Monday, April 6, 2020

Work on Your Pool Game During Pandemic

First off, I hope all of you are doing well. I bet you feel like I do, like the pandemic has hijacked our lives.

Besides the upheaval of our normal lives, what about my pool game??

Because it's important to do activities that lower stress and anxiety, it goes right along with some ideas I wanted to share to keep your game up while you might be required to "Stay-At-Home" due to the pandemic.

If you don't have a table at home:
  • Work on your stroke by trying to get your cue tip consistently into a coke bottle. This can be done at home without a pool table.
  • Run a rack in your head. Imagine yourself breaking, then staying down for each shot and try to run out. Use English and get good shape, all in your mind, all as you try to run the entire rack in your head. Warning, this isn't easy! And don't just run the rack fast in your head, but run it with dedication to each shot. Give each shot the attention it deserves (just like on a pool table). This is a great technique to imagine your pre-shot routine on every shot, stay down, and helps train your brain to focus.
  • Speaking on running racks. One the most helpful things I like to do (and my most favorite) is to think about is that one particular game of a match that I stayed down so well on every shot, in front of a crowd, making all shots with a smooth stroke, feeling calm and confident. Maybe that time you were 'in the zone." You can picture your own certain match/game right now, right? Really focus on it and remember the feelings, the sounds, how your shoulders were not tight because you didn't feel pressure, you stayed down really well, smooth stroke, you felt good, etc. Thinking about your own great game or match you played well, helps solidify your pre-shot routine (I promise!).
  • Use dumbbells regularly to build your arm muscles.  This helps your stroke be more solid.
  • Watch matches on YouTube. Search billiards. Or maybe check out the CSI YouTube Channel which will keep you busy for DAYS.
  • Oh, hey - read part of those pool books you haven't ever opened. Or, if you don't have one, finally order one online!
  • I would also reach out to pool friends. We may not talk about pool, but with league paused and tournaments delayed, it's important to connect with our pool friends.
  • If you have an extra billiards towel or fabric, make your face mask out of it! Show your love of our sport.

If you have a table at home:
  • Practice "Carom Nine" (see rules at bottom of this page). Helps you learn carom shots in a fun yet frustrating way, lol. (basically, the object ball must make first contact with the cue ball to count as a legal shot, the goal being to carom the object ball into a pocket or into another ball.)
  • This is a good time to work on your break. Practice it. Get it down pat. It's the opening shot - it's an important part of the game a lot of us don't give enough attention to.
  • Speaking of breaks, practice your break using different racks if you have them - magic rack, accu-rack, and also regular wooden/plastic racks from the pool room.  
  • Play opposite handed. That's fun!
  • Play one-handed. Even tougher!

I know there are a ton other things, but hopefully this gets you started to ease stress AND work your game.

Stay safe my friends! We will get through this together.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A Saturday Night Out Lessons

I was conversing with a friend of mine at the end of last year, who is also a frequent contributor to billiard magazines. We chat every so often comparing notes and sharing ideas.
After we discussed our most recent interactions with certain players for our respective magazines, he shared he had recently played pool (I thought he hadn't played in quite some time, so I leaned in towards the little chat window, anxious to see what he would type next.
"On a side note, " he started out, "I'm starting to get the Jones to play again. I actually got out on Saturday and played in a tourney. "
He then shared a photo of him and another player. They were holding up 20 dollar bills like a fan, lol. Then as I looked closer, I realized my colleague had more 20s than other player next to him - he placed first! My colleague is an introvert and shy (especially with photos), but I could see happiness and accomplishment on his face.
"Not bad for someone who has played in maybe two tourneys in the last 12 months, " he quipped.
"WOW! Look at you!" I gasped. I was so happy for him! Then added, "Sometimes breaks are really good for our game," not knowing I was foreshadowing his next comment.
He asks me, "Tell me if this makes any sense. I am a Fargo 560 and my buddy is right around 590-600, depending on the day. When I decided to go play, I didn't tell him because I knew he would come out to watch. I wanted a chance to play without feeling that I had to play up to his rating. "
We have all been through this right?
We sometimes play better in front of certain people, or sometimes play worse in front of others. Are we showing off, trying to prove something, being over confident, or on the contrary, are we afraid to be play bad in front of our friends, or feel embarrassed if we lose, etc.
The "clear" atmosphere allowed him to finally JUST PLAY POOL. I talk about this a lot, but that's what he did this Saturday night. He played pool! No distractions. No considering how he plays because his friend was there. Just played pool.
Again, mental distractions (whether we are aware or not) can keep us from just playing pool, and giving our best on every shot.
But wait!
He had more to share about his Saturday night escapade:
He continued, "I also told myself that contributing to a billiard magazine doesn't mean that every table is a Cosmo for me, and it's okay to have to stop and study, work out a plan, and bear down trying to make it happen. "
Uh, what?
He lost me.
I asked him to explain.
"I sometimes get the idea that since I watch a ton of top level pool to get ready to contribute to the mag, that it should be easy for me to run out on a bar box and that I shouldn't have to ever stop and study a table or shot for more than a few seconds."
Oh wow, what a great reminder! Sometimes we get too cocky or maybe lazy about our game. Don't get too comfortable or think you know the game enough to not study the table or take your time. Every match give it your all and don't presume you can slack off on planning or looking at options.
Congrat's to my colleague! (leave your buddy home more often and take your time, haha!)
Stay safe out there, fellow players; social distance.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Not Afraid to Fail or Succeed - Tips

One of my friends mentioned he tried to leave a comment on my blog.  I asked him for which post, and he said the one about not seeing results.  I didn't see the comment through Blogger, but luckily he gave me the Cliff Notes version:
"It is harder to get tournament results now than it’s ever been... Players are just flat out better now than they were 25 years ago and there are so many more of them. No result is guaranteed. The guys that do consistently well are the ones who put in the work."

Good point!

However, I then keyed in on his final sentence:  “The guys that do consistently well are the ones who put in the work.”  

The reason why, is because he himself has been finishing higher than I’m used to seeing on the tour he plays on. You all know my curiosity, so of course I asked him about it (smile).

I asked him, “Does this mean you are putting in work? You are placing higher than before, and more consistently – not just lucky or random high finishes.”

I was expecting his normal witty repartee, but instead he was serious.  And the info was really eye-opening.  I'm excited to share this conversation with you all!
“I practice at the house before big tournaments. But, what has happened to me is my whole outlook has changed. I just play... Very aggressive and confident. And I don’t quit. LOL.”

“That's really awesome,” I told him. Then asked, him why he starting doing that.

He replies,
“Life... LOL. I’m not a wound-up person, so I can just concentrate on playing. I’m not afraid to shoot anything anymore because the result of any given shot means very little to my life. I know that sounds fatalistic and yet weird, but it works for me. I like playing and I like competing, but the truth is: the results mean nothing to me or my life. I used to be afraid both to fail and to succeed. Now I’m neither.”

Interesting, right?

I then asked him what made him decide to start playing that way.

He explains,
“It’s that fear thing. I used to be so afraid to fail. Now I’m not. And, truth be told, I’m a more talented and polished player now at age 51 than I have ever been.” (he has great fundamentals he’s worked on for years and they are very solid now.)

I prodded more, “Did you wake up and realize that? Or just figure that out one day?”

He said,
“It just kinda happened. No figuring. It just seemed silly to be afraid to lose a pool game. Or afraid to win one for that matter. Funny thing is I still have little moments of crisis of confidence. But they don’t last long and the balls keep going in whether I have them or not. No explanation for that. 
Observation about confidence: Am I playing well because I’m confident or am I confident because I’ve reached a predictable level of playing well??

Hmm, good internal questions.

I then asked him one final thing about this really intriguing discussion, “How long ago did this change in thinking start?”
“Let’s see. I guess I really first felt it about a year ago. Maybe around the time I realized I was at a terrible job with not much hope for better.  I just know that when I turned my life over to a certain feeling of resignation it carried over to my pool playing and all fear was gone. No fear of losing, no fear of embarrassment, and no fear of winning even. It somehow freed me to just play. And to play a style that I enjoy. Because I was resigned to the fact that none of it really mattered.”

He added, “I doubt that makes sense.”

Actually, it does.  And SO wanted to share this with you all.  Enjoy!