I met with him "officially" two times in early September (yes, when Tony and I were still married and Tony wasn't very happy about it AT ALL). Then when my Dad passed, I just didn't have time to see him until this week again. We had talked on the phone a few times, but didn't see each other again until Tuesday afternoon of this week.
Who is this guy? Well, I guess for lack of a better word, he's my coach. His name is Curt and he plays out of the pool room I frequent. ;)
I didn't want to tell anyone I was seeing a coach. It sounds weird, but I didn't want to spread that around. Now, for some reason, I feel I don't need to be embarrassed about it; it's just me seeking help.
How did this start?
I have always had a difficult time drawing my cueball. I have worked on it a little throughout the years but hadn't really figured it out to where I could draw consistently. Tony tried to help, Tara's boyfriend, Robbie and Jim at the pool room, etc., etc. Well, after a couple of tournaments in the Summer, I got SO frustrated because I lost SEVERAL close matches because I missed some draw shots. I was so ticked off and went to the pool room one afternoon and only worked the entire time (2 to 3 hours) on draw shots (damn my arm hurt afterwards!). There were a lot of the regulars there and they all came up to me to offer their advice and tell me what to do, but it didn't help.
Well, about 2/3 the way through this mini practice draw session of mine, one guy, Curt, walked down from his one pocket game and came over to me. He couldn't take it any more - he had to find out what I was doing and why everyone was coming up to me. He says, " Uh, Melinda, what exactly are you trying to do?" I replied, "Well, I can't draw and it's hurt me in several matches and so I was working on it today." He says, "let me watch you a little bit; I have helped a lot of people and in only a few hours, I can have you drawing."
After only a short time - not even 5 to 10 minutes - he walks back up to the table and says these three things to me:
- Try lowering your cue in the back.
- Try moving your bridge hand closer to the cueball.
- Everyone usually misses to one side of the pocket, let's see if you are doing that.
After only 15 minutes more or so, I was drawing almost every shot. Not lengths of the table mind you, but drawing nonetheless. I didn't know if it would last - I've had a few practice sessions in my life that I thought I had figured out how to draw but it never stuck with me. Reflecting back, I didn't consciously know what changes I had made to my stroke those times to make me draw. But after what I learned from Curt that day, I found myself being able to draw during my next practice sessions AND in the next tournaments I played! It didn't stick with me, but at least it brought me to me Curt.
A couple of weeks later, I saw him at the pool room again and asked him for his number (but didn't tell him why). I didn't call him right away, but a few weeks more I finally called him. I asked him about his comment, "I've helped a lot of people." He said he has given lots of lessons (but couldn't tell me who) but that I would be surprised all the people through the years that have come over to his house to learn from him. I told him I needed to talk to Tony about it; I needed him to feel comfortable and was concerned about that. Curt said he understood and just let him know later what Tony and I decided. He also mentioned we could play at the pool room or his house when his girlfriend was home so everyone was comfortable about it. I told him I didn't want people to know right now, but we had choices where to meet and I felt good about that.
I talked to Tony about it right away - I was excited and wanted a resolution. Tony was NOT happy with me. Tony is a very proud man and a VERY good player, so he would rather I learn from him. The problem is, I felt like Curt had more experience. Curt plays every week, and tony barely practiced. Tony continued to express his displeasure but I told him I wouldn't tell people and that I would keep it on the down low. I tried to be a nice wife about it but I knew I hurt him, but at the same time, I wanted him to be happy for me wanting some lessons to improve my game. I told Tony that Curt had helped many people and since he's given lessons before, I trusted him as a coach. He finally said okay after I told him we would meet either in public or at his home when his girlfriend was there.
Curt and I met shortly after that at the pool room one night for two hours; hardly anyone was there because it was early evening. He went over some safeties and a few shots with me, but there was a guy at the room watching us and he would interject his thoughts when Curt was showing me things. Now, I couldn't tell this guy I was paying table time and lessons time, so we decided to meet at his house the next session so we wouldn't be interrupted and it wouldn't be taking up my "pay" time.
We met at his house the next time and we spent about two or two and half hours together. At this second practice session, we mostly played games and talked about shape but we did work on this one particular shot and that shot has come up for me about a million times since then... and now I know how to play it. (okay, I'm exaggerating the "millions times" remark.)
My Dad passed away shortly after that and so I wasn't able to meet up with Curt for several months. I would call Curt and tell him my tournament results, but we didn't meet again until just this past Tuesday. That's about 5 months or so later. Wow!
I remember the day before my Dad passed, we were eating lunch at Chillie's and I mentioned to him about the lessons I was receiving and that Tony was upset about it, though. My Dad seemed pleased that I shared this with him and asked for his thoughts.
When Curt and I met on Tuesday, I told him there were some shots and safeties I wanted him to help me with; ones that had come up in my recent 9ball matches that were costing me games. We met at the pool room in the afternoon and the regulars could see "something" was going on. I am now going to admit he is helping me, if anyone asks.
Although he has helped me with my mental game and key shots, others have helped me as well:
Mark Garza gave me an amazing tip about how to stay down.
Steve Game has helped me with my stroke and as he watches me practice, he gives me little tips that have helped me.
Tyke has helped me with certain shots and the mental aspect of playing.
Rebecca, Amanda, Sherry and Monica have been sounding boards for me.
And I have helped myself by having consistent practice sessions where I have worked on my pre shot routine and muscle memory. It also helps that the beginning of Pleasures of Small Motions talks about how to practice. That has also helped me a lot, also.
So, it's all kind of come together for me in the last few months from many people.
I go through stages of learning "much" in spurts. About a year ago, Phil Capelle helped me immensely with my mental game by teaching me how to stop the chatter in my brain when I played in matches. Around the same time, Pool School Instructor Randy Goettlicher helped me by telling me what SPF means. Furthermore, a guy on the AZB forums was wording things so well and clear, it was very impactful for me. And that was also when I started to practice again more regularly.
I pick things up very easily, luckily, but the reason I asked Curt to help me was for these two very key reasons:
I told him I wanted to:
- Make my decisions quicker
- And I wanted to feel comfortable with my decisions
So, there. It's out in the open now (well, for those reading this blog). Bottom line is I don't mind if anyone knows now.
I don't know why I didn't want people to know this. I do know that when I have heard others have taken lessons it then intimidates me when I play them, so you'd think I'd want to try and have that mental advantage as well, but.... I don't know. I do know that I am LOVE expressing my learning experiences (obviously, or else I wouldn't have made a public blog), but to say "I have a coach," was weird to me.
I do think that it wasn't because of Curt that I won the tournament in Killeen or got 2nd at the Fast Eddie's event in November... I think it was a combination of everything, not one specific person or event.
In my bio on the Tour website, I even say don't be afraid to get help. Why did it take me all these years to take lessons? I always thought it was helpful, along with books, practice sessions, tapes, and tournament experience, but wanted to try and achieve things on my own, I guess. But, I knew I needed help with shots because I was seeing other players run out consistently and shoot shots I didn't know. I guess I wanted to be in the winner's circle, too. :) So, seeing others around me play so well and be successful helped me to want to improve. :)
Until Next Time,