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....