Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Tourney Director Duty - Talking During Matches

It's amazing to me how many times during an Omega tournament I have to ask players or friends of players not to talk to someone during a match.

I don't think people really understand the true dynamics that goes on when two people compete and that what happens along the sidelines affects BOTH players.

I can remember two vivid examples from when I first started playing pool that encapsulates this exact thing:

(1) I was watching June Hager Walter in the finals of a tournament in the mid-nineties and myself and another friend went to talk to her because she was struggling.  We didn't necessarily have any advice for her, we just recognized that she was struggling and so we just wanted to maybe distract her or make her laugh or something. We didn't quite know exactly what we were doing OR that we shouldn't be talking to her, until the Tournament Director (Belinda Campos Calhoun) came up to us and told us that we can't talk to her and we had to retreat to our chairs on the sidelines. We ran away with our tails between our legs not really knowing why.

(2) The other example that I remember vividly is I was gambling in a very small match in the mid to late nineties with a friend in Austin, TX at Eric's Billiards. This was THE place back then for tournaments. While I'm gambling with her, a friend of hers walks by and stops to chat with her.  After her friend leaves, my opponent apologizes to me.  At this point I'm a little confused why she is apologizing to me.  But she explained almost in these exact words, "I could go and on about all the dynamics and reasons why her coming up to me makes me feel better.... and that's really not fair to you."

What?  I was so new at competing I was like, whatever.  But, it was a huge, pivotal moment in my pool journey, also.  She was actually sharing how talking to a friend calmed her down and helped her play better because she "felt loved and relieved."  Since I had no one to talk to to get the same effect, it wasn't fair to me, she expressed. 

Because I have competed for the last 20 years and run big tours for 15 years, I understand and have seen the affects on BOTH players when someone is talking to a friend during a match.  When I am at the table trying to shoot and my opponent starts to have a conversation with someone they know (or even don't know), it's a distraction/disruption to me - the player trying to concentrate at the table.  Sometimes it feels like disrespect.  Depending on your mood and where you stand in the match (winning, losing, playing bad, etc), it may even escalate your reaction to what's going on on the sidelines.  And, that's the case whether the distraction is intentional or not.

And of course the reverse happens when I am sitting in my chair (struggling or not) and my opponent is at the table, and I hear a friendly voice talk to me.  Just like in those two instances above, I recognize (and have felt plenty of times) a sense of comfort, love, and support when someone I know talks to me while I'm in a match.  It calms me down.  And if you think of this dynamic in a competitive setting, it's really not fair to your opponent.  You're happy and calm, your opponent is distracted.

That's why on the OB Cues Ladies Tour you are not allowed to text.  You can easily imagine someone sending a text to a friend, "I'm playing like shit."  And they respond with comforting words or advice.  Again, not fair to your opponent who is NOT on their phone getting support.

And because I recognize all of these dynamics, and because I've been through it, and because I see how people act when it's happening, and because of the many complaints I receive during the Omega tournament, I have to sometimes ask people to refrain from talking to their friends during a match.

Just at the last Omega tournament, I had to ask a player to please not talk to his friends during his match.  They all were not happy with me, but it wasn't fair they were talking while the opponent was trying to shoot.  If it's one time or something, I wont interfere, but if it's every time you are away from the table, it needs to be addressed.

Also at the same event, a player's girlfriend was talking to her boyfriend in the middle of his match. They were drinking and having fun which is normally fine, but the players are competing for thousands of dollars and they're not there just to have fun quite honestly.  So I had to ask her not to sit near him.  It really wasn't fair to the other player who was trying to concentrate and play his best.  Further, when it was his turn to watch, he would sit quietly in his seat and not walk around and talk to friends.

People get upset with me and don't understand why I ask others to move or why I asked people not to talk to their friends, but in reality I'm just doing what's fair and equal for BOTH players.  So, if I'm considered a bitch because of that, I will take that title because these players are playing for a lot of money and they need to be playing in an equal atmosphere so they both give their best.

Even though most of the time it's never intentional, and we don't even realize talking to friends is bothering our opponent, it is still about mutual respect.

There are a lot of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that go into playing competitive pool. We've all heard that pool is mostly mental and that is true.  Therefore, that is why if I notice a player talking to friends during a match, I ask them not to.  It should be equal footing because of all the emotions already going on during a match.  And as a Tournament Director, part of my role is recognizing these things for the players.

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