Thursday, February 28, 2008

I've Been Seeing Someone

It's true. I didn't want to admit it, but yes, I am seeing someone. I didn't want to tell people, but have decided now I am going to be open about it.

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:
  1. Try lowering your cue in the back.
  2. Try moving your bridge hand closer to the cueball.
  3. Everyone usually misses to one side of the pocket, let's see if you are doing that.
He watched for only a little while more while I tried the first two things above - and I started to draw almost every shot! Then he said as a reminder, "remember to always follow through and don't hit so hard" (and we found out I missed to the right).

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.
Etc., etc.
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:
  1. Make my decisions quicker
  2. And I wanted to feel comfortable with my decisions
I was tired of standing at the table, wondering what the best shot was. I was tired of people asking me, "why did you shoot the shot that way? There's a better way." I wanted to feel comfortable with my shot selection decisions from now on and stop second guessing myself.

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,

Saturday, February 23, 2008

First Hunter Tournament of 2008

Coming off my FIRST-ever win in a tournament the weekend before, I knew not to have any expectations of a decent finish this weekend at the first Hunter Classics Tour stop of 2008. So, after the event, what would my description of the tournament be? surprised.

We had SIXTY FOUR ladies (WOW! ) come out to compete at the first Hunter Classics Tour event of 2008, held Feb 16-17 at Fast Eddie's Billiards in Round Rock, Texas (near Austin). The Player's Meeting was longer than normal because we had a lot to talk about, including announcing a new sponsor - OB Cues.

Wes Hunter, who was the catalyst of this regional women's tour and who sponsored us for FIFTEEN years was sad to let us go, but needed to spend more time on his business. We are all so grateful for his support all these years, but he will be missed!!!

The girls also surprised two of us board members (Julie and I) with cake and balloons and cards during the Player's Meeting!

Here we are blowing out the candles.

It was a wonderful surprise and an honor the girls thought of us.

I played my first match against the beautiful Connie and she is so sweet. I was playing real good and won 7-1. I surprised myself! I hadn't practiced all week, nor did I get ready for this tournament mentally or physically like I usually do. I was exhausted after the previous long weekend and didn't do hardly anything to get ready to play in this tournament. So, I was surprised I stayed down fairly well after my shots and also ran out well. I have to admit, it felt good to still be playing well!

Then I played my friend Ashley next. Her game has improved so much so I wasn't sure what would happen in our match. I still was playing good, but I noticed my arm was starting to move a lot on the last stroke. I missed a few key shots, but had one nice kick to get me ahead 4-2 and then won 7-3. I didn't think negative about my misses, just thought about what I did wrong and moved on instead of dwelled on the past.

I then played the "Firecracker" Tara McCracken next and I could tell before we started I wasn't going to play well. She's a very good shot maker and my stroke was messed up still and I wasn't mentally prepared for the match. We both played poorly, but I played worse. I missed several key shots and lost 4-7.

Kyu, trying to eat part of Tara's burger.

I then waited to play on the one-loss side, soaking up my loss because I played bad... all the while trying to run the tournament and take lots of photos. Eventually, I played my next match against Sue Chong. Sue plays well and with more seasoning, she'll be a player to reckon with. I won hill-hill, after several mistakes and then finally playing 'pool.' She played well! Then I played fellow board member Lucille Donahue and she wanted me to win fast because she was so exhausted. But, she came with some shots and it lasted longer than she wanted and I won 7-4. I was in until Sunday - guaranteed 9th-12th. Whew! I couldn't believe it!

Here is Lucille and I in our match.

I ate with some friends at Texas Roadhouse for dinner - LOVE that place! And it was a nice time to sit and relax and get off my feet.

The next morning I woke up earlier than normal so I could be at the tournament at 9am to help the other board members set up the tournament table items. I didn't hit any balls before my match, but started promptly at 10am against the formidable Julia Rapp. Samm Diep and I sat back to back in our chairs as we both struggled in our matches. She would lose to Kyu Yi, and I somehow won 7-4 against Julia. She made a few errors, but otherwise she played well (she has a very good game).


Next was my friend Michelle Ram. She was playing very, very well and deliberate in the beginning of the match and was about to be up 2-0, but missed a bank on the 9. I won the next game but then scratched on the 7ball. So, with the score tied 1-1 I made a comment that upset her. I did not intentionally say anything to her, I was reacting to my discontent of my scratch. The exchange of words kind of bothered us both. I won 7-3.

I don't think I realized I was then playing for 5th place. Wow. Out of 64 ladies! I met up with the 'ol Firecracker again. Her and I are very comfortable with each other and we chatted a little in the match but I need to just be quiet. I think my personality makes me feel comfortable enough to talk a small bit when I know the player well but I need to just shut my mouth. We both were a little shaky, but she came with some very nice shots but a few misses by us both made for a hill-hill thriller. She ended up on top of the 9ball and decided to go for the kick instead of playing safe and missed it. I won 7-6.

So, all of a sudden now I'm playing for 4th! I next played the Regional Tour Champion, Houston Open Champion, Texas State Champion, etc. and extremely good friend Amanda Lampert. I wanted so badly to play well in front of her and to my surprise, I did! We had a good match and even though she got upset with herself a few times, to her credit she got over it and she started to play real good when I had her down 6-4. I was playing really well, and was quiet proud of myself, but a few missed safes and two missed combos cost me a hill hill match. But, I felt good because I thought I played pretty sporty, even though at the end of the match, the last three games she got out so well, the claps were louder than normal in my head for some reason. LOL.

Amanda Lee Lampert and Ricki Lee Casper (they look like twins!)

Overall, I had a great tournament. I surprised myself doing so well. But, my common mistakes did help me to mentally remember the shots I need to work on. That's the beauty of this game - so much to learn and grow from.

Until Next Time.

Killeen, Texas Tourney - My Birthday Weekend

How would I describe my tournament this weekend? I finally did it! (okay, so I should use one word descriptions... hmmm... victorious?)

To get ready for this triple elimination 8-ball tournament on Diamond 7-foot Smart Tables, I reviewed the 8-ball section of Play Your Best Pool by Phil Capelle. The 8-ball section has always helped me play smart in 8ball tournaments. I was also going to read my notes I scribbled on certain pages of Play Your Best Eightball, but can't find that book right now (I just moved and it may still be in a box somewhere). I also worked on some of the steps to reach my 2008 pool goal - I walked the stairs at work, worked on my arms for strength and also did some yoga, as well as practiced on Monday nights.

My Mom and I went to "the river" (the Texas Hill Country) on the Monday before this Southwest Amateur Tournament (SWAT) to hopefully see some deer and take some pictures, and to check out the Frio River. Luckily we saw a lot of deer and we were able to watch them enjoying the early evening weather as they munched on grass or laid on the cool soil behind green bushes or tall trees. I mentioned to my Mom that because we saw all of these deer, I would probably play well at the tournament the following weekend. For some reason, nature makes my inner soul calm and I have played so well at tournaments after I have watched wildlife in nature. Here are all the photos of deer - it's probably boring to look through these photos, but seeing them in person is very awe-inspiring and calming.

I didn't get to practice that week, but was able to accomplish a lot with my Mom. On Thursday night I rushed out of my Mom's house (realizing at the last minute Killeen was three hours away, not two hours from her home in San Antonio) and found the hotel and was very surprised - it seemed like a brand new hotel and I was happy because usually this chain is pretty crappy. I normally stay at other hotels, but because this was a three night tournament, I needed to save money and found this hotel with cheaper rates. As we all know, cheaper rates can sometimes reflect the condition of the hotel (but not this time - yay!).

I didn't wake up the next morning with too much thought of my mental readiness of the tournament, though. However, I did eat some waffles from the free breakfast (which I love!) and felt I would be fine that Friday. Got up at a decent hour, got to the E-Center at Harker Heights, Texas at 8am and hit some balls. My scotch doubles partner and I practiced a little bit too and then we found out we got a bye and so we hit balls some more.

Monica Anderson!

We lost our first doubles match, but should have won. Ugh. My partner was pretty ticked about it, but I tried not to think about it (maybe the Ginko pill I took in the morning helped with that, lol). I have tried so hard lately to not think of the past in my matches/tournaments or the future, and I was successful as we played three more matches and we won every one of them decisively.

I then played my first singles match after a bye. I played my friend Michelle Yim. I played pretty damned sporty the first two games and was up 2-0... but got overly confident and was thinking about how well I was playing. I started to miss and she started to play better and then she won 2-5. She played better than me later in the match and although I was disappointed and embarrassed I didn't play well the last 5 games, she played very good and I was happy for her. Ricki Lee Casper was waiting for the winner of our match and Michelle proceeded to beat Ricki next also - so Michelle was having a great tournament beating some good 8ball players the first night! I then got one of the few byes in the first round of the one-loss side and was at the hotel room at a decent hour to get some sleep Friday night. As I fell asleep, I told myself that tomorrow I was going to play better and be in a better frame of mind; was going to be more mentally 'in-tune' the next day.

We have to play three scotch doubles matches Saturday morning (my Birthday!) and we win each of them, starting at 9am.

I decided to change into some non-heeled shoes because the concrete was rough on my back/feet. I felt comfortable in my new black pants and kept a sweater on because it was cool in there. I had eaten a blueberry bar for breakfast earlier.

I play my first singles match against my friend Ashley Nandrasy at noon and won 5-1. I played pretty good and a few fluke errors on her part made for a bad match for her (a missed 8 ball and another 8 ball in a wrong pocket). I then played my friend Natalie Mans next.

Natalie was playing well but she would miss a few balls that would allow me back at the table and I won 5-3. She asked me after the match if I deliberately played slow to throw off my opponent. Uh, what?! "I wasn't playing slow," I thought to myself, reflecting back that I have played slow in the past and this was NOTHING like that. I played deliberate so I would make smart decisions and was trying to stay down more after I shot so I wouldn't lift my head (bad habit), but didn't think I was playing so slow someone would make a comment to me. She then said maybe she just wasn't used to tournament play (she hadn't played in a while) and that she was getting easily distracted in slow-paced matches now for some reason. It still concerned me and I actually felt quite bad... and asked my friend Rebecca Redumis if I was playing slow to where it was bothering other players and she told me no, so she helped me feel better.

I then played Ricki Lee Casper next. Man, she was playing good! She ran the first rack and the second rack. She was playing SO good - I just love her 8ball game. I also noticed she was breaking really well and hard. I break well in 9ball, but in 8ball I struggle a little bit. At this tournament, I wasn't hitting the 8ball rack good at all... but after I saw Ricki breaking well I made a conscious effort to break more solid, more confident and not be afraid to break.... and this helped me break better for the rest of the tournament.

Down 0-2, Ricki slow rolled a ball before the 8, and it didn't fall and I got on the board! She won the next two games and had me down 4-1 in a race to 5. I never got nervous or had negative thoughts that I was losing, but when Natalie came to sit next to me, I did feel better because Ricki had some friends talking to her and I didn't feel so "alone" anymore.

I had a funny feeling I would still win, for whatever reason, but maybe it was just calmness I was feeling. I never felt rushed; never felt the uneasiness about being behind or under pressure to win games because I had had to catch up; I just 'played pool,' which is an amazing, wonderful feeling. After a few mistakes on her part and few good shots from me, I was able to win some more games and actually pulled out the win 5-4. Wow!

Then it was back to scotch doubles mode and my partner and I won the next match 5-0! We then played a top team next and lost only hill-hill. In the first game of that match, the ref called a foul on me, but I thought I hit the 8ball pretty sporty (many others thought it was a good hit, but he told me later he was looking at the reaction of the cueball). So, the loss hill-hill was pretty brutal. We placed 4th, though - not too shabby for losing our first match.

I then had one more singles match to play that Saturday and defeated Kelly Stanley 5-3 and went home again at a decent hour, told myself I will concentrate and play well on Sunday, and got some sleep (even though everyone else was staying out late, having fun, and partying, I wanted to get rest for my tournament - I played at 9am the next day).

I got up early and got to the E-Center at 8am again. No one else showed up until 840 or so, but I put on my ipod and hit some balls to warm up. I then ate a blueberry bar and had some water while I waited to play my first match against Kim Pierce. I played really, really well and won 5-1. I tried to not think ahead or think about how well I was playing - that can SO hurt during my matches. Then I had to play Michelle Yim again. The triple elimination tournament is an interesting tournament... you know you have three times to lose so it kind of gives you a little hope if you lose a second time. LOL.

I was playing good at the beginning of the match with Michelle and was up 2-0, but that was also the same score when we played two days before and I lost 2-5, so I tried to remain in the moment and not think negative, but I was feeling a little pressure.

She won a few more games and I found myself down 4-2 again... ugh! Two of the games, I ran out beautifully to the 8 ball and hooked myself one time and got bad shape another time. To her credit, she ran out the whole table beautifully those two games! I was able to win two more games and tied it 4-4 in a race to five. I broke and could see the run but I admit my thoughts were about the two failed runouts I had had before that cost me two games. I still, though, began my run but of course found myself with bad shape - this time on the third ball before the 8. Instead of hitting it like I should, the shape I left myself forced me to hit it soft for shape for the next ball and I missed it! She then shot her first shot but slow rolled it and missed. I wasn't expecting that - I thought she was going to run out. I then made my two balls and got kind of tough on the 8 but was able to see the pocket and made it. I won hill-hill. Wow!

I then got some nachos to snack on.... not too many, but enough to tantalize my tummy. I didn't eat but two blue berry bars the day before but knew I needed more to eat today because food does give you fuel and I think yesterday I got lucky playing well on an empty stomach. Michelle then beat Kim Pierce hill hill and I met Michelle again. This would be called the semi-final match, I suppose.

Michelle would have to beat me two matches, both a race to five - she had two losses, I had one. I don't know if she knew that or not, though.

She won the first game because I made a mistake and she got out. Then I had a chance to win the second game and missed an 8 ball. I then became extremely embarrassed for missing such an easy shot - and the mistakes started piling up on me which made for an increased heart rate and I couldn't shoot well. My adrenaline was pumping, I was trying to breathe to calm myself down, but I wasn't playing well at all.

I actually talked to Paul Pottier about this very thing - embarrassment in matches - while sitting next to him at a poker table at the Riviera in Vegas last year. As a well-known instructor, I took the opportunity to ask him about my latest obstacle (I had been going through embarrassment in matches for a few months - right after I worked successfully on another part of my mental game, ironically). He said, basically, embarrassment is the same as fear. If we look at fear and confidence on a percentage level, we have 100% of them combined into a flask (my terminology). The key is to make the two "feelings" lopsided in the flask so there is more confidence than fear. He didn't tell me how to do that (someone else told me their own personal tricks after he left the table for dinner), but in the match with Michelle I didn't have enough time to work on the tricks - it was a very quick match and I had probably 85% worth of embarrassment in that internal flask. That leaves only 15% confidence, LOL.

Michelle scratched on two 8 balls, made an 8 ball in the wrong pocket, and a failed safety allowed me to see my 8 ball in another game. I only won one game on my own... but won 5-4. I felt very bad for her - she really did have a GREAT tournament. As I reflect back, that match was probably, kind of in the cards for me to win. Sometimes things happen that are just meant to be - weird, flukey matches like that - and I felt like it was a sign it was my turn to play in the finals. It's difficult to describe... but I've seen it so many times (but I'm usually on the other end).

After the win, I saw my good friend Rebecca Redumis in the bathroom and she said, "I sent you and Michelle texts -you both weren't staying down." "Really?" I replied surprised - but if I would have reflected on my match, I definitely wasn't staying down. Rebecca also said I was hitting the ball timid. This reminded me of the last time she watched me play in the finals - I was playing timid then too. I needed to hit the ball, stroke the ball, stroke with authority. I am VERY grateful she mentioned to me I was playing timid.

Here is Rebecca Redumis, playing in the tournament!

Going into the finals, it was surreal. I felt a little bad - the men's matches were over so the table guy only had two tables to remove (the ones in the center of the room we were playing on) and so he couldn't leave; two of my friends, Kim and Diana, needed to stay to help pick up things when we were done; Rebecca, Rebecca and Michelle had a long drive home; and the tournament director's (Robert Tabor's) Dad just got in the hospital that morning. I tried so hard not to think of these factors.

I didn't know what would happen in the finals - could I beat her THREE sets, each a race to five? Could I meet my goal to win a tournament in my 30s? Finally? Could I even actually almost win a tournament on my birthday weekend?

By now, my adrenaline had calmed through my body. I could literally feel my heart rate slowing down and a calmness was passing through my veins. As I started to play, I thought very consciously about stroking the ball like Rebecca mentioned to me. I made some mistakes in the first set but pulled it off 5-3. In the second set, I played better - I was playing more safes, not taking chances, and playing smart (at least I thought so). I won 5-1. OMG... down to one set. Rebecca Goodnight, my opponent in the finals, was taking score the first two sets, but all of a sudden stopped taking score the third set. I could see she wasn't happy but she didn't show a lot of emotion, really. She handled herself very professionally, I thought.

This is me in the Finals!

I won the first four games in the last set and was up 4-0, by playing, IMO, pretty solidly. Stroking the ball, not being timid, taking my time, etc. I started to tear up when I was on the hill, sitting in my chair - but told myself NOT to think ahead - it's not over. I felt this same way in the finals of that Nov tournament and knew it wasn't over yet and said to myself not to get ahead of myself.

I was on the hill, it was the third set, and I was at the table, focused, but still hanging in the back of my mind was the possibility I could win. I played safe a couple of times and after a few innings, I found myself looking down on a runable table. I don't know how I was able to play, knowing what could be on the horizon just minutes away, but I stayed down after my shots, stroked the ball, and moved around the table like it wasn't the final game of a tournament I was about to win. As I got down to shoot the 8ball, she walked up to me and said I didn't need to shoot it and she shook my hand. There were some claps from the small crowd and I was smiling and probably in shock. We took a few photos right away and I don't know how I stopped the tears up until this point.

I was kind of at a loss what to do next and my body walked itself to my cue, so I could put it in its case. But as I grabbed my cue, I somehow, for some reason, walked up to the table... and shot that 8ball into its pocket... to seal in my mind I actually, really did win the tournament. Kim Pierce came up to me to congratulate me and as she hugged me, I started to cry. I was so happy, shocked, amazed, relieved, overwhelmed. I finally won a tournament!! OMG!

Michelle, Me and Rebecca

I went to the bathroom and called my Mom and cried more as I told her I won and dedicated the win to her. I went back to the table to get my things and said my goodbyes as the girls left to go back to Houston. I didn't know that Diana was texting my captain Monica Anderson with updates about the finals and she was forwarding those updates to friends in Dallas. By the time I got to my car, I had texts from so many friends about my win! WOW!!! My Birthday weekend, too! WOW!

I chatted on the phone non stop all the way home to my friends Monica, Amanda, Ray and Sherry. I ate dinner by myself in Waco at Texas Roadhouse, but luckily Sherry was on the phone with me and I felt we had a celebratory dinner together. :)

WOW! I reached my goal of winning a tournament in my 30s! I had to triple dip someone to do it. WOW! It was my Birthday weekend. WOW!

I am still ELATED I won! I can't believe it!

Until Next Time.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Second Tourney of 2008 - FE Tour

How would I describe this tournament? I had a semi-successful but disappointing tournament, while at the same time felt "in my element" (i.e., let my personality out a little more than usual) throughout the day. So, distraught but happy.

I gave this tournament more pre-tournament-thought than the previous one. I just "showed up" to the last tournament, but this time I prepared myself mentally. Gave purposeful thought to play well by preparing my mental toughness - I envisioned myself playing well and prepared my mental energy into 'tournament mode.'

I did not get there early like I wanted to on Sunday morning, but I still had time to take photos before I played. I didn't practice like I sometimes do, but I would be okay. It's not yet in my routine to hit balls the morning of a tournament. If I do it, fine, if not, then I accept that and not let it bother me mentally in my matches. I knew I had played quite well at league the last two weeks and also got in some real good 'conditioning practice sessions' at the two previous Mondays (chicks play free on Mondays at the room I practice at: Rusty's Billiards). I have been staying down well and executing my pre shot routine good, so I felt good going into the tournament.

I got a bye the first round - well, 15 others did, too ;) - and I then played H.H. first. She's a very tough player but I didn't let those facts enter too far into my thoughts and just stepped up to the table ready to play my game. I played fairly well, but missed some crucial shots, but she was struggling (early morning match?) and I tried to capitalize and won 7-2 or 7-4. I then played C.W. next and she is such a sweet girl, but I hadn't played her before, but knew she could "come with it." I did bear down and played tough/good, but at the same time, the rolls were not going her way - so I didn't really see her true game, unfortunately. I won 7-3.

Then I played H.L. and knew it would be a tough match. By the time we played, I admit, I was tired. We had a long wait and I noticed I wasn't smiling as much when I chatted with some new friends and was getting a slight headache and could feel my body getting tired. I ate a blue berry bar (based on a thread on AZBillliards) but it didn't really matter - she played lights out! I have seen her play for many years and she is an amazing competitor, but her game was even more so elevated this day. I was frustrated I wasn't getting many opportunities and only after the day ended could I fully appreciate her talent and was actually very happy about her play at the table; her skill at the table. I played very well the first game, and felt comfortable/good about my stroke, but accidentally hooked myself on the 5 ball. She missed ball in hand trying to play shape on a tricky 6 ball but left me hooked, which I proceeded to scratch on. She then ran out. I scratched on the break and she ran out. Then she broke and ran. At this point, I tell myself that most players don't normally play well the entire match so I just needed to wait for my opportunities. Well, she didn't falter until she had me down 5-0! She scratched on the 8 ball - hey, I didn't get skunked! The next game, she played a safe on the 9ball and I tried to (double) bank it but it rolled off and it didn't go in. Dang it! I can't say enough how well she was playing. I noticed she focused on three ball shape extensively... I don't mean she took a lot of time, I mean she was deliberate and did not "assume" where the cue ball should be for three ball shape. She defeated me 1-7.

I then had to wait a little bit to play my next match and tried not to think about who I'd rather play between the two ladies who were playing in the match before me. I put my ipod on and practiced - just like I do during my Monday night practice sessions.

I played M.A. next. I walked to the table and saw it didn't have a red circle cue ball on it and grabbed one from a nearby table that wasn't being played on by the guys. My opponent says she would like to use the house cue ball. I reply confused, "What?" She replies that she prefers the red circle also, but in her matches this day she mostly used the house cue ball (there wasn't enough red circles available) and so she wanted to use it. I stood my ground and said, "well, I want to use a red circle, I guess we ask the Tournament Director what to do."

I find out that if the players don't agree, the house cue ball is suppose to be used. WTF? I was pretty disturbed and stated out loud in front of my opponent and to the TD that I thought it was a stupid rule. As nonconfrontational as I am, I still thought it was absurd. I would find out after the match that the red circles are being discontinued (I think because people are walking off with them) and so the tour is eventually going to stop using them. I understand the rule now but wish I knew it before and wished it didn't get to me.

I was concerned I wouldn't play well because I was perturbed. My brow was crinkled and I wasn't smiling (not that I do when I play) but my face was not relaxed; I was ticked and was afraid I wouldn't be thinking clear. However, I surprised myself - I played good! It was a short race to five and I won 5-2. I did get a few opportunities, but I took advantage of them and felt like I played and focused well.

Now I am guaranteed 4th, but like so many times, tried not to think that I was in the money and tried not to relax; tried not to get comfortable that I reached that spot. I am honestly tired of getting to that point in tournaments and then playing 'relaxed.' I am making more progress, as of the last 4 months... but I wanted to play for 3rd place so badly. I missed the 9ball to go up 3-1 (hit it soft and let up on my stroke). At 4-2, I missed a 7-ball (a tough shot for me that I need to REALLY work on), then a tough 6 ball in the next game. Each missed shot could have been prevented if I got better shape. I looked where I wanted the cue ball to be, but I guess I still wasn't sure of my decision when I executed the shot before each of those tough cuts... and therefore left myself bad. In the beginning of the match, I made some tough shots off of my mis-shapes, but when I was on the hill, I just couldn't finish off the games when I got bad shape. I even tried to follow through well during those shots so I wasn't poking at them (I tend to poke at what I consider 'tough for me' shots) but I was already too worried about the shots and didn't bare down. A.C. came back and tied it hill hill. And then the last game she really, really ran out beautifully for the win!

I was simply exhausted and disappointed again after that game. Several people said I should have won and I should have, but I couldn't seal the win. She ran out good the last game and deserved the win.

So, I got 4th which was in the money (cool!) and even got a little jelly from my calcutta money. Even though I never buy half myself, my friend Ray is starting to do that and he gave me some jelly.

Until next time, which is two tournaments in a row the next two weekends!