Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Tour Member Angst

A friend called me this week for a pep talk.  There is an OB Cues Ladies Tour event being held IN our city this weekend and she had reservations about playing in it.

"I don't feel quite ready yet to enter the Ladies Tour stop this weekend.  I just don't think I'm prepared."

She should take advantage that the tournament is in town!  Further, I explained it's important she get her feet wet in this type of big women's tourney.  I also tried to share my experience with her that the more tourneys you play, the more comfortable you will eventually get --> and, your game will improve because of the experiences. 

I also touched on (carefully worded but didn't go into detail), that she might get frustrated in this tourney, because a Big Ladies Tournament is a whole-lot different than practicing.  I didn't go into details, but my heart ached about the emotions I wanted to express, so I felt like writing this blog entry about it to explain some things us ladies go through.  I wonder if guys go through the same thing?

Anyway, she mentioned she practices well with friends, but then come league or weekly tourney time, she sometimes doesn't do as well and gets frustrated.  I told her that was very normal and we all go through that.  And quite frankly, many are still going through that, even after playing pool for years; it takes much experience.  There is no pressure when we practice. Tournaments are full of ALL different types of pressures.

I tried to express that she needs to start to get her feet wet now.  Don't wait til she thinks she is ready, because I don't know anyone who ever feels they are ready, lol. 

She is getting a lot of flack from guy friends who are telling her to enter the tourney, etc.  I told her the expectations people put on us are very unfortunate.  I know I always hated to come back to work on Monday and share I "only got 24th place" and then my coworkers wonder why I still play this game.  :(

However, what I didn't get across to my friend and what I didn't have the heart to share with her yet, was that she might get very disappointed.  I'm not here to debbie-down anyone, but it takes YEARS to finally feel comfortable in a big ladies tour event.  But you have to start somewhere!  It takes years to finally even play well in a big ladies event.  It takes years to finally not let the mental game get the best of you (I still learn about the mental game during every tourney).  It can sometimes take years to last until Sunday. 

I don't care how many hours your practice, the mental aspects of playing in a tournament is quite frankly, BRUTAL.  The pressure is immense sometimes.  But - it's the best experience for your game!  I have so many friends who cry after matches, tourneys, and weekends.  It's tough to accept that you KNOW you play so much better than how you just played in a big tourney.  It can be heartbreaking; extremely emotional to be so disappointed in yourself and your own expectations.  Saturday you can't make a ball, and then Sunday when you are out of the main event, your game shows up!

Sure, tournaments are fun and my friend will have a GREAT time in the environment  among great friends ("Good Pool. Good Friends. Good Times. "). But, I'm also aware if she doesn't perform well, she might get disappointed and discouraged.  Hopefully that wont happen and maybe she is mentally stronger than I realize!  But, it happens to many of my friends even today, many who have been playing for a long time.

However, I want all players to know that we have all felt this way.  It just takes time, commitment, pain, tears, frustrations, etc. to finally feel good about our performance in these big tournaments.  And, the success WILL come!

The sooner you enter tournaments, the more experience you will get.  The more heartache you feel, the tougher you become for the next tournament/opponent.  Tournaments are not easy.  Sure, they are suppose to be fun, but they are emotionally very tough on our hearts and emotions and will power.

Almost damaging sometimes.  It's very frustrating to know you play better than what you performed. ;-(

So, now that I've basically ruined fun expectations (lol, sorry), let me be a good ambassador of the game and share what I have seen that has worked to counter this the fastest:
  • Take lessons.  The friends who have taken lessons do so much better in the tournaments much much faster than people who haven't.
  • Keep entering the tournaments.  While it takes time to become mentally strong and finally "show up" in tournaments, the more tournaments you enter, the more experience you get.  And the better you become!
  • The best advice my friend Cristina ever received was to "Put yourself in competitions above your skill level whenever possible."  Read her great article about this on her blog.  
  • Talk to friends.  Friends who have been playing for a while can empathize with you and share that they have felt all these same emotions you are feeling.  Talk to them about your concerns before and after matches.  It will help!
  • Time.  Time is your friend.  On Saturday you may be crying, but come Monday you will want to be playing again!  I promise.
  • Read about the mental game.  While each match you play in will strengthen your mental game, it will also help if you can learn about the mental aspects of competing from books, too. 
I'm sharing this "ugly" side of competing so my friends wont feel like they are the only ones who go through this.  I went through it for years, and even now I still sometimes get very upset after matches.  And I've been playing for over 20 years.  And, I see my friends' heartache a lot, too.  It's part of competition, but the rewards are there, I promise!

Remember, Pool Is A Journey!

And my friend Janea describes competing perfectly:

'I know this may sound kinda silly but, the main reason I love playing pool competitively is that it's like a spiritual practice for me. Ironically, when I stopped playing to win, is when I started winning. And when I fall back into the habit of trying to win, I start losing. To me, playing pool is about being patient, present, compassionate, empathetic, gracious, respectful, forgiving, kind, persistent, in the flow, accepting, emotionally intelligent, calm, conscious....sure, winning feels great! but I feel like if I'm improving any one of those areas from playing, then I AM winning! :) Now, if only I could remember that when the pressure is on and my nerves are going nuts!"


    baabbzz said...

    This is the sweetest thing ever and I appreciate you for this!!! I will definitely take your advice and keep on trucking!!!

    spanky said...

    The only thing I will say is. It doesn't take "everyone" years to get used to tournament play. Some people just do well under pressure and learn to love it quickly.
    Once again great write up.