Sunday, August 23, 2009

Eternal Sunshine of the Paris Slot Machines

Well, the upside of losing, is that I get a day off. Fortunately, I don't have to spend it with my doubles partner.

I do have another tournament to prepare for. And although I feel good about how I played, I really do, At the same time, on some level, I'm kind of unnerved by my partner's reactions. I called up a friend who coaches collegiate basketball and has done a lot of mental training. And while he agreed, it was no fun, he was pretty clear, that no matter what my partner said or reacted, it should have NO impact on my confidence in my ability. None.

"As lame as this sounds, that's why they call it SELF-confidence. So, your partner had some blips in his mental game. His mental game and your mental game are different, especially now that you aren't playing doubles anymore. Whatever boost you were getting from his support in the past, you've just got to find it within yourself now. In the long run, its probably a good thing. No more crutches. "

"Thanks, that just the wise, if slightly irritating, kind of advice I suppose I need."

"Either that, or just eat, drink and gamble yourself into a stupor. It may not help your pool game, but it could be fun."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Who are you, and what have you done with my partner?

Day 2. Scotch Doubles. My normally supportive partner is replaced by his evil twin. He pouts when I miss. Tells me what I did wrong in the middle of the match. When I play well, and we pull off match #1 of the day, he's not excited or complimentary, or grateful for the lucky rolls. He acts like, "well, of course we should win." We lose match #2. I play well, but miss a few tough, but critical shots. He sulks, and then just takes off.

I'm probably making it sound worse than it was, but seriously, I was like WTF? I feel like crap. I went over the shots I missed again and again, and wondered, what happened? They weren't easy, but they were makable. All of them I missed by just a hair. Did I just not want to win? Did I just give it away? Did I choke? Were my fundamentals off?

After much analysis, I have come to one conclusion: I missed.

I'm tempted to look at my partner's behavior and try to figure it out. All I will say, is that I've seen his own game go south because he can't manage his feelings when he doesn't meet his own high expectations. But as a doubles partner, in the past, he's never imposed those expectations on me. Last year I played miles over my head in this tournament. This year I'm a stronger and more consistent player. I would say I played well this year, but I didn't vastly exceed my average playing ability. Maybe that was a factor. But, anyway, that's his problem to figure out.

My problem was, and is, that his attitude got to me. During the match, I think I did okay at trying to not let it bother me. The whole tournament there had been subtle changes in the way he coached and acted toward me. It was a little distracting, and I could feel it undermine my confidence ever so slightly. I don't think it affected my performance too much, but it really made it A LOT LESS FUN. Part of the reason I played so well last year, was that I let go and just really enjoyed myself.

Its hard, because, sometimes when I need a little extra confidence on an 8-ball shot, I imagine him giving me words of encouragement. Now, I feel like that's gone. Instead its replaced by his words of criticism and the look of disappointment on his face when I missed those shots. Ugh.

Somewhere in the desert

Ah yes. Vegas.

It was 108 degrees when we got here, but the weather forecast has been toned down to a more reasonable high 90's. Almost feels like a cooling rain has drenched the city.

Although it doesn't matter much, because, as you can imagine, I'm spending a lot of time inside the Riviera Casino. Its amazing how fast a year goes. I almost feel like we never left.

Anyway, Day 1 of the scotch doubles was pretty much a repeat of last year. We made it to the third round undefeated and then lost. Which, if you're going to lose, is the best time to do it. Its the last round before single elimination kicks in anyway, and you only need one more match to make it back to the winner's side. If you make it to the winner's side, you're coming off of a one-loss side win, and your opponents haven't played for almost 24 hours. (That's a long wait) And from there its a marathon.

Up to the third round we played well. Starting the tournament, I was a little uncertain how it would go, because I had been playing horribly in practice. I mean horribly. And while I tried to tell myself that, its only practice and I know that its not a predictor of how I'll play in a match, I just kept sucking, and I started to be a little concern.

Once we got into real competition though, it was like I was a different player. My heart started pounding, the adrenaline started flowing, and thank god, the balls started finding their way into pockets again. We had a good rhythm. We played good safes. We made nice outs.

It is amazing to me how much the time I've spent on working with the mental side has changed things. When I first started playing, my heart pounding was such a bad sign. It meant that I was too nervous and wouldn't be able to perform my best. And now, it doesn't bother me at all. In fact, it can be a good thing. I've found that when I don't let it bother me, it actually means that I'm really in the game, and I can actually play some of my best pool at these times.

Going into match #3, I felt good. I was excited to play and feeling confident. I usually try to meditate before a match, but I felt very calm and present, so I decided to skip it. At the time, I wondered if it was a mistake, but I really felt good. The match started out okay, but in the middle I started to get tired, think too much, and was getting a little tired. And all of these things are actually okay. They are pretty much bound to happen at some point in the tournament. The problem was that I wasn't monitoring my state of mind so these things continued unchecked. Even though the results should have clued me in to step back, breathe, and change course.

I think the truly low point of the match for me was when the other team was on the hill and I went to play safe. The shot was a simple stop shot to hide behind another ball. But in my over-thinking mode, I decided that I needed to hide the ball completely, and needed to replace the ball, or I'd miss the hook. Of course I over hit it, and sold out. In hindsight, that was incredibly stupid, because a partial hook was all I needed.

But its a good lesson. Mostly about trying to train myself that when things aren't going right on the table, I need to stop and look inside and what's going on mentally. If I'm tired, thinking too much, being indecisive, I need to just stop. Remind myself to keep it simple and not exceed my abilities, and remember that its only a game, even if its a game I really want to win.

So, our next shot is this afternoon. Wish me luck.