I did not survive Sudden Death, but I certainly learned something from it.
Two weeks ago, my beloved pool team made a valiant effort to win the Citywide Tournament but got knocked out in the first round. It was close, we should have won....but a combination of failure to execute and not choosing the best strategy let us watch a 2-0 lead slip away....and left us with no more matches and the dream of the Nationals in Vegas faded into obscurity.
The big difference between the Citywide tournament and our regular session playoffs, is that becasue its a Higher Level Tournament, there is actually a time limit. Normally, we play five matches, and it takes as long as it takes. At the Citywide, after 3 hours and 45 minutes, the format switches to Sudden Death. Any match starting after 3:45 minutes, is a race to one game. Handicaps disappear. Luck plays a greater role. The pressure is on.
We won our first two matches, which meant we needed only one more. I still had two good players. They still had two good players. I decided to play first a four and then a six against their two 5's. I was sure that we would win one of those. Our 4 is usually a pretty speedy player, so I put him up first--whether he won or lost-- it would be a fairly quick outcome. Then our SL6 could put it away in the next match. Of course it wasn't meant to be, and we lost the next two matches, and that left me to play the Sudden Death game against another SL3. (And by now I'm really kicking myself for not playing myself in that 3rd match, possibly sacrificing the match. If we lost the next one, we would have been at the advantage with a 4-3 match up.)
So, now I'm playing a Sudden Death game. I'm actually kind of excited. As a captain, I wouldn't have wanted this to happen, but as a player, I'm grateful for the experience. One game. If I lose, my team does not go to Vegas. I can win this. The other match has finished, so now the bar is filled with interested parties, all watching. I won't go through the blow by blow. So, obviously I lost. I certainly had my chances to put it away. Mostly, though, I'm pround that mentally I played strong throughout. Occasionally, I would catch a glimpse of the large crowd at the bar, all staring at me, and I just pushed it out of my mind. While my focus wasn't exactly laser sharp, nerves surely played some role, my thoughts were not filled with letting my team down, not going to Vegas or the fact that everyone was watching in the critical moment. So, that's a good thing.
As I'm writing this, I realize though, that my mind wasn't filled with lots of positive images. I've sometimes been able to pull my game together by thinking about how pleased my coach is when I make a great shot. I also didn't get the same positive support in between innings from my other teammates that I've had in the past.
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