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!