool). I'm not a big golf fan, but I enjoyed watching Darren Clarke's last couple of shots to win his first major at the age of 42, on his 20th try in this particular event. He apparently gave credit to his success to this piece of advice: "Don't let your game determine your attitude, let your attitude determine your game."

Perhaps easier said than done...still inspiring to see it happen.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How would you play this?: Its the little things.....

Okay, this isn't a pool table scenario I'm asking about, but a match scenario (besides I still haven't figured out cue table): When someone is distracting you during a match, what do you do?

Here are a couple of scenarios that happened recently:

1. My opponent nervously twitches his feet or swings his legs back and forth every time he sits down. I doubt that he's even aware he's doing it. But every time I shoot in his direction its like two giant Nike hummingbirds in my view.

2. A friend of my opponent comes to sweat the match, and then engages in a conversation with the tournament director in a normal conversational voice. But the way the seating is arranged, they are very close to the table. Its impossible to not hear every word of their conversation.

Did this affect the outcome of my match? Maybe, especially the second case. But, the blame really lies in my own distractibility. If the focus wasn't there in the first place, maybe I'm just kidding myself and I wasn't going to play that well, period.

In the first case, the foot-twitcher, leg-swinger, I didn't say anything until after the match. He's a nice guy who wouldn't want to shark his opponents, but because I lost it kind of seemed like sour grapes and that was my excuse for losing (even though that's not how I felt). Plus, its too late to do me any good.

In the second case, the chatty TD & by-stander, I probably gave a couple of passive aggressive looks of death that went unnoticed. I just wasn't comfortable saying anything to them because it seemed like they had a right to be there.

In both cases, I got especially irritated because I thought these people should know better, and be more courteous (a thought that surely helped fuel any death looks).

In principle,
I think its my job as a player to block out distractions, so I'm reluctant to say anything unless I consider the "distractor" a friend. Otherwise, I just need to suck it up. After all, if I were in the Philippines, I'd have to deal with much worse.

In reality,
while there are some states of deep concentration where nothing can bother you, the truth is that most of the time, even when your playing well, we aren't that well-protected from our immediate surroundings. Stuff gets to me, to everyone (or at least a lot of people). So, another way to look at this is that the problem isn't just my inability to block out the distraction, but its also my discomfort with conflict. Maybe I should be more assertive?

But, there are downsides to saying something. Speaking up about a distraction (or even delivering looks of death), is admitting a weakness to your opponent. And in the past where I've tried to be more assertive, I've ended up feeling like I sharked myself more by saying something because the request was not well-received.

What works for you? Do you keep it all inside and just deal?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

This is NPR

Okay, so this is how much of a pool nerd I have become.:

I saw the title "This is NPR " in the window of a bookstore and my first thought was not that this was a book about National Public Radio, which it is, but "Wow, someone's made a book from the Non-Pool Related Forum (commonly referred to as NPR) on AZBilliards." This may not be odd for some people, but I listen to A LOT of National Public Radio, and have only once actually read the NPR Forum on AZ Billiards. I guess that pool is just always there as a first response for my brain to make sense of the world. hmmm time to get out more, I guess.

Anyway, this is just a segue in to saying congratulations to my friends at Radio Lab (which you can listen to on NPR) for recently winning a Peabody Award. A good friend of mine was one of the original producers, and many years ago I made some small contributions to the show when it was just starting to find a following. If you love science and good storytelling, you'll enjoy RadioLab.

I was going to link to all the Radio Lab episodes I'd put a pool spin on here in the blog, but when I did a search I could only find two. Alas, many of the posts I remembered were among those I composed in my head while sitting on a bus or train, and just never got written. They do a lot of stories on the brain, which obviously apply to the mental side, but I find connections a lot of their material. ( I guess that pool is just always there as a first response for my brain to make sense of the world. hmmm time to get out more, I guess.)

Anyway, the two that made it from brain to blog:
Check out more episodes or subscribe to their podcast at One of my recent favorites includes a story about a woman named Zelda used the Ku Klux Klan to help her stop smoking (Check out the episode Help!).

So congrats to Jad, Ellen & crew. You are masters of your craft!

Monday, May 23, 2011

The odds of three

I had some time on the commuter train this past week, and got around to reading through the 9-Ball section of Phil Capelle's Play Your Best Pool. Right in keeping with my nostalgic look back on the thrill of running 3-balls in my last post, Phil offers this analysis of the odds of running the last 3 balls on the table.

"You'd be surprised at how often the majority of pool players fail to negotiate the all important last three balls. One reason is simply the numerical odds of pocketing three balls in a row....Once you can regularly get out from the 7-ball, you'll be beating a lot of players that you thought were pretty good up until now."

So here's how he breaks down the math:

  • If you make 70% of your shots, you have a 1 in 3 chance (34%)
  • If you make 80% of your shots, you have a 1 in 2 chance (51.8%)
  • If you make 90% of your shots, you get out most of the time, but still dog it in about 1 in four tries (73%)
These figures are a little depressing. Its pretty startling to think if I'm looking at an easy out with shots that I miss one out of ten tries (and that's including getting the right position in many cases), the stats say, I blow it a quarter of the time. That doesn't seem right, but if I was honest about it, it's probably true.

I'm not sure I really want this going through my head as I walk up to the table after my opponent has missed the seven. But, I guess its good inspiration to remember to never take any shot for granted, and bear down on the last three. It would be nice to be the kind of player who beats their average if its the three that can win you the game.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The good ol' days

I spent a little time tonight reading through some of my older blog posts (can't believe I started 4 years ago. Where does the time go?) One thing that really struck me was how proud I was when ever I had a three-ball out. (It was kind of my measure for success at the time).

It made me a little nostalgic for those early beginning days. I had to work hard for those three ball outs, and sometimes I still do. The difference is, now, if I fail, I'm much harder on myself. And even if I succeed, there's just not the same pay-off, because I'm supposed to get out. Successful execution is probably more of a relief than anything.

Can you think back and remember how satisfying it was to get any ball in the pocket the first time you picked up a cue stick? nothing like it..

I'm not exactly sure what my point is here....whether its to appreciate the little things (i.e. successful shots no matter how basic), and approach the world with the proverbial beginner's mind, or if its just to observe that the further up the hill you get, sometimes the steeper the climb. I do miss those little 3-ball victories.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Yes, I've heard of one pocket!!!!

Its early on a Sunday and the room is almost empty. I picked my favorite the middle of the room, with tighter, but not the tightest pockets. One side has seating in between it and the next table, so its good for drills. I'm working on a one-rail position drill. I'm shooting pretty well, but I've been a little unfocused...and I'm really trying to get back on track.

Then, this guy I've never seen before hovers over my table (this hasn't happened in a long time):

Mosquito: "How you doing?"
Me: "Um, I'm fine"
Mosquito: "You ever hear of a game called one-pocket?"

Oh sweet lord. Really? Really? If I were playing in a bar, this would be a perfectly reasonable question, but in a pool hall, where I'm clearly a regular, that holds a monthly one-pocket tournament?

I answer "Yes. If you're looking for a game, you should ask for Billy." He says something more but I've returned to my drill. He walks away, but I suspect what is coming next.

There are at least 10 tables available. With a whole room of tables, my new friend, mosquito, decides to take the one closest to me.

I never look over at the table, unless I'm checking to see if I will interfere with his shot. The whole time though, I feel like he's trying to get my attention. Everything he does, his warm up strokes, his comments to himself, somehow I feel like he's performing for my benefit.

It turns out he had a pre-arranged game and eventually the other guy shows up. I start to think that maybe I was wrong, and I'm just full of myself. It also occurs to me that I'm hungry and my blood sugar is low, and I should probably give up on practice and get food. I play for a little longer and then start to pack up.

Immediately, mosquito turns around (in the middle of his rack):

Mosquito: "Where you going? Its too early to leave!"
Me: "I've got lots to do."
Mosquito: "No, no, its too early. What you going to do now?"
Me: "Stuff. I was lucky to find time to come down here in the first place."
Mosquito: "Well, that's my kind of woman who comes down on a Sunday to shoot pool..blah, blah"

What am I supposed to say? Gee, lucky me, cuz that's the reason I came down to shoot pool in the first place...I ignore the comment.

Mosquito: "So, do you know any bars in the City that are good for pool?"
Me: [I give him the name of a good pool bar that I never go to.]
Mosquito: "Do you go there?"
Me: "No." And I leave, unfortunately, with the sense that he was not discouraged.

In a world where there exist violent dictators, serial gropers, and American Idol, this is not the worst thing going on. When this kind of thing happens in a bar, so be it, or even the bus, which is a public place after all. Its annoying, but I can cope. But in the pool hall, as expected as it is, it just offends me. Pool is a sanctuary of sorts for me, and its a sanctuary that I pay for by the hour. Please let me practice in peace!

I'm fortunate, as this hasn't happened in a long time. There used to be one or two regulars who were a problem, but I haven't seen them in awhile, and even they got the idea that I wasn't interested in being chatted up and left me alone.

I guess its back to the corner table with the buckets for awhile...

Monday, April 11, 2011

The benefits of exhaustion

It was the end of a long day. I started playing in an event at noon and finished around a quarter to seven. Actually, that's a short day by pool standards, but I was disappointed with the results, and I think that drained a little more energy from me.

As I was driving home, I realized the timing was just right to hit a Saturday night tourney near by. The inner debate began:

Don't Go: "You've really had enough pool for today. Its a little crazy to play another tournament."

Go: "Yeah, but do you really don't want to go home a loser. This is your chance to win at least one match."

Don't Go:"Yeah, but you're pretty tired, how depressing would it be to lose in two tournaments in one day."

"Even if you lose, its good experience. Big tournaments often start at noon and go into the night. This will be good for your stamina. Besides, maybe you'll be warmed up."

"Go" wins out, not for any reason other than "I want to" and I pull up to a parking place just in time to get one warm up game before the tourney starts. The good news is I'm playing pretty well. The atmosphere is relaxed, and it feels much more like the games you play for fun AFTER the match is over. You know, as soon as the pressure is off, suddenly the game feels effortless.

I end up in the finals. I've already exceeded my expectations, and I am pretty tired, so I ask my opponent to split. He really wants to play it out, which was fine, too. I close my eyes for a minute and breathe. Its not that I'm feeling any pressure, but I can feel the tiredness starting to catch up with me, and just the edges of crankiness are starting to show. When I'm cranky, I don't stroke smoothly. Its like I take out my crankiness on the cue ball and punch at it and hit too hard. So, before that takes root, I just try to accept being tired and relax through it.

Towards the end of the first game I realize that my opponent has a few quirks. He has a really idiosyncratic way of lining up his shots. He walks up to the table and stands behind the shot with his feet tightly pressed together, slightly leaning over the table. Then keeping his head perfectly still take little tiny steps moving his body into position. The process was done with a distinct rhythm (think Charlie Chaplin or maybe Fred Flintstone bowling). It was oddly graceful if somewhat un-natural. Then, to add the final touch to this unique ritual, upon settling into his shot, he kind of flicked his tongue in and out in an effort to concentrate.

The truth is pool is filled with some strange birds. And really, if any of this helps him shoot better, then by all means he should keep doing it and never mind what anyone else thinks. The thing is, this stuff gets to me. There's something about this kind of un-natural ritualistic movement that distracts me. And as far as tongues and facial expressions, I've made it a point to try to ignore what people look like when they shoot, because sometimes its too funny and it becomes all I can think about. This leads to being annoyed at myself for being distracted over such a small thing.

Obviously, on this night, I was not successful at ignoring my opponent. I noticed all the oddities. And I noticed that they were annoying. But, I was not annoyed. It was as if in my relaxed tiredness I was somewhere very far away, where all those petty little annoyances couldn't get me. I was able to conserve what little energy I had left. I won the match in straight games and went home.

I remember reading about a pain management technique where patients view the part of their body that hurt through the wrong end of a telescope. Seeing their foot or hand as very small and far away, was a fairly successful way to manage the pain. (Or without a telescope, doing the same with visualization). My experience in this tournament makes me think that the small and distant imagery might be a useful technique for dealing with opponents who are irritating. (Without the telescope, of course, unless you're Earl Strickland).

Anyway, I hope it works. Tomorrow in league, we're up against a team that has a player known even by his friends as "Scrunch Face." He's the nicest guy, but dear lord, its like playing a muppet. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The flesh is willing, but the mind is weak

Back when I first started this blog, I considered myself a choker. I saw my pool game improving, but when it came down to finishing the important game, I couldn't do it. It wasn't surprising. I could look back in my life and think of so many experiences where I had the opportunity to live up to my potential, and didn't....moments where I grasped defeat from the jaws of victory or never got out of the gate. I would have never said this out loud, but deep down I KNEW I was a loser.

But pool was an opportunity to change that. I decided to change the perception that my ability to win or lose was somehow an inherent part of my character, and instead to approach it as a skill that could be learned. Its funny, now it seems so trite to say that, but at the time I really had to shift my thinking.

I got my hands on some great books (some that I've mentioned here), worked on some of their training programs to change perception and develop skills to handle pressure situations. I saw progress, but when I couldn't wait any longer, I bit the bullet, and shelled out more than I wanted to for the "Overcoming Contenderosis Self-Hypnosis" CD's. It was A LOT MORE than I was comfortable spending, especially since I thought I might be getting ripped off (Although an email from FastMikie helped me feel better about that. Nowadays you can buy the individual CD's separately at Bebob Publishing, but at the time you had to buy the entire set.) But I figured that having made the investment, I'd be more likely to put in the time to see if it worked.

Within a week, I began a 10-match winning streak. I felt invincible. But then the moment I lost, despite my efforts to contextualize it as normal and inevitable, it was like the bubble had been burst, and all my new found faith dispersed. I went on a losing streak.

But I stuck with the self-hypnosis and continued to seek out pressure situations. In retrospect, that initial success was just a placebo effect. I hadn't yet put the time in needed to build the "muscle memory" of my mind. After several months, I learned what it felt like to consciously relax deeply. I could listen to the beginning of the recording, or take a couple of deep breaths, and all the tension in my body would just melt. I could then skip ahead to listen to the very end and listen to "you're about to wake up. And when you do you will be fresh and alert, as if you have just slept." I'd open my eyes, and, sure enough, others would comment, "What happened? You look so refreshed."

It didn't work 100% of the time, but I could feel and see the difference in my performance from the studying, the self-hypnosis and getting experience in pressure situations. I started liking pressure. I felt that's when I played my best.

In the past year, I haven't spent much less time on the mental game. Partially, because I was happy with what I had learned, and partially because I was struggling with some bigger issues of motivation (fake it til you make it!). And, lets face it. Those self-hypnosis tapes start to get pretty boring after you've listened to them a zillion times. I figured I needed to take a break from it.

Now I'm finding motivation again and I'm not faking it. I care what happens in my matches. Of course, I still see myself as that same pressure player, but when I actually walk up to the table, it doesn't feel like it. I guess I thought that motivation was the real problem, and that once that barrier was removed, all my dormant mental skills would appear as soon as I really, really wanted them to. And now I'm realizing that is like thinking you will weigh fifteen pounds less just because you find the right dress.

I guess I will have to get back to work....

So, anyone have any mental game book recommendations? I'd like to re-read the ones on my shelf, but would like to pick up something new, too. I've got Pleasure of Small Motions, both James Loehr books on Mental Toughness, and Zen Golf by Joseph Parent (which is awesome...a great recommendation from Liz Ford).

And, I just want to say thanks to Caroming the Combination for his recent post on Thinking too much, and reminding me that the mental game takes practice.

[Also, if anyone is as crazy as me, and is interested in trying the Overcoming Contenderosis CD's I have some definite opinions about which ones are worth trying. Self-hypnosis isn't for everyone, but I was please with the results.]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Feeling groovy

Just a quick post to say that I've been too happily busy to blog much. Things seem to be falling into place. I love the new league and look forward to it each week. I'm getting in practice time, finding the discipline to really work on my weaknesses (instead of banging the balls around). I even wrote down a training plan for my practice sessions this month, which is the kind of thing I usually think about doing, feel I should do, and then don't. And, a couple of friends with skills have volunteered to work with me on my 9-ball game. It feels like good opportunities are finding me.

Not sure if it's that spring is here, or if it's just the pendulum swinging the other way, but its nice to feel like I'm headed in a good direction.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Was I really that bad?

After making a big deal of becoming "league-free," I have to fess up: I'm on a team again. It was kind of a misunderstanding, but its a BCA team playing 8-ball on big tables, so its still a change of pace. When it happened, I decided to run with it. These things happen for a reason, right?

Anyway, last night was my first night playing for this team. I don't know anyone on my team or the opposing team team. I only know a handful of people in the league. We were playing one of the better teams in the league.

I know its best not to think this way, but I couldn't help wanting to show my new teammates I can play at least a little. Not an easy task, because for whatever reason, I've been feeling awkward and impatient at the table lately, especially playing 8-ball.

I lost the first game, although the first inning was not a complete embarrassment. Besides, I'm just warming up, right?

Then, in the middle of my second game, my opponent from my first match calls a time-out on me to let me know that I am playing so badly that he assumes I have never played real 8-ball before: "Pool Minnow, this is 8-ball. You know you don't always have to go for a shot. 8-ball is like chess. You must try to use strategy."

This was ironic, because I was actually going for a two way shot, with the hope I would get a good leave and block a pocket if I missed. I had called the pocket, just in case. My shot wasn't a great shot, but it was the best one that my tired-self could see in that moment. He pointed out a much better shot that was both more strategically advantageous and easier to execute. But, since he was on the other team, and wasn't supposed to be coaching me anyway, I felt I should stick to my original plan.

I went for the shot...
missed by a diamond and a half...
didn't block the pocket...
and scratched.

Wow. I showed him!

And that was pretty much the highpoint of my evening.

Oh well, I guess there's nowhere to go but up!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Nobody puts Baby in the corner

I think I may have lost my mind in Reno this weekend at the US Bar Table Championships. Watching all those great strokes was inspiring, but it got me to thinking: its virtually impossible for me to get in the practice time I need to really improve in the way I would like.

I have a full-time job. Actually, its more than a full-time job. I have no car, and either pool hall in the city is 2 buses away, so I have to plan for about 2.5 hours to get in 1 hour of practice. At the end of a long day or a long week, its sometimes hard to drag myself on public transit, even if I really want to practice.

So this is what I'm considering: taking out my couch and putting a pool table in the corner. Yes, in the corner. Think about it....there are an awful lot of drills you can do with only two sides. I kind of like the idea of it not being a fully functional table. I'm thinking the limited access will make me want to do drills rather than just hit balls around.

The deal would be to do it for one year, and then sell the table (unless I really loved the set up). At the same time, I'd give up cable for the year (which is just a waste of money) to help pay for the table in case I can't find something cheap on Craigslist.

So here's the part I'm unsure does kind of mean that I'm devoting a large part of my everyday living space to pool. I'm fortunate to live in a 1-bedroom, so I would effectively start living in a studio with a pool training room, almost completely taken up by a pool table. (i.e. you can't flop down on the green felt at the end of a long day to relax and watch House. It would take up a lot of my space.)

Is this crazy?

Or given the amount of mental space that pool already takes up, does it make perfect sense?

Is there anyway to know unless I try?

Well, the tape measure is out and I'm working on the redesign of my apartment. Not sure I will actually go through with it, but stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

and never looked back...

Yes, in case you were wondering, I have stayed league-free. And I'm happy about it. There were those who doubted I could really do it. Even now when I say I'm taking a break from playing league, some people think that means I'm playing only one night. Others were sure that once the season rolled around that some invitation to join a team would pull me back in. There were invitations, and they were declined.

I've been to league nights. Sweated friends' matches. Enjoyed a spirited beverage or two. And never once have I regretted not being in the line up. I'll admit that I can feel a slight loss of edge, not having that weekly competition, but the reality is I think that was slipping anyway.

And now the fun begins. I've long wanted to go back and take a good look at my fundamentals and rebuild, something that just seemed too hard when I was competing weekly. That may have just been an excuse. Truth is I dread doing it, but know it must be done if I want to get to another level.

The video. The dreaded watching myself on video.
The drills. The dreaded drills that I loved when I first started and I did until I couldn't stand them anymore.
The awkward, not-comfortable feeling of changing well-grooved habits. ick.

Oh well, I'm a masochist anyway, so sign me up.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why pep talks don't work...

I came in second in a tournament this weekend, after missing an easy 8-ball hill-hill. It was the classic scenario. The seven ball was the tough one. Make it, and the 8 & 9 were easy shots with natural shape. I just got down on that 8-ball and thought a second too long, took an extra practice stroke....lordy, I have no idea what kind of stroke came from my arm, it was some kind of twisty-exorcist kind of craziness!

I just laughed, as I've been in one of those awkward periods where nothing feels quite right--not my cue, not my stance, not my stroke, not my bridge...I'm just off. I've come to accept this as a "refinement" phase, so I was surprised and happy just to be in the finals.

A fellow competitor who I've gotten to know a little bit decided to stay to root me on. Once I made it to the semi-finals he said that he was going to stay to watch me win this. He kept saying things like "You can do it." " I know you can win this thing." "All the way." Sometimes he sat next to me during the match, and when my opponent missed he'd say, "There you go!"

It was really awkward for me because he's a really nice guy and meant well. I know that I wasn't exuding confidence (refinement phase and all, you know), but I was comfortable where I was. Despite all his positivity, his comments made me feel less confident. They were meant to build me up, but they actually made me feel small.

Here is my translation of the pep talk:
"I'm not sure you're going to win this match. Its possible you could win this match, but I think you need some help. I'm going to try to encourage you to by being really positive, because I'm not confident you will do it on your own."

I feel a little bad even writing this because I know that he really wanted to see me win, and maybe for some people those words would have been really encouraging and helpful. If he had said, "That's a really tough match, you don't have a chance," it would have been much less distracting.I didn't ask him to stop, and perhaps I should have. I tend to believe that I need to develop the skills to block out anything that is unhelpful. Maybe I just need to work on how I internally translate those type of comments. Its not the first time that I've been felt undermined by them.

The mental game is so personal...what works for one person doesn't work for the next. Hell, what works in one moment, doesn't always work in the next. I think one place where people misstep is they forget to start with the present....accepting whatever mental state you (or the person you're coaching is) are in. Good mental coaching doesn't build uncovers it. The pep talk, if not done right, is trying to cover up whatever is wrong with something pretty. It tries to compensate for doubt, which for me, makes it harder to let doubt fade away.

Confidence is an unconditional state in which you simply possess an unwavering state of mind that needs no reference point. There is no room for doubt; even the question of doubt does not occur. --- Venerable Chogyam Trungpa from Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

(This post needs some serious editing, but I haven't posted in awhile, so I'm just going to let her ride...Happy New Year!)