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?


Mark Greenhaw said...

I have found that when things around me are distracting me it is usually because my confidence in my current play is low to begin with. When I am shooting my best and thus feel I am "on my game", it is hard for ANYTHING to distract me.

Another thing I sometimes do when I feel things are distracting me is something I actually learned from a movie. In the movie "The Perfect Game", Kevin Costner's character is a pitcher. When he walks to the mound at the start of an inning and the crowd is roaring and people are yelling, he quietly composes himself and utters the phrase "Clear the mechanism". This helps him to tune out everything that is going on around him and helps him focus on the task at hand, namely throwing the baseball.

I have had good success with this in the past. It doesn't ALWAYS work but it DOES help me it seems. :-)

poolminnow said...

Mark, thanks for the comment! So, you fall in the "just deal" camp.

There are lots of great techniques for getting refocused after a distraction. But the truth is, depending on the moment or the conditions, they don't always work.

I guess the question I'm asking here is, if that doesn't work, and its still bothering you, would you consider saying something.

Mark Greenhaw said...

I feel it would definitely depend on the situation. In regard to the opponent twitching/swinging his legs, I would walk over and ask him if he realized he was doing it and would he mind not doing that while I am shooting.

As to the TD and bystander, I would probably be more passive-aggressive. I'd probably stand up from my shot, look at them until they shut up then get back down on the shot. If they resumed, I would probably say something to the TD. As you said, HE should know better. :-)

Michael Reddick said...

For me, I tend to be super passive. I think to myself, "This person is trying to distract me, so I'm going to make extra sure that I nail the shot." I take extra time to focus, plan, see the shot, and make sure my brain gives me the "GO" signal before pulling the trigger. IMHO, the best way to deal with a sharking situation is to beat your opponent. In past experiences, when I've confronted the shark directly, it ends up giving me sweaty palms and a racing heart, neither of which does any good for my game. AFTER the match, if I feel so inclined, I'll say something. The only exception to this would be if the sharking were blatantly obvious and also intentional.

Michael Reddick said...

I had a couple super passive aggressive suggestions for you.

1. For the "Conversation Shark" - When it's your turn, get into your shooting stance, take a few strokes, then pause, stand, walk over to the TD, and pleasantly join the conversation. Eventually someone will tell you that you need to take your shot, at which time you can respond, "Hold on, can't you see we're in the middle of a conversation here?"

2. For the "Shoe Shark" - Just get into your stance and start stroking, and stroking, and stroking. When your opponent asks how long you are going to keep stroking, you can respond, "I don't know, how long are you gonna keep wiggling your feet?"

Just a thought! ;-)

Samm said...

Your presence is requested...
Is there a way I can reach you? I tried to send a message to the email listed but it bounced back. :(