Friday, December 12, 2008

Boring update not really deserving a catchy title

Just wanted to give a little update, in case I don't get around to actually doing a real post this weekend.

I've taken a nice long break from league play. I haven't played since before Thanksgiving and have permission to sit out until February unless there's an emergency. I really appreciate that I have teammates that are willing to support me....or maybe they just want to get rid of me. But when you keep going when you know you shouldn't, it doesn't work for anyone.

I started off the season with a clean slate, and it showed in my game. But I noticed on the weeks I played league, I tended to be less focused in practice. And each week it got a little worse. Maybe, it was just exhaustion from the late nights, or maybe all the league drama was sticking to my brain more than necessary.

In my extra time, I've been following my plan of playing pool in different situations, playing more 9-ball, and sticking to a revamped practice routine to focus on basics. It feels great. And at the moment, I have no desire to return to a league at all, but I'm sure that will change.

Also, who needs league when there's so much great pool that's being streamed live on the web? In the last few weeks, the Great Southern Billiard Tour One-Pocket & 10-ball, Ring Game in Olathe, KS, and now the Reno Open on AZBTV. Its great to be able to watch good pool with out having to travel to the wintry locations that are so good for the sport!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water

If you've been following my blog for a year or so, you know that I have been a fan of OMGWTF's "Bitch I will cut you" Bunny T-Shirt. (A great Christmas gift for the Bitchy Bunny in your life, or better yet Easter...). There's a whole menagerie of cuddly animals with attitude, to surprise and amuse those who dare to stare.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water....there is now, Pool Minnow the T-Shirt, created by OMGWTF and inspired by this blog.

I'll post pics later, but for now, here's the link to check it out, and buy one yourself. (I'm hoping that it might be possible to get them in kid sizes at some point).

Pool Minnow T-Shirt

Thanks, OMG. I'm honored.
Still just a minnow with big dreams of kicking butt up the food chain....and someday, maybe, being closer to the top of it. But now I'm a minnow with a new T-Shirt. Hooray! Laundry can wait another day...more pool!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How good am I?

This week I entered my first weekly tournament (at last, actually following through on the plans I've set out on this blog). There were some other big tournaments in the area, so turnout was a little light, which was fine by me. It was a small, fairly laid back, $10 buy-in handicapped 9-ball tournament. It was great to be doing something different, and to see some new faces, as well as on average a much higher caliber of player than in my APA league.

To set my handicap, they used my APA Skill Level. I was give a "C" rating, the lowest in the system. This made sense to me because I have a hard time imagining that I'm more than a D player, but they didn't have D's. I guess some people don't like the letter "D" so they cut it out and a la Spinal Tap added "11" to the dial.

My first match I went down to a 5-1 defeat to a "AA" player, picking up one rack after he left an easy 2-ball out. I played some decent safeties, but mostly didn't have much of a chance to shoot. I was happy though, because I had come here to get my ass kicked by people who should kick my ass, and that's exactly what happened.

My match on the losers side was also against a "AA" player. He made some mistakes, and I shot quite well, for me, and took the first rack. The next rack, I was getting ridiculously lucky, double banking shots in, slopping a ball in on a carom when I was going for a combo. I started to feel a little guilty, missed an easy shot, and he ran out. Third rack, he seemed to be in control, but it was a tricky pattern. I got to the table a couple of times and I left him a tough bank on the eight, which he went for and barely missed, leaving me an easy shot in the side with effortless shape on the nine on the end-rail. I win, 2-1.

I overheard a "wow" on the sidelines, as in, "I can't believe he just lost." Yes, its a little twisted, this crazy game of 9-ball. I got some lucky rolls, and he sold out. He was the better player. I won the match. But, if these things didn't happen every now and then, what's the point of even having a handicapped tournament?

As it turns out, one of the spectators was my next opponent. An "A" player. He didn't seem happy about my rating, although he wasn't making a fuss. When I asked him if he thought I should be a "B" player, he said, "You just beat so&so 2-1. That's amazing." "Well, you saw that match. If I got those rolls all the time, I can beat just about anyone." Which was meant as a humble observation on our fickle sport, although I sensed that it may not have been taken that way. Anyway, my luck continued, and I won 2-2 (in a 2-4 race) when he rattled the 9.

Next match, I was treated to a 0-7 slaughter by one of the best players there. I had a couple of chances to get out, but it was late, and I was more in observe mode, than attack mode. I hadn't really set out to win this match (not that any effort on my part was likely to change the outcome). I was happy to watch this talented kid work his way through his run-outs and learn sitting from a front row seat. Hooray, order was restored to the universe. The C player was knocked out.

All in all, I was very happy with the tournament. But it did leave me wondering "How good am I?", and realizing that's a question that I'm constantly trying to answer, but better off leaving alone as much as I can. There are some instances where that question is important, but most of the time trying to answer that just holds me back. Its just a tiny step away from "Will they like me?" or "Do I deserve to win?" or "Who am I?". These questions have no place in pool. Actually, when I'm playing, any questions beyond the scope of the table are just out of order.

So, I hereby swear to stop contemplating the meaning of life when I play and to never, ever again feel guilty for:

* Lucky rolls. We all get them from time to time. It only angers the Pool Gods to squander these gifts.
* Winning when a better player sells out. If they give it away, I'll make them pay. I'm the opponent, and that's my job.
* My handicap and whether people think its fair. I'm new here. If someone has a problem with my rating, they can tell the tournament director and I will happily abide by their decision. That's his/her job.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

All zenned up with no place to go

Its probably a bad idea to blog when I'm as grouchy as I am right now. I'm grouchy about work, grouchy about the weather, grouchy about pool, I'm grouchy about my weak coffee and overly sugary muffin. Grouchy about my computer. Grouchy about the earth's axis and my distance from the equator and what its doing to the daylight right now.

But weak coffee and slow computers aside....

I'm in kind of a strange place with pool right now. On the one hand, I feel like my clean slate has really done my game some good. (There's really a whole other post in the details of that, but not today). On the other, I've been increasingly frustrated with league, and have been pretty much the opposite of zen on league nights.

Partially, its just pent up stress from work that's spilling into after hours, but its also that I suspect the APA isn't good for my game right now. That's not to say that I have everyone's number and I'm definitively kicking ass left and right. I am still a tiny, tiny fish in a small pond. But, its a lot of the same fish, and familiarity breeds boredom. Boredom breeds sloppy pool. Sloppy pool leads to drinking. Which leads to grouchy mornings at work.

So, its time to really get clear on my goals for the next year or so, (I know, how many times have I said that?), and then think about how I spend my pool time. I doubt that I'll drop APA completely, but if what I'll really enjoy is getting my butt kicked by someone who really knows how to do it and can teach me something, then I've got to get outside of league, because the opportunities for that are too few and far between here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Long time, no update

Its been quite awhile since I updated. I've been having some difficulty with my home internet connection again, and work has been too demanding to sneak in blogging time on the job.

I'll get into some details later, hopefully this weekend, but I'm feeling really good about the new perspective. My game has been up and down...but mostly because so has my life. But when I'm both motivated and have relatively few distractions from my personal and professional life, I've played well. Not playing like I know I "can", but more like I think I "should." In other words, I haven't been finding the elusive zone, and playing as if handed a magic cue from above. That does happen every now and then. Its great, but it can also ruin my appreciation for those days when I only play "good."

So, I've been playing "good." And really, right now, that's all I want.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Repacking Pandora's Box

I decided this weekend to take a drastic step. If I was really going to commit to this idea that I have enough knowledge and ability to play good pool, then I needed to clean things up a bit. So, I took a box, and rounded up all my pool books, magazines & DVD's, and packed them away. While I was at it, I thought, why not just go for a completely new start, so I added all my plaques, trophies (okay, trophy) and patches. Phil Cappelle's Play Your Best 8-Ball tried to hide out under the bed, but I found it and put it in. I know it hardly seems fair when I've barely cracked the spine, but all temptations need to be removed. Later that night as I brushed my teeth, I looked in the mirror and realized that I had been sleeping in a tournament T-Shirt. In the box it went.

After the few remaining stragglers had been rounded up, the various items filled the one box perfectly. I tied it up with string and put it in the back of the closet for safe keeping.

I'll be back for them, but for now I'm enjoying the spaciousness of a clean slate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Enough is enough....

If I have a fatal flaw, its probably that I want to know everything. And, I want to know it now. I would happily drown trying to drink too much and too fast from the fire hydrant of all things pool related.

After the end of the league summer session, the coming and going of the Singles Regional, my sideline envy of participants in the US Amateur, I was ready to dive right in with new determination, devour knowledge, practice intensely and kick major butt.

And then something unexpected happened.

Just as I was getting ready to set up a renewed and revived schedule with Coach, he said that he couldn't coach me anymore. :-(

Suddenly, my path to greatness seemed that much harder and much less fun. Left to my own devices, I wander and digress and develop bad habits. And while there are a great many options for help, they are mostly piecemeal and not the same as having a mentor. This was very bad news.

And then I wondered:
They say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. Does that also mean that when the student is ready the teacher will go away?

As I stopped fighting the reality, I realized that maybe this is a good thing. Coach is by far the best pool teacher I have ever had. But sometimes, I've felt that Coach pushed things a little too fast. He would repeat mercilessly within one session, but the next session he would move onto something else without going back over what I had learned last time. I'm very quick to catch on to a new shot in practice, but over time that momentary mastery seems to fade, and its then added to the list of many things that I know, that I can try, but just can't rely on.

Its like what they say, an amateur will practice a shot until they can make it, a pro will practice until they can't miss it. I'm such an amateur.

So, enough is enough. I know enough to play some very good pool. Better pool than I actually play. So, I'm putting it all away, and starting all over again, from the beginning, and learn how to make the most of what I already have.

Thanks, Coach, for all your help...but I'll be okay on my own...(until you or another teacher show up again).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Life before pool

Okay, just keeping up to date here.....I'm afraid I can't really report on my "Do nothing" tournament preparation strategy, as I was slapped with a last minute, critical assignment at work. I was pretty furious about it, because the crisis was totally unnecessary, and it meant I wasn't able to make it to the Singles Regional Tournament :-(. I had to forfeit my $100 without getting to play a single match. :-( And we'll never know what might have been.

On the plus side, I saved on gas and hotel and driving for hours....all of which I would of gladly suffered, well, maybe not gladly. Of course, if I didn't have the job, I wouldn't have the $100 in the first place, so I won't throw my computer out the window quite yet. Just sneak out to play pool more often. :-)

Nothing wrong with first place loser, right?

Grrrr. Not much to say this week except both my teams went down in the finals this week. First night, I played like a hero to make it hill-hill, but our line-up just didn't have enough strength left to close it out against the other team's anchor. The next night, I was the one who let it slip away. First couple of games, I couldn't make a ball, but then I came back shooting strong, got to the hill, and hit my 8-ball too hard and to thin and watched it bank into the wrong pocket. What a way to go.....sorry, guys. A very inconvenient time to learn a valuable lesson.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Winning ugly

It doesn't have to be pretty, right? I think personally, I feel better when I play well and lose, but when it comes down to bringing it in for the team, yeah I'd rather win. A few months ago Samm Diep had an article where she interviewed some top pros (I'll add the link later), and they all pretty much said the same thing, given the choice, they'll take the win however they can get it. (That's not surprising, considering that's how they make their living and winning really affects their bottom line. ) So, I ain't to proud to take it anyway I can get it.

First round of play offs and I ended up anchoring. That's not what the plan was, but one thing led to another....and it was up to me to bring in the case match. I'd like to think that I can handle the pressure, but I was definitely feeling nerves. My match didn't start until after midnight, and unfortunately, the one thing that really hampers my ability to stay calm, is being tired. I get a little physically clutzy in the early hours of the morning and I guess I'm a little psychologically clutzy too. Nothing seems to work as well.

I was on the hill, I had ball in hand with 2 balls left, and got them in to set up for a pretty easy shot on the 8 in the corner. I was lined up. I could see it. I could feel it. It was going in. And then, I went to shoot it and ... Wah? I barely stroke the ball....and the 8 dribbles into the rail. It was like an opera singer on stage taking in that deep breath and preparing to start a full-throated expressive finale. They open their mouth and "sqqquueeeaaak" nothing comes out. Sometimes, you don't feel right about a shot and then you're not surprised, but this was not the case. Somehow, my mind and stroking arm were completely disconnected. I was so intent on my aiming point and alignment, I guess forgot to breathe and stroke the ball. Damn. Fortunately, it left the 8 as a makable cut, that was prone to overcutting...My opponent followed the script, missed the ball and left the 8 right in front of the pocket.

I have to say that while that was a truly horrible shot, it didn't phase me. "oh, I missed. Let's not do that again." I was on to the next shot. That was probably my best mental moment of the game.

So, next time. Focus on getting my rhythm. Seeing the shot BEFORE I get down on the table, and focusing on my stroke. I might have been trying my damndest to hit my target, but was still using all of the pocket that I could. I know that when I let my stroke lead the way, that even when I miss, I'm getting closer to finding that place mentally where the pockets all look huge and the ball rolls right in the center. Why not just let it be in charge.

Friday, September 26, 2008

A radical concept in tournament preparation: Do nothing

Okay, so I realize this notion is false in two ways. First, I'm sure there's nothing radical about not obsessively preparing for this tournament. In fact, I imagine that the vast majority of players of my level are doing just that: nothing. Based on the high number of no-shows, not only are they not preparing, they're actually busy making other plans.

Second, I'm not actually doing nothing. The idea is this: be confident in where my game is now and focus on getting everything else in my life in order, so that when I'm at the tournament, there's nothing free floating around on my to-do list that may cause underlying anxiety. I initially considered taking a complete breather from pool, but decided that I would fit in some short, focused practice sessions to mostly work on smooth straight in follow shots. Who knows, maybe next week I'll feel like something else.

The truth is, I really have everything I need, for now. I just need to be at a place mentally so it comes out. Namaste.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Win some...lose some more....and sitting on the sidelines

I seem to be alternating between confident peak performances where I let my stroke out and really play, and games where I hold back and play too tightly, afraid to lose. Its funny how sometimes success can raise your expectations and actually undermine you. I think that may be what's going on here. But as long as I remember that the losses hold valuable lessons, and may be just what I need to succeed when it really matters, I'm good.

Outside of league play.....

I've been spending a lot of time as a railbird. Two weekends ago at the World Ten-Ball Qualifier and then this weekend at the US Amateur Qualifier. A couple of friends have given me a hard time that I'm not playing this weekend. Not because I'm really that level of player, but because they know I love playing in tournaments and think the experience would be good for me.

At the time the application was due, I was in the midst of a major losing streak, and the idea of paying 40 bucks to watch 2 matches where my opponent runs racks of 9-ball on me didn't sound like a good deal. I can play in four $10 double elimination tournaments for the same amount, and watch 8 matches where my opponents run racks of 9-ball on me. I decided to wait until next year and play a lot of 9-ball in the meantime.

Of course, I wake up this morning....and I want to play! (There are only 11 players in the women's qualifier, which really makes me sad. But I'm happy that my recruitment efforts added 2 players to the mix).

Alas, I won't be playing today, but its good to be hungry. The APA Regional Singles is in a couple of weeks. I'm starting to get itchy...Its been a whole month since Vegas and I want to go back.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Making Waves

I was listening to a friend of mine, a BCA instructor, give a lesson about the importance of separating thinking and planning from execution at the table. He described watching Efren Reyes play at a tournament. How, in between his turns, he was slumped in his chair almost half-asleep. When it came time to shoot, he sort of shuffled to the table, scruffy, looking over the layout, chalked his cue, made a decision. The moment Efren got down to shoot, it was like he sucked up all the energy in the room, focusing it intently into the pure and precise execution of his shot. When the shot was over, the energy dissipated and he returned to just the way he was before.

This reminded me of one of the really interesting things I learned from The New Toughness Training for Sports by James Loehr. (Which incidentally really is NOT a new version of Mental Toughness Training for Sports. The original is far superior, but more on that later). The best athletes are the best wave makers. They can bring intense focus and energy during the critical times, and then release it and go into recovery mode. Great tennis players use even 25-seconds in between points to get just a blip of recovery, before gearing up for the next point (that actually kind of blows my mind).

This kind of discipline about intentionally recovering, supposedly, helps with eliminating the lapses in focus at the wrong time. I imagine that 100-ball runners in straight pool are probably great at this, too. Anyway, food for thought....I have to remember this the next time I need to clear more than 3-balls from the table.

Win some - Lose some

My league matches this week were not especially remarkable. I played okay. I won once and lost once. When I focused I played pretty well, but I had a little trouble sustaining focus. In general, I didn't feel super confident at the table. I don't have much earth shattering to say about the play. So here are some random observations:

Some things I did well (mostly in my second match):

* I did check-in to see how I was feeling and tried to adjust my thinking. I stopped myself from being irritated by how "nice" my opponent was. (Its funny, I wonder if these people realize how much they succeed at sharking their opponent by doing this. Is it really necessary to apologize for leaving your opponent tough, even if you didn't mean to. We are, afterall, competing). I stopped thinking about that and focused on the game.

* My speed control was pretty good, when I thought about it. I didn't always make the shot (which is a problem), but I'm definitely getting more comfortable moving the cue ball two and three rails for position. This is a big step forward. One shot in particular, I messed up the pattern and ended up with a shot in the side on my last ball, and the 8 on the end-rail, the wrong-end rail. I almost pocketed the ball, and the cue ball came three rails, and landed almost perfect on the 8. And luckily it also ended up being a good leave (no apology was issued however).

Some things I'd like to learn from:

* I just got to get over my heavy cue ball issues. Even just warming up, I was getting grumpy. Really grumpy. Someone should organize a mud-ball banger box open championship. Playing well with this thing, is truly a skill I don't even come close to having.

* I'm improving on being more disciplined in my thinking....but that's only part of it. I want to develop my ability to get "that feeling" - focused, relaxed, positive, engaged having fun. Being in the moment. And having fun. Yes, its not Vegas. But nothing wrong with being a bigger fish in my small pond.

* I've been trying to play the table and not the player lately. I've also experimented with really not paying that much attention to the other person when they're shooting. Going back to my seat, chatting with my teammates, socializing. I've had people do it to me, and really there's nothing wrong with it, but on some level, I just think its a little disrespectful. So, I think I only end up feeling guilty about it and sharking myself. I need to focus on the match, but be a little detached while my opponent is shooting. And when I walk up to the table for my turn clear away my thoughts about the other player.

So, that's all for now....

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oh so sad to be single again

Now that the doubles tournament is over, I have returned to the normal one-on-one league matches. Its kind of interesting to see the contrast.

When my partner and I were playing our best, it really felt like one person playing, not two. I didn't overthink. I didn't play too conservatively. I beared down when I really needed to without fear of selling out. Now, I am back to being truly only one person, and I think I'm a stronger player, but I sometimes feel like I'm two people battling over which shot to take.

Last night, in league I saw the difference. I took the first game easily--I focused, planned my run out and executed. Second game I had a lapse of concentration and a funny layout--that one slipped away. Case game I had a makable out, and a couple of different ways to go. Neither was perfect, so I chose the slightly harder first shot, thinking "Its okay if I miss this, he can't get out." Had I been in the same situation in Vegas, I would have never thought that way.

I think I chose the right pattern, but I had never noticed before how much I let down on my execution when I go for a two-way shot. I can see that I do this a lot. Whether I take the make-it-or-sell-out route or the better-safe-than-sorry pattern, I should be putting my all into getting the f*%k out. I missed twice trying to play two-way shots. I didn't miss by much and I left him tough both times. The last time, as I prepared for my next turn at the table.... he made two banks in a row, and got the f*%k out.

Lesson learned. Thanks. I plan to bring a little more of my Vegas doubles identity to the table with me next time.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Winner buys the nachos

I think the big take away from the APA Nationals, is just how important endurance is. I guess its one of those lessons that doesn't really hit home until you're successful enough to find yourself still in the later rounds of a tournament.

By the time the time we reached the quarter finals, I was ready to give it all I had. I just had less to give. I wasn't thinking as clearly and my stroke was becoming punchy. The possibility of a nice sit-down dinner instead of grabbing nachos at the Sportsbook and running to the next match, was starting to sound good. I really wasn't prepared to make the most of our unexpected success.

So here is my hindsight-is-20/20 review. (Its my blog, an I'll over-analyze if I want to):

  • Pacing expectations. In the first part of the tournament we did a good job of setting short-term goals. Our initial tournament goal was to win one match. After that, we just kept trying to go one round more. This was great until we reached the quarters. I was so happy that we had far exceeded our expectations, that one more round wasn't really a huge incentive (especially as we approached the dinner hour).

    At the beginning of the tournament, our odds of winning the whole thing, were pretty slim. The small goals were appropriate. But by the time we reached the quarters, no matter whether we were the best team left or not, our chances were actually pretty good. At this point the goal should have been to win the whole damn thing, not just one more round. I think that would have helped tap into those deep, deep resources and compete with the desire to eat, drink and get a foot massage. Like a marathon runner, the first part of the race you have short-term goals, but when you get near the end, you set your sites on the finish line to help push through the pain threshold.

  • Recognizing the critical shots early. Every time we were in a do or die situation, I was able to play miles over my head. I made shots I had no business trying when it came down to getting it in the hole, or ending our tournament run. We were in that situation too many times (and were very lucky to have those second chances). That probably means I wasn't seeing these key shots earlier in the rack. I need to bring those powers of concentration before it comes down to the end game.

  • R & R. The New Toughness Training for Sports, talks a lot about recovery. Now I get it. Recovery when preparing for an event, in between matches, and even in between shots is critical. I did do some meditation in between rounds, which helped, but overall, I just need to learn to relax even more during matches and trust that we will perform our best. Que sera sera and all that. This is especially true for the full team events. You can't get too wound up watching your teammates, or you're already fried when its time for you to play.
Let's hope I get more opportunities to test out these ideas.

Also, I'd love to hear any suggestions that people have for grinding it out through the final round.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Wow, so much to tell, but so little time. So here is the brief update because I can't contain myself. I was entered in the 8-ball Scotch Doubles but had expected to go two and out or maybe win one (one and done or two and BBQ, as they say). But we started off with a bye (always lucky), and won, loss, and then won, and won, and won...and kept winning until finally losing a good match in the quarter finals. Luck of the draw was a big factor, but we played to make the most of that luck. Final finish: 5th place. Payout: $1,000.

Drink of celebration: Double scotches, of course.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Las Vegas! I'm on my way to the APA Nationals.
I'm so excited I can barely blog....
(But I'll try to update while I'm on the road)

See you there! (Free drink to anyone who picks me out of the crowd!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Lies, lies, lies

Jeannette Lee's Q & A in Billiards Digest was kind of interesting this month. A young player wrote in about his dreams of being a top player but that his parents thought he was crazy. Most of the time, experienced players will say something to the effect of, only the very best can make it, remember there's no money in it, and you're probably not thinking of the sacrifices. The usual cynical mantras.

Jeanette's take was different and kind of refreshing. Basically, she says, dream big...and ignore the facts. "When I first joined the pro-tour......[t]he reality that everyone else saw -- that of a rookie in over her head -- didn't really matter. I had created my own universe, in which I was a pool player, making smart decisions. Before that year was over, there was a new reality in the rankings I was No. 1."

This kind of thinking reminded me of something I heard on WNYC's radiolab (one of my favorite podcasts) about self-deception and how research shows that honesty may not be the best policy....especially when it comes to competitive situations. (Basically, swimmers who rated high on a self-deception test tended to also be the most successful.) The best part is that the initial research survey used was concocted by two drunk scientists writing on a bar napkin. (If I didn't have to keep score on pool nights, think of what I could be accomplishing?)

Anyway, the segment self-deception is in about the last 15 minutes of the show.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rehab is fab

A couple months ago, I asked the question, "Is it possible to play your heart out each and every time?" Back then, I think I wanted the answer to be "yes." Now, I've come around to thinking that not only is it not possible, it might not even be a good idea to try. At least for me.

I had a bit of an epiphany recently. I was still in the mode of trying to make sense of how I could be so "hot" and then suddenly so "not." Be it mechanics, burn out - mental, emotional or physical...I was trying to find a way to get back where I was when I was playing my best, when I had focus, drive, and was hitting 'em good.

All of the players on my current team are strong, and I feel bad that over the last few months I haven't been carrying my weight. After another loss, I went home and looked at the stats, thinking how it hasn't been a great season, I had to start playing better...I was struck, that despite my losses this season, we weren't in last place, or hanging in the middle of the pack, we were in first.

I kind of hate what I'm about to say, because I'm independent and proud, and a stubborn perfectionist, but I'm thinking that maybe its okay to let my team carry me for awhile....and that I don't have to worry so much about putting pressure on myself to win right now, or make progress or whatever. My team has plenty of faith in my abilities, and I'm wondering if all the advice I was getting was more a response to my reactions to losing than to the actual losing itself.

I have come to terms with where I am with pool right now, and decided that I'm in a "recovery stage." But I'm not taking a break from pool, just a new approach. I've turned off the evaluator. Looking for positive things, or for nothing at all, and just focusing on being where I'm at, instead of trying to get somewhere.

I've discovered that recovery is all about trust. Trusting that you can let go of the reins of control for awhile and it will all return: the drive, the joy, the stroke, the eye. Its easy to be confident when you're winning. The results do all the work for you. But without trust, you're vulnerable the minute things start going wrong. In retrospect, during my winning streak I was confident, but I don't think I had trust. And the more I won, the more I was driven to practice harder and harder....a perfectionist's need to protect herself from failure. Interesting.

Anyway, letting go is a great feeling. Rehab IS Fab!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Turn the River

When I opened my Netflix delivery this week I was happy to see that Turn the River was finally out. I had seen the previews and was excited to see what appeared to be an intelligent film featuring a fair amount of pool, even if its not a "pool movie."

I enjoyed the film, although probably more for the decent character development and good acting by Famke Janssen and the actor playing her son. Major props for featuring one-pocket, although eventually the film ends with a 9-ball match, the change is introduced by the main character saying that 9-ball "seems like a chumpy game for us."

First let me say, I think it takes some courage to even attempt to put any kind of pool narrative in a film, especially on a low budget. The editor must have gone nuts trying to piece together legitimate sequences or even montages.

But any pool player is going to go into a movie like this trying to see who can really play and who is just an actor (actually recognizing Tony Robles doesn't count)...and the couple of editing mistakes can't help but jump out at you (like during the 9-ball sequence, it looks like she shoots straight in at the four and the cue ball cozies up to the 2.)

Famke Janssen did all of her own shots in the movie. Apparently, she is a good shot, but I never bought her as a real player. Her stroke was unconvincing and she never seemed confident at the table. Even considering she is down on her luck and living out of a truck she won at poker, she struck me as the kind of woman who could have a good night holding the table at a local bar, but not the kind of player who should be playing races to 5 for $10,000.

And then there was this exchange with her mentor after upping the bet to $10,000:
Mentor (Rip Torn): "You know he's going to try and f*ck with you?"
Famke: "F*ck with me? How?"

Are you serious? This woman is supposed to be a pool hustler and she's never been sharked before? Or, gosh any reasonable non-pool playing human being might be unsurprised by the suggestion that someone placing 10K on a pool match might try to play some mind games. Maybe she should play more league pool.

I could go on, but it would be unfair, because the director has stated that he didn't want the movie to be about the pool, and that he made a conscious decision to have as little pool as possible. He just wanted the audience to know who was winning and who was losing.

Which is too bad. I think letting the pool games carry a little more of the narrative weight would have added some needed tension and texture missing during the match sequences. (Is it too much to ask for a few full table shots during the one-pocket to give people a better feeling of the game? Maybe on a low-budget it is too much...)

Perhaps this could have avoided the need for the bizarre, oddly comic, thriller ending. Although, I guess the story needed some kind of conclusion...

Anyway, out of the hour and a half, I'd really only like the last 10 minutes of my life back. That's pretty good. Good acting & and dissing 9-ball. I'm glad I saw it.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Its not all in my head!

Have you ever been to the doctor for some random ache or pain that just doesn't seem to go away? On the one hand, you're hoping they don't find anything, because its better to be healthy. On the other hand, if they don't find anything, you may be healthy, but you don't know what to do about your problem. You're stuck just waiting or dealing with a "psychosomatic" something or other....Its kind of good news, bad news either way.

This is how I felt after my latest practice session with Coach. I had come to the conclusion that my slump was mostly due to mental fatigue from overplaying. I thought it was all in my head and I just needed to get my confidence back. But who knows how long that will take? Unfortunately...or fortunately, a test of my fundamentals came back with some very bad results: Whacking, not stroking the ball, jacking up, poor alignment, jumbled inconsistent eye pattern and pre-shot routine. Ugh.

Good news: I'm not just a "loser" cuz I think like one.
Bad news: I actually suck and have a lot of work to do to regain the ground I've lost.
Good news: At least now I know.
Prescription: Lots of straight in stop shots. Lots.

I'd like to say this happened over the course of only a month, but I've gradually noticed some changes:
*My stop shots have beeen less precise.

*I've started to bring my head lower over my cue to see shots better, but as a result my stroke has angled down a bit.

*I've been trying to bring more power to my stroke, but sometimes I think I've forced it instead of building it gradually. Maybe this contributed whack/punch non-stroke thing I've been doing?

Anyway, however I got here, this is where I am....good thing I like doing straight in stop shots :-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

And the secret password is.....

"I love competing more than winning."

That's my new mantra....

I finally finished reading The New Toughness Training for Sports by James Loehr. I've had it for over a year, and read bits and pieces after Liz Ford and a couple of people on AZBilliards recommended it. There was lots of good information in the book, but that's the one little line that is making me really happy I read it.

I guess I'm just pleased to have something that expresses where my head's at when I'm in my happiest pool state. I've gone back and forth over the whole "wanting to win" thing. Once upon a time it was suggested that in order to win, I needed to let go of winning. That didn't quite work for me. When I tried to let go of winning, sometimes I just cared less when I lost. Then I thought maybe it wasn't wanting to win that was the problem, but the fear of losing. This was helpful, but "I'm not afraid to lose" may not be the best visualization to have in the middle of a game. I've tried "just wanting to play my best", but knew in my heart that was a lie. Let's face it...I want to win.

But "loving competing more than winning", doesn't pretend that winning isn't important, it just puts it under the love of competition and the game itself. And when I look back at some of my best wins, that's how I was feeling...I wanted to win, but I was loving every shot it took to get or lose.

Okay, its not going to end up on a T-Shirt or anything, but I will be happy thinking about it while I'm wearing my "Bitch, I will cut you" shirt.

And I think it will help me get back into a good mental space at the table.

(Note: The book that was actually recommended was Loehr's first book "Mental Toughness Training for Sports" but it wasn't available at the time, so a friend got me the newest book. Judging from some of the reviews on amazon, some people think the first one was superior.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Back in the saddle

I'm pleased to say that my return to the table resulted in a win. Even though I have been committed to being positive about the L-word and not buying into the "losing streak" concept, it was a relief.

Its was an easy match, one that I was supposed to win, but that comes with its own pressure. If I lost this one, then I would have to go into therapy. Fortunately, while I wasn't playing my best, I was pocketing balls well enough to stay ahead, playing safe when I should and didn't make too many mistakes. My opponent made it easy on me by giving me ball in hand twice when I was either on my last ball or on the 8.

When I was on the hill, I missed the 8 a couple of times. I had ball in hand with one ball left and drew the cue back a little far for the eight, so I had kind of a tricky cut, which I almost made. When I went back to my seat I was thinking "Damn, I wish that had gone in. Then it would be over." Not, as in over as in won, but over as in, I didn't want to have to keep playing this match. My opponent missed and left me a pretty easy cut in the side. As I lined up I wasn't thinking, something to the effect of "This is an easy shot, don't miss it, don't miss it." And of course, I did.

Even if I had lost that game, I still had two more chances, so there wasn't any pressure except what I was putting on myself, because I was so darn scared of losing. What the hell? This ain't the Olympics, its league pool....

The next and final shot was a gift from the heavens, as incredibly, my opponent missed his ball entirely and I got ball in hand. It was a relief to sink that last ball and sit down...and then I had a great time drinking and chatting with my teammates until the wee hours of the morning.

I think my ego was a little bruised when people suggested I needed to get some easy wins to get my confidence back. But, I have to say, I think they were right. Sometimes it helps to lower the pressure a little and remember what it feels like to sink an 8-ball (even if its an easy one). It ain't pretty, but I guess this is just a first step to getting back into the groove.

Somewhere I read that in river rafting one of the keys to successfully navigating the rapids is to focus on where you want to go rather than trying to avoid the rocks. Right now all I see are rocks....and I don't get it. Why can't they just get out of the way?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Keeping it together just long enough

Okay, even I know, its time to put the cue down for awhile and walk away from the table. And I'm going to take a break, I promise.

I've been saying that for a couple of weeks. So when I was invited to play in just one more end-of-season tournament, I told the tournament director I couldn't do it. I was just too burnt out. There would be no point in playing. I would not play well, not enjoy myself, and just reinforce all kinds of bad stuff. Which was too bad, because I've done well in this tournament before and normally would really be looking forward to it. But my mind was made up.

Then I thought about my June burn out problem. Of course, in a perfect world, you pace yourself so you peak for the most important competitions, but life doesn't always make that easy. So, if you're mentally tough, shouldn't you be able to push through the burn out just long enough to compete, and then take a break?

So, that became my quest. I spent the night before coming to terms with the whole situation. Accepting that I didn't want to play. Accepting that the tournament was coming at a bad time and there was nothing I could do about it. And then accepting that I was choosing to play anyway. I then spent some time getting in touch with my desire to win and visualizing myself playing with complete focus on the game and on every shot.

By morning, I was no longer feeling burnt out. I was ready to play.

It would be a great finish to this post to be able to say, "And I won the tournament" or "Made it to the finals." Nah. I was out in the first round. But I had a great match, and if it hadn't been for an unforeseen scratch on the 8 in the first game, I would have won in straight games. It was a victory for me, because I felt driven and focused in a way I haven't in weeks. Its a good feeling to know, that with a little mental preparation, I can push through the burn out.

But I recognize that I was tapping into the reserves to do now its vacation time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The greek chorus chimes in while Skinner feeds his pigeons

The thing I hate the most about losing is the sympathy you must endure from the well-intentioned. It is the punishment for finishing second in a two-person contest.

The thing I hate most about losing streaks, is the recurring and escalating sympathy, followed by psycho-analysis by committee that you must endure from the well-intentioned trying to fix your perceived problem. It is the punishment for being cursed by the "L" word too many times in a row.

"You just aren't very confident right now."
"You were a little overconfident there."
"You need a break."
"You need to not take it so seriously."
"You need to just make balls. Forget shape."
"You're making too many balls. You need to be more strategic."
"You need to let go of winning."
"You need to focus on winning."
"You need to drink more."
"You need to drink less."
and so it goes....

It reminds me of the superstitious pigeon in the classic Skinner experiment. (I tried to find a video, but couldn't). Skinner's pigeons were conditioned to expect a reward for performing certain behaviors--peck the shiny silver button, and get some bird seed. When Skinner randomized the reward, completely unlinking it from a specific action, the birds started repeating strange behaviors. Turning to the right. Flapping a left wing. Pecking at its toe. Pecking at another pigeon's toe Trying to figure out, what was the thing, that magical thing that it was doing, that caused the birdseed to drop from the sky. Hmmmm. Maybe I should wear my lucky shirt. I was drinking Maker's the last time I won....maybe I'll have a makers tonight. Or not eat dinner. Or just make balls. Or play more safeties. Or use a house cue, or, or.....There are so many potential fixes....and none of them may make a hoot of difference, cuz sometimes the wins are just birdseed being dropped by some sadistic college student trying to get an A. Cruel, cruel world.

No one, including myself sometimes, remembers that within this monolithic string of losses were some well-played, tough matches, that I just came up short on: a bad roll, an outstanding opponent, or an honest mistake that's appropriate for my learning curve. These are the matches to remember and build on.

There is no "fix", maybe because there is no real "problem." But there is a lesson: While I can listen to what others say, ultimately its my own voice I need to listen to and not let the well-intentioned coddling undermine my confidence.

I have my own thoughts about what, if anything is going on with some of my matches, but more on that later.....because I've got to get back to flapping my left wing....just in case.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Year in Review

Just like the school year, my pool year ends in June. Of course, I would much rather be posting about one of my team's imminent trip to Vegas and extend the year through August. But, there are limits to my creative blogging.

Jim McKay died the day of our LTC.....and the agony of defeat was present. Sometimes, the luck of the draw matters more than anything. All of my teams were saddled with the toughest draws, last minute handicap bumps, and unfortunate rolls. But we had a good time, and all went out swinging.

A few thoughts about this year.....

1) Too many swirls. I couldn't help but think of a friend's tattoo, as I headed off to pool in the evenings. Its a very nice, but incomplete tattoo....a tulip design surrounded by swirls. She had impulsively selected a particularly painful place for the tattoo and only made it through the basic flower part of the design, and a few of the swirls, before the pain became so unbearable, she could hardly speak. As she looked down at the many curls stenciled out on her skin, and knew there was no way she could finish it out...... she managed to blurt out through her tears"....too.......many.........swirlllls...."and then passed out. While not quite that painful, I have say that three teams is too.....many.....teeeaaammms. Definitely, too much of a good thing. I'm glad I followed through on my commitments, but I am overjoyed to be free to cut back. Woohoo! Clean apartment and laundry here I come.

2) Gotta check those biorhythms and tide charts. In the past two years I peaked around December - February. I'm not sure I understand why, but I know that the past two years I've felt kind of burnt out by the time June came around. I know that serious athletes are careful to train in a way that allows the to peak or be near peaking around their key events. Part of the challenge for me is that I work in a seasonal business that is particularly stressful from April-June. (This was compounded this year by too many swirls at the same time). I guess I have to find a way to accept that I may be able to play less during this time, but do the things that make the most difference in my game.

3)More colors in the crayon box. I like salad bars and an insanely extensive spice rack. My refrigerator is two-thirds full of condiments (a friend of mine refers to this as condimentia). As much as I need a certain amount of routine, I also need lots of variety. Now that I have freed up some of my league time, I am going to diversify. More match ups with friends and some cheap tournaments. More 9-ball and maybe even try some 3-cushion. If I do join another team, it will either be 9-ball or a non-handicapped league.

4) Balance, dammit, balance! There is more to life than pool. And when the rest of my life feeds my happiness and confidence, I believe that it shows up in how I play. Not that on a given day I can't rise above whatever else is going on, but over the long haul, taking care of one's self pays dividends on the pool table as well.

5) Wax on. Wax off. A couple months ago, I ran into a fellow league member....Actually, a more accurate description would be, a fellow league member interrupted me while I was practicing. I was shooting a drill. He spent about 20 minutes explaining to me why drills were a waste of time (I suppose that talking to him while paying for a table was a good use of my time), and I should only spend time trying to run out a rack. His justification for this was that I would never run into the same pattern in a game and therefore the drill was completely useless. Jesus, I thought everybody has seen the Karate Kid, but just in case you missed it, too:

So, thanks very much for the advice and for interrupting my practice session. While you may not be impressed, I'm happy with my progress looking back over the year and I know that the drills build confidence, allow me to gauge progress, and basically work.....I will continue to wax on, wax off through year 3.

Its gonna be fun.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Is it possible to play your heart out each and every time?

I just have to make a quick post before I try and get some sleep--a rhetorical question to put out there into the blogosphere. I played pretty well tonight, but still lost, as did my team. It was the finals, but my team is already qualified for the local team championships, so there wasn't that much at stake for us. I could tell even during practice, the other team wanted it more and was willing to play their hearts out for it.

Not that I didn't try.

But last week, although the stakes were the same (with the added incentive that winning meant we got to play another week, and a personal quest to finally win on that god-forsaken, red-felted bar table), and yet I was able to dial in and do what it took to win. I played my heart out, and even if it had gone the other way, I think I would have felt great. This week, I shot quite well. I even had my first break and run. But I rushed some key chances early on, and then took a few too many risks later. And even if things gone the other way, I'd feel better, but not great. Because I didn't play my heart out.

There's just something about giving it your all.

I sometimes wonder why I play pool. Yeah, I like the social aspect. I like the intellectual/strategic side. I like learning. I just like watching colored spheres collide on felt (blue or green, thank you). But at the end of the day, its the chance to play my heart out and for just a little while, give my all towards one, maybe silly and ultimately meaningless goal. There's nothing quite like it. And when you don't do it, you know.

So maybe its not possible to play your heart out every time. But I got a lot of pool coming up over the next two weeks, and I'm going to try.

Monday, May 26, 2008

So many teams, so little time

Wow, it gets crazy at the end of the season if all your teams have been playing well. My little juggling game of never having two nights in a row just doesn't work come playoff time....which leaves very little time to write about it. And as much as I wish that ALL my team won last week, I'm not crying too much that only one emerged to the finals. Another week like this, and I would be completely burnt out by the time the local team championships roll around.

I played fine this week, but especially proud that I was able to anchor the winning night. I made some mistakes early on and let the other guy get on the hill--and then I really beared down and forced a safety battle where I knew I'd have the advantage. After that, I seemed to find my stroke. I just played smart, waited for my shots, and won.

Its funny, if I start out strong, I sometimes start to get nervous once I get on the hill. I can still focus, but it takes some work. This time, once I could see the finish line, even though it was hill-hill, I was completely focused and completely relaxed. When I started that last game, I felt like I was the winner already.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kudos to OMGWTF

I just wanted to say I was happy to come home last night to discover that OMGWTF walked away with $3000 from her challenge match with cubc, that was webcast through The Action Report yesterday. Unfortunately, I was too busy losing at a tournament to be able to tune into the action.

Of course I am a fan of OMGWTF's blog, so my happiness is no surprise. I do respect that cubc followed through on his challenges, unlike the infamous hedgehog, who said he'd give her the six, and then found every excuse to duck an opportunity to do so.

Cubc said OMGWTF had the seven por vida. She took that seven all the way to the bank. If only more people had to put their money where their mouth was....they'd probably be a little more careful where they put their mouth in the first place...por vida.

Power breaking continued....

Every now and then, you're lucky enough to come across some information that makes a big difference. Most of the time in pool, I find that new knowledge takes time to find its way to being appropriately executed and incorporated into your game.

In the breaking video I posted last week, Colin Collenso recommends gripping the cue forward for more power when breaking. I'm not sure when, but at some point I know that someone recommended to me for breaking and power stroking to grip further back in order to extend your backswing and build momentum.

Today, I started following Colin's advice... and wow. One simple change. A world of improvement. Not only was I able to get a lot of power without a lot of muscle, but I was getting much, MUCH less spin on the cue ball. A good, solid, full break. Good spread. Cue ball planted dead center of the table. Wow. That was just too easy. Thanks, Colin.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

So distracting....but so much fun

Its a good thing I've been working my butt off lately, because I am getting almost nothing done at the office thanks to the live streaming of the Predator 10-ball Championship. I was just curious to check out the interface, honest. What started off as a quick coffee break, has turned into an surreptitious open tab on my browser that I obsessive watch every chance I get. I should just close that tab. But I cannot close that tab. RIP productivity. Viva la web 2.0 and 10-ball.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Straight from Shanghai - The Power Break

You got to admire a guy who records pool instructional videos on his cell phone from his home in Shanghai. Especially, when they're actually pretty good. I figure anyone who has coached shotput knows something about the powerful propulsion of spheres and is well qualified to say a thing or two about the power break.

I've had a lot of fun incorporating these tips into a new break. Of course, control is important, but I think its good to push the envelope on power and speed, too. I can always dial it down after getting a feel for the basic technique.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Please stand by

I have about two half-finished posts saved in drafts, but I can't seem to find time to finish and post them. Work has been very busy. I can't remember the last time I had a weekend off. And on top of that, I haven't had a good internet connection at home, so I've been resorting to grabbing some bandwidth along with a latte, when I have time. And when I have time, I feel less like writing and more like downloading music and TV shows and in general vegging out my overused brain.

If I post this, of course, it means, I'll probably have three real posts up by tomorrow morning. But until then....please stand by, synaptic resources are recharging.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Proof of Life

"Sometimes, you kick ass. Sometimes, the ass kicks you." - First read on OMGWTF

Lets just say, that if I'm starting my blog entry with the above quotation, that I don't have much nice to say about league this week. So, I'm not going to say much and will turn to more pleasant matters. My fragile feminine ego burns with indignation and a desire to kick ass, a certain ass. Perhaps, someday I'll tell the story when it can be told as a tale of righteous vindication. Until then, just know, this week I sucked at league pool, and it wasn't fun.

But, while league has yet to catch fire again, I returned to the practice table and really enjoyed myself. I had my first coaching session in ages, and remembered how much fun I have when I feel like I'm learning.

Also, I revisited a frozen rail shot drill that I abandoned a while ago. (6 Balls on the rail, any order - no bumping object balls, no combos and no banks, kicks are okay). Before this week, I had successfully run all six balls only once--and that felt like luck. As I tried it again, I realized I had no idea how I had actually managed it. After many attempts, it just didn't seem like I was progressing, so I moved on.

(A Cuetable diagram is supposed to go here, but as I have quite figured it out yet, and its really just kind of an extraneous graphic element (its not exactly a complicated layout), you'll just have to use your immagination)

This week, in my first attempt, I ran all six. Out of the next ten attempts, I ran at least 5 balls each time, and successfully did all 6 two additional times. In one of my perfect innings I had to shoot my last ball up the long rail, which is kind of a failure in a position drill, but still, I finished. I even tried some different patterns and had a sense of what to expect the cue ball to do. So, something good is going on, even if it isn't showing up on game night.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Minnow drowns in pool.

Oxygen, please.

My short break was apparently not sufficient, as I'm finding myself not wanting to go to league or to practice. Normally, even when I decide I should take a break, its work to stay away from a pool table. And now its the opposite. After all, spring is here, the sun is out, there are other things in life (gasp, its true!)

So, I'm taking a little time to take stock and set out some new goals. Back in October, when I qualified for the Singles Regionals, I decided that I wanted to work towards that as a way to raise the level of my game. And I think I've done that. I've won my first tournament. Found a good coach. Even went up a skill level. And now its time to rest on my laurels, and think about what's next. (I'm not sure how comfy laurels are, but so the expression goes).

Reading back over the last few posts, its so obvious to me that something was missing, and I was trying my darndest to get it back. I've been playing some, and even had a couple of good matches, but my hearts just not in it. Hot streaks have to end eventually, but its hard to let them go. Alas, burn out is the inevitable consequence of being on fire, if you don't take a breather every now and then.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Early to bed.....

Well, I'm back after recovering from a serious bout of pool overdose, followed by a compensatory bout of unnecessary cosmetics shopping, followed by a mild bout of food poisoning. Hopefully, I am on the mends from all.

I got stuck playing 3 nights in a row, even though I have agreements from all my captains that they would allow me to juggle things so that wouldn't happen. Of course, being aware of the cluster f*ck phenomenon that is league life, I was sure it would happen at least once. And it did. Last matches all three nights. By the third night, I was a bit numb....I thought I had ball in hand, and picked up the cue ball after a good hit. My opponent was on the 8. It was case game. There was an outpouring of insistent sympathy in anticipation of my feeling horrible. And I was thinking "Well, that kinda sucks, but on the bright side, we can all go home." After all the pool I had played that week, I really wasn't going to sweat it.

The next week I wiped my playing schedule clean for a week and went on a binge of girliness, grooming and pampering that was such the antithesis of drinking scotch in smokey bars and playing pool until 1am. I was very, very happy. I even went to bed early....and sober. I dreamed of pool, of course.....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rewriting my list....

Last week, my team was playing our rival in the division. We usually duke it out for 1st & 2nd. I like playing this team, although I'm pretty much guaranteed to play one of two people, and I'd really prefer to mix it up a bit. But so it goes back in the small pond of a tiny league....

Anyway, one of my usual opponents shows up and says "Hi, Pool Minnow....So how's your game?" "Uh, okay, I guess." "Well, I'm glad to see you here cuz I was hoping for a rematch."

Hmmm....I already knew this, but apparently, I'm on his "list." In the end, I did end up playing him, although mostly to accommodate the schedules of our other players. After the match, he said, "I think we've got a nice little rivalry going here." I just smiled and nodded, because I didn't have the heart to tell him that he wasn't on my list.

I mean no disrespect to him. He's a nice person and an excellent shooter, and from time to time can pull out a spectacular cut shot worthy of applause. But he's also one of those players, that as long as he doesn't get too far ahead, you just wait for him to do something like shoot down to his last ball and then predictably sink it in a way that would guarantee absolutely no shot on the 8. You get ball in hand, and control the table until you win. And although, he can get the best of me from time to time, I feel that in a few months, if I continue to improve at the same rate (knock wood), I think I'll have an advantage. While I'd rather win, losing will not carry the sting of a lost opportunity and I won't wait for my next chance to regain my honor. Nope. Not on the list.

I guess its time to rewrite the list. I need to find those other 4s that I can go head to head with and start gaining some credibility at my new level. My list usually consists of those players at my speed or the one's at the top of the food chain (and those who act like idiots and deserve to get their asses kicked), but my speed has changed, so I need to upgrade who I consider my peers to be. (Most of the idiots will remain on the list, although not as peers I hope.)

I also realized that I have another list. A list that keeps track of each and every loss I experience in league. Not a list of opponents, but a list of self-butt-kicking shots that I miss. My game losers. The dawgs. I need to own these dawgs. And once they go on the list, I commit to never, ever let them get the better of me again. Once on the list, I practice them until I know, that when they come up in a game, I am not facing a shot that once kicked my ass, but one of MY shots. One of my winning shots. A shot I can count on. So, on the days when none of my matches are with people on the first list, maybe I can find a little excitement about being watchful for shots on my second list.

Anyway, stay tuned, I'm going to see if I can figure out how to use Cue Table so I can start posting my shots from the List.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Flipping the switch

Exhaustion. Bad equipment. Lower level player. Last match of the night. This is a dangerous combination that leads to uninspired pool.

How is it that last week, I played a six, and I played like a monster (well,for me anyway). The next night, my play was a little less monstrous, but when I wasn't quite as in stroke I started playing smart and had a strong win.

Last night, I must have been brain dead. A year ago I probably would have been really happy with the way I shot, but now it was not up to par. Its great to play under ideal conditions: good equipment, an opponent that inspires me, fresh, relaxed and having fun. Unfortunately, sometimes I need to play a late night or an opponent that may not bring out the best of my game. None of that is an excuse for not focusing.

So here's what I see when I think about last night:

* Tiredness really affects my approach to the ball and my eye pattern. I wasn't focusing in on the object ball when stepping into the shot or before shooting. My whole rhythm was off.

* I should have gone for ball in hand when I had the chance, even if I had open shots and a possible out.

* When I play on slow cloth & with a heavy cue ball, I have trouble getting the feel of the table and it throws off my stroke somehow. Last night, I was playing really tentatively, when under those conditions I probably should be hitting my balls with some confidence.

*I don't really like how my cue plays with a heavy cue ball--there's a little too much vibration. If the house cues are any good (which last night they weren't), I sometimes switch because it just feels like a more solid hit. (But maybe I'm just making excuses there. I've never heard of anyone switching cues because of the cue ball).

*Chewing gum helps.

But all that aside, none of those things really matter if I'm "on." And by that I don't mean "in the zone" or "in stroke." If I'm on, I'm hungry for the win. I can adjust to my weaknesses and conditions. I can find a way to win, even if I'm not shooting up to par. I can be sleep-deprived, on anti-histamines after having just lost my wallet and my boyfriend has shown up right before I start playing so he can break up with me and then sits down at the bar and makes out with his new girlfriend.

Yep, if I'm "on", who cares about the cue ball, the time, the ex-boyfriend....I'll find a way to dig deep and find something extra to hang tough until I put the money ball away....I just need to find a way to flip the switch, even in those moments when I'd rather be in bed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Three, Four, whatever.....

I know that I've written in the past how I try not to put a lot of stock in my APA handicap, but still, just thought I should mention that I went up to a 4 this week.

I try to win every game, no matter what the race is, or who I'm playing, so it shouldn't matter whether I'm a 3 or 4. (Although I'm sure my captains feel differently). I'm looking forward to the challenge and hope that I can maintain the rating. I will now have to win a minimum of three games, so I should, in theory, get to play more pool--and that's a good thing. (Unless I'm playing one of those sandbagging 2's or 3's,the lowly bastards,or my captains decide that a newbie 4 is less desirable to play than a strong 3).

Anyway, it is kind of nice to see a new number next to my name on the roster.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The shooter always knows best, afterall they're the one with the gun....

My opponent was on the 8. The cue was almost dead straight with my last ball facing the side rail. A bank was possible but not easy. Scratching was a possibility on the cut & missing/making the bank would most likely leave a decent shot on the 8.

A teammate called a time out and coached me to play a safety by hitting straight into my ball, and follow the cue ball to the side rail. That would have left a long, but makable cut on the eight. If I was lucky the object ball would get in the way. I didn't like this shot. To get a good safety, I would have to control both the object ball and the cue ball. If I couldn't get the snooker, the advantaged gained, seemed pretty minimal. The shot on the 8 is the kind of shot that I've seen my opponent make under pressure many times. In fact, the difficulty seems to focus him. Basically, my gut said, he's making the shot.

I tried my best, but wasn't able to follow the cue to rail and did not get the snooker. I didn't leave an easy shot for my opponent, but he nailed it, just like I predicted.

In retrospect, I should have done a stop shot to try to leave the cue on same line as the eight. I think it would have left a harder shot and I would have only been trying to control the cue ball. The real key though is what I was most comfortable with, which is something that my coach wouldn't necessarily know. Most people are more comfortable with follow and feel its more reliable. For some reason, I have trouble putting a lot of top spin on the ball (I must be angling down on my shot or not following through). I'm much more comfortable with stop and draw.

Coaching is a give and take process. Over time, ideally, teammates who coach will learn a player's strengths and weaknesses. But it works the other way, too. As the shooter, you need to learn a coaches weaknesses, too. Some teammates will always coach from their own play book. Give you shots that are too complicated. Fail to give you critical elements of the shot (more often than not, speed). With coaches I know, I'm comfortable challenging their assumptions ("So, if I take that shot, you're assuming that I'm going to be able to run the next 4? I appreciate the confidence, but the way I'm shooting tonight, that's not going to happen.") Its the players job to let the coach know what feels right and to make the final decision of what to do.

But I also wonder, if I shouldn't have just gone for the bank. Unless my option is a really good safety, isn't it better to just go for the win?
Above is a draft post that never quite made it to prime time last year. I came back to it after a conversation this week with a teammate, who was unhappy with the coaching she received to play safe instead of going for a bank. I was familiar with her frustration, but what struck me is how much happier and confident I am since I decided to shoot the shot and not the coach. At some point I stopped blaming my coaches when their advice didn't work and decided to own my shot, and my decision to take or not take the coaching. Writing this post was a bit of a turning point in that direction.

Reading it now I can see how far I've come in my shooting, too. Now, I think I could probably leave the cue on the rail, and even try to get the speed right to get the snooker, instead of just hitting it and hoping to get a good roll. But even better, now, I would know to hit the ball with spin to leave the cue on the center of the end rail...a much better safety. More evidence of sucking less at pool (aka progress).

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Let the games begin

I'm having a great time playing on my new Wednesday team. The division is much more competitive and its fulfilling my need for some more hard core pool that I whined about in my blog last fall. And, it has offered the opportunity for a rematch from my David & Goliath win in the Top Shooter Tournament (See Karma is a Bitch and Saturday she was my patron saint). Good times!

The match yesterday confirmed the need for a new word to be added to the English language: lagorrhea. From the greek-rooted word LOGOrrhea, which means an excessive flow of words. LAGorrhea means an excessive flow of words while lagging. Had this been and isolated incident at the tournament last month, a new word would be indulgent and uncalled for. Fortunately, this behavior repeated itself, and hence I feel the justification of an entirely new word. You may recall that last time, just as we were lagging, my opponent decided to ask me if I was feeling tired. Yesterday, as we were lagging, he was really rambling on, and then just as I was taking my warm up strokes asked me if I had been nervous at the Top Shooter tournament. To which I replied "Nah, I was just having fun." So, either he is reading this blog, and is just taking the piss (which I would actually admire) or this is some standard strategy he uses.

I lost the lag, but not by much. I proceeded to chase him on every game shooting on the 8 or close each time. Played some good safes and generally was shooting well-enough to make him sweat. I slopped the 8 in once to get on the hill. In the case game, he dogs his next to last shot, and leaves me an easy 8, which I then dog! Ha! I lost in the end, but it was a fun match. He knows that my beating him in the tournament wasn't entirely an accident.

There were more shenanigans in addition to the lagorrhea that I won't go into, but they are so absurd, I just think they're funny. I believe they are attempts at sharking, but they're really more like....clowning. Clowning (n): a feeble, laughable attempt at sharking that some may find irritating, but in general will provide entertainment for opponents and spectators. Keep it up big boy, you're very good at what you do.

All snarkiness aside:
There was one more incident of note last night. I was shooting at one of my balls that was frozen to the eight. I was trying to shoot straight into my ball with extreme right to throw the ball and get a good hit. I miscued badly and my cue deflected quite a bit to the side. Someone from the other team who was apparently asked to watch the hit, called a foul, saying I had hit a stripe first--which was completely bizarre, because there wasn't a stripe even near the the balls I was aiming at. At first I couldn't even make a case for not hitting a stripe, because the stripe had moved, but I couldn't imagine a scenario for where I could have even hit the ball. The cue ball would have had to masse backwards and then caromed off several balls and a cushion to end up in its final position. (Maybe he had been watching this guy.)

I finally realized I must have knocked it with my stick. Then he asked, "Well, did your ball hit a rail" which I believe it did. As the shot watcher, he must have been so concerned with the stripe he hadn't followed my ball. Anyway, to my opponent's credit, he deferred to the shooter (me), as I had done in the tournament, thus ending the twilight zone moment. His sportsmanship in this matter was appreciated.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Sound of Second Loss Slapping

My first, and only match on the one loss side. The case game started off with me breaking and coming heartbreakingly close to an 8 on the break and finishing with me playing safe with both of us with two balls left. My opponent didn't have a makable shot, so she just whacked at it....and slopped something in and ran out. Ugh.

This was especially painful because I should have won the first game as well, but scratched on the 8. I knew that the cue ball was headed to the side pocket, but didn't hit it hard enough to actually get there. All the spectators were kind of amazed that the cue ball just kept rolling. But I should have known better because, that had been happening the whole game. Yesterday's table was like shooting on astroturf and today's was like an ice rink. I should have made more adjustments to my game, start hitting a little below center.

I was nervous, but my stroke was pretty smooth and consistent. My only aargh! moments were when the cue ball didn't stop when it should have. So, I feel okay about today.

Its a little maddening to watch the final round of a tournament and think, a ball here a ball there, a little less follow, a little more speed and I could have won this thing. I should have won this thing. My opponent from the first day went all the way, and I so had her, but I dawged it. Twice. She managed to have the luck and the cool to win under pressure. This weekend, I didn't. But with my first "big" tournament under my belt, I still believe that I suck a little less at pool each and every day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Sound of One Loss Clapping

I'm at the APA Singles Regionals right now. After a 4 plus hour drive and a BIG hassle with our hotel rooms (our hotel was overbooked, and our prepaid, confirmed reservations turned out to be worthless, so the morning of our departure we made desperate calls to find the last rooms at various hotels competing with regional soccer, wrestling, and paintball tournaments), we arrived at our lovely Regionals Venue, centrally located about 20 miles south of the middle of nowhere.

With an 8:00 am start, I warmed up well, and then proceeded to wait until about 12:00. My first two matches were no shows, and so I didn't play until about mid-day. I was really nervous, but shot fairly well, winning my first game, and had more chances than I care to admit to win both the next two games, but it was not meant to be. Fortunately, its modified single elimination, so I can work my way through the one-loss side. Despite my loss, I am shooting well, and having a great time, so I can't complain.

Some brief lessons from today:
1) Breathe
2) Ask one of my friends to sit in my corner. I wasn't sure if it would make me self-conscious, but I think its reassuring.
3) Remember that the cue ball is going to travel on thin cuts.
4) Don't pull my stroke.
5) Don't be to clever with my safeties. That is, always consider leaving them long, or just not leaving a good shot. Its not worth making an unnatural shot to try to get ball and hand--cuz if you screw up, you might sell out.
6) Never pull the trigger too soon on the 8.

But I made some excellent shots today and played well....I'm learning and really enjoying this. I want more. Win or lose tomorrow, I can't wait for the next one.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Giving up the ghost

I will not wrecklessly, lazily shoot balls in practice. I will not wrecklessly, lazily shoot balls in practice. I will not wrecklessly, lazily shoot balls in practice... I will not....

My time is too valuable to build up muscle memory for bad habits. Focus, girl. Focus.

I'll be back to play the ghost when I'm truly deserving and ready for a match up.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Practice, practice, practice

I've been very fortunate that I've had an advanced player help me practice the last few weeks. He's been incredibly helpful in not only pointing out when my fundamentals slip and in imparting new knowledge, but just doing the slog work of a personal trainer. He sets up my shots, and then endlessly resets them, so I've been able to get in some serious repetition and muscle memory. I never really thought about how much time I spend walking around the table to set up another object ball when I'm doing drills.

The only drawback is that when I'm practicing alone, I have even less patience for doing this kind of drill. So, I'm going to have to find a practice partner who is obsessed as I am and is willing to swap. Shoot for a half-hour and set for a half-hour. Having done this a few times now, I'm convinced that a half-hour of the rapid fire shooting is more effective than an hour of drills on my own. We'll see.

In league this week, I won my match. It went hill-hill because I missed an easy shot in the 2nd game, that I just shot to quickly. In the case game, I was left with the choice of a cut on the 8 with a possible scratch or a bank. Fortunately, in practice the night before I had been endlessly repeating a certain bank shot - focusing on shooting with control. This wasn't the same bank. The angle was wider, but the cut on the object ball and its distance to the rail were kind of similar. Anyway, it felt like the same principles applied - a little outside English, controlled speed, and the 8 just flowed into the pocket.

Two things were especially gratifying. One, it was great to see immediate results from my work at the practice table. That's so often not the case. And second, once I committed to the bank over the cut, I was fully committed to the shot. In my decision making process, I considered the low percentage of bank shots, but after I decided to go for it, it was the farthest thing from my mind. Now, if I can manage to do that on every single shot, imagine the possibilities.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Karma is a bitch. And Saturday she was my patron saint.

I learned a few things this weekend through observation about how NOT to compete in a tournament.

First, its a good idea not to piss off the entire draw before things start and turn the whole room against you. A good way to do this, is to not give other people a chance to warm up when the table space is limited. Wait until some well-adjusted person gives up the table to you after a couple games, and then refuse to leave until someone beats you, "because last time you checked, this is a bar and that's how it works." Its one thing to have the right to be an asshole, but you gotta be a real Earl Anthony to actually invoke that right. Works like a charm. People will hate you.

Second, when you encounter a lower-ranked opponent who doesn't have a lot of tournament experience, turn to her right before the lag and ask her, "So, are you feeling tired yet?" This mild attempt at sharking will smell like exactly what it is, fear, and you will eliminate any last remaining vestiges of intimidation she was feeling. She will also realize that she is not in the least bit tired, but energized by how well she is playing.

Third, foul and pretend it didn't happen. Wait for the right shot, and carom off your opponents ball first in order to continue your run. If its not officially being watched, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Just in case your opponent didn't pick up on the fear at the start of the match, it will be blatantly obvious now, and she will feel a moral obligation to really kick your ass.

Do these things and I guarantee. You will lose.
So, in the interest of blogger integrity, I must add a few notes.

1) Holding the practice table hostage: No notes necessary, this is pretty much how it went down. I should only add that this happened after the official start time of the tournament, so I don't even think that the normal bar rules applied.

2)"Are you feeling tired yet?" This could have been an attempt at conversation. It wasn't said in a snarky or pointed way. I actually suspect that he was in fact feeling tired. I did not have to face his "A" game. Although, others have confirmed he has a reputation for shenanigans like this.

3)Unacknowledged foul: Angle is everything when it comes to watching for fouls, and I was too far away to be sure. I thought it was a foul. The person next to me thought it was a foul. Truth be told, it was my bad for not having the shot watched. And I said so, and let it go. Really, it didn't bother me. My philosophy with this kind of thing, is that unless your a sociopath, most of us have a built in auto-karma enforcer. If he did cheat, he probably felt guilty, and missed two shots he should have made for the one he stole. But when it was my turn to shoot, and my bridge hand touched the felt, I thought "Bitch, I WILL cut you. Just in case, I am right, I need to kick your ass."

Anyway, it was a sweet, sweet victory. It only makes me sad that such a good player feels the need to mess with these kind of antics. Its a damn shame. My sense is that he is probably one of these guys who is perfectly normal, until picks up a pool cue and feels the need to become the playground bully that picked on him when he was a kid.

But maybe I'm being too nice. Bitch, I will cut you.....but I'll want to buy you a beer afterward.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pool Minnow Wins Tournament. Hell Freezes.

I am completely exhausted, but I have many tales (well at least one) to tell about my first tournament win. So, I'll just put a little placeholder for now and record that I won my league's top shooter tournament. I'll be the first to say the rolls were going my way, but I am also very, very proud of how I played. I gave it my all and for once, kept at it all the way through the finals.

I suck at pool a little less each and every day :-).

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah-Blah-Blahg

I'm just getting over a nasty cold, and don't really have the energy to compose much of a post, so I'm just going to jot down a few random thoughts, observations from the week:

  • Adrenaline & Antihistamine really are interchangeable. When I take antihistamine, it makes my heart beat and mimics the feeling I get under pressure. I also discovered that after the surge of adrenaline from winning a big playoff match, as I did recently, that my cold symptoms disappeared for 24 hours. Weird!

  • I'm realizing that the the mental game trick for me is less about letting go of winning as it is letting go of the fear of losing. Looking back at it, this should have been obvious.

  • I think that even in my meek, lower-level realm of league pool, I'm actually learning to "give weight". In OMGWTF's post about Derby City, she confessed to wanting to beat the entire world in pool. After she had done that, she would spot the world and beat it again. Most of the time in my little APA world, people really only complain about spotting games and how hard it is. This past week I played a 2 who was an very good shooter, and probably should be a 3. But, still I think I was the better player, and it was fair to spot him a game. This wasn't a conscious decision, but I realized after the fact it gave me a lot more confidence to accept the handicap as an indication of actual skill (at least when its in my favor), rather than whine about it being unfair. Spotting games puts the pressure on and makes me a better player.

  • I'm starting to believe that I may, in fact, play my best under pressure.

  • In practice, I'm having a hard time focusing on drills and want to just shoot. This is an ongoing problem for me, but its especially hard as I come up on events that I'm preparing for. I'm not sure if working on the drills undermines my confidence that my game isn't good enough and I don't have time to change anything. Right now, I'm just following my gut, doing my stroke drills and working on pre-shot routine while shooting racks. I'll try to get back to shot making drills next week.

That is all. Time for more coffee.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I would never think to moon the giant, but is it okay to shark a friend?

I've been thinking a little about sharking lately. Looking back about a recent match, I realized that I unintentionally sharked a friend during a tournament. He had just won two games and then I joked with him that the third one was absolutely, beyond a doubt, MINE. I wasn't going to go down without winning at least one. He made short order of running down to the eight. But then, he could not sink it. No matter how easy the shot, and I gave him plenty of chances, he just could not get that eight-ball down. Eventually, I got the rest of my balls off the table and won the third game. Just like I said, the third game was MINE.

I thought I was trying to psych myself up and engage in friendly banter, but it certainly didn't improve the way I shot. And I'm very suspicious that I didn't get to him with my comment. Either just planting the seed in his mind, or maybe making him feel just a little sorry for me (ick!!). I definitely don't like the pity angle, but not sure whether the psych out thing, if done in a friendly way, is kosher or not. Frankly, I wouldn't have thought it would actually work. Ultimately, shame on him for letting it affect his play (if that's what happened), but is this just part of the game, or really uncool. Doesn't the banter make the game a little more interesting? What are your thoughts?

Let me just end this post with my favorite sharking line of all time: "You better hurry up and shoot. I just put a whole bunch of ABBA on the juke box." (It worked, too. I guess the guy didn't realize that there was no ABBA in the juke box.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Antihistamine is the new adrendaline

So, league is back in full swing, and just in time, I came down with the nasty cold bug that has been going around. Why is it that miserable, coughy, hacking, phlegmy, virus-spreading people insist on going to work? 90% of the work in my business can be done by telecommuting and surely the healthy ones would be willing to help out with the other 10% to avoid being infected with nasty cold virus (especially those who have important things to do, like play pool). As a public service, I'd like to do what I can to encourage people to STAY HOME. And don't quote me that old wive's tale about your only contagious before you have symptoms. STFW! If you have symptoms, especially if you are coughing, you are contagious. You are most contagious the first 2-4 days when you feel your crappiest, so please, stay in bed, for god's sake and everyone else's. Thank you.

Fortunately, I followed my own advice, and I recovered enough, that I was able to go to league. Although, I did bring a thermos of hot honey & lemon (which at some moments made me feel quite cool, and at other moments like a complete dork, but it felt great on my throat).

Tonight continued the observation of the dynamics of lower level APA playing. Following on the idea that this is a competition to see who sucks less, and that games are decided by mistakes rather than by successful shotmaking, I continued to pursue the "Don't scratch, miss easy shots, or open up the 8" strategy. Tonight, my opponent was a 3 who was a good shot, but again, he didn't plan ahead. Both games were determined by a scratch. My opponent gave me ball-in-hand when I was on the 8 in the first game, and scratched on the 8 in the second...Wow, could winning be this simple? How discouraging.

While I feel that my defensive play did have something to do with the outcome, its not the most thrilling of wins. But is interesting that the theory does seem to be playing out...Let's see who will be the first 2 or 3 to actually win a match.

For the next time, in addition to my 3-part strategy, I need to add being really relaxed & focused on each and every shot. Its quite common for me to let up a bit after winning the first game. Partially because I'm relieved that I'm not the biggest loser on the planet, at least I won a game, and partially because alcohol consumption during the first game tips me over the point of optimum inebriation. And then there's no turning back.

I don't think there is much mental preparation I can do to help me focus while under the influence....that would be like self-hypnosis tapes for improving your drunk driving or something....just got to cut back on the drinking while shooting. (Maybe)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Adrenaline is the new antihistamine

League finally started back up this week - at last. Unfortunately, one team had a BYE and the other didn't need me to play. So, I was still matchless.

Luckily, I was recruited to fill-in for an old team of mine for a couple of play-off games when one of their players came down with the flu. No handicap. 2 Games. One game, one point. Lots of pressure. Yeah!

What a difference a year makes. Last year around this time, I lost my first two matches in the playoffs. And while I was excited for my team, and excited for the experience, I'm not sure I actually enjoyed the pressure.

This week, I loved it. I can't really say that it brought out my best game. But, some of the excitement that I have been missing in league was back. It meant something.

My opponents were only average players. They could shoot balls, but neither really bothered to plan ahead to the 8 or think about how to fix problems. So I had three goals: do NOT miss easy shots, do NOT scratch, keep the 8-ball in jail. Both opponents made some great shots, to the approval and cheers of their teammates. Me? I just made my easy shots, didn't scratch, and never left my opponent get an easy shot on the 8. And I won. Both times. (Okay I don't earn much in bragging rights over two games or even much of a scientific sample, but its all I got this week).

A few weeks ago, someone told me that the most important thing to understand about playing pool at my level is that most games are lost rather than won. The person who makes the least costly mistakes wins. Not a fun thing to admit. Bascially, its a competition to see who sucks less. But I'm starting to realize its true. But even with a high-low handicap match up, what usually throws a match to a lesser player, is a stronger player's overly aggressive game leading to a scratch or an early eight.

When I think back to my dilemma about my regular, less-than-competitive league, I realize maybe I've been approaching it wrong. Maybe the league isn't my opportunity to give it all I got. To show off the latest thing I've learned. To get the props from my team and opponents. Maybe its to solidify a basic game. To be sure to make the easy shots under pressure. To deliver a good stroke. To not care if I impress others.

Maybe this league isn't my masters class, but the fundamentals practice for my beginner's mind.

Ah grasshopper, you have much to learn.....

Technical Difficulties

I tried to add a new, private blog under my current Blogger account. Unfortunately, Blogger seems to have a problem with having two separate permission setting for different blogs under a single user name. So, the two people who may have tried to view this blog were locked out. Sorry! But pool minnow is back in the public eye once again.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Isn't there another way to get to Carnegie Hall?

Aaaargh. I spent the last couple months whining about how bored I was with league. Now, after a few weeks, I am itching for it to start again. Do I really miss complaining about it that much? Next week we'll be back on the hunt...and I will have something to talk about again.

This week was filled with more practice--although working full-time made it hard to practice every day. I'm not sure I'd want to continue to do that anyway. As I've noted before, my game tends to suffer when I put pool before life.

I did manage to squeeze in a few bar games. Enough to realize I've gotten very comfortable practicing on my own. Maybe too comfortable. But, I think practicing on my own too much cuts down on my competitive edge. After a week of practicing (which I enjoyed), when I go to play a game I feel the nerves of being watched, but not the drive of competition. And of course, the rhythm is completely different than playing shot after shot when I practice on my own. And I'm starting to feel that I may enjoy practicing more than actually playing. But, obviously there is something ass-backwards about this. Maybe I need to be sure to put competition before practice.

Anyway, I'm starting to see why people say gambling is the best way to improve your game

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Two-thousand and eight.....

I'm not sure what 2008 will bring for me in pool. I'm going to have to make some decisions about what I really want to get out of being in a league. On the one hand, I love my team. They are awesome people, and although I can get momentarily petty or bitchy about how I'm coached or about the lack of competitiveness, I really like each person I play with. And, I think there's enough raw talent on the team, that a good season could be just around the corner. Some nights I have more fun than I can really afford to on a week night (which is both good and bad). If I left, I'd miss them.

On the other hand, I enjoy learning and getting better and its fun to be on a team that's got a good shot at the prize....and maybe its time to meet other people. If only I could get my team to move to a more competitive division, but that's not likely to happen. We'll see...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Bootcamp 2008 begins

The holidays were filled with lots of relaxation and some good pool practice. I'm so glad that pool halls ignore holidays like Christmas in New Year's as it would have been very frustrating to have all the vacation time, and no place to play pool.

Here's recap of this week:

Monday: 2 Hours of mostly piling rocks and shooting 8-ball racks. Although I was pocketing balls pretty well, I walk away and realize that I just spent over an hour practicing how NOT to play pool. Genius!!!

Tuesday: Hung over and sleep deprived. The perfect opportunity to work on focusing in spite of an overwhelming desire to return to bed. I try to earn a gold star by doing some shotmaking drills from Steve Capelle's Practicing Pool. It takes some discipline but feels good. After being a good little soldier, I decide to reward myself by shooting a few 8-ball racks. I don't like how I shoot the first one, so I do another one (because THIS one, I'll get right, which, of course, I don't!). And another. And another. When I leave, I can almost feel the tense, rushed stroke that's been built up in my muscle memory. Ugh!

Wednesday: Its the second day of 2008 and time to really turn over a new leaf. After the last two days, I am no longer willing to waste my practice time. If I pile rocks or play a rack, I decide that I can only do one, so I better make it a good one. I do more shotmaking drills and one pretty good rack of 8-ball. Good enough that I earned the right to play a second one. It feels like my stroke is starting to relax.

Thursday & Friday: More shotmaking drills, and a single rack of 8-ball. I realize that to play well, I can't use pool to unwind from work stress and that I really need to let go of work before I start playing. Or quit my job. I'm still debating....Is an income source really necessary?

So, are you bored yet? Yeah. Me, too. I feel good about this week, but I have to confess by the end of Friday, the shot making drills were starting to make my eyes bleed a bit, and they don't make for great blogging. After thinking about what's best to do to prepare for the regionals, at my level, though, working on the real basics is probably the way to go. So this may be the price I have to pay for greater fame and fortune (and better blog material) down the road...