Our status defines us. Or, does it?
What others might see as which "label" we should be, we may not agree with. Some may have finished high enough in a national tourney to now be a defined as a "Master" or an "Advanced" player.
But, what do you think of yourself?
Do you think your status is accurate? And does it help you or hurt you?
For me, it's easy.
I'm defined by the leagues as an "Open" player. While this year I was one finish away in the Open singles at BCAPL to be moved up to an "Advanced" player, I was still short of that status. I'm still an Open player.
When I placed 9th in the BCAPL Women's Open and became a Master player in 2001 for 2 whole years, I don't know how I did that. Sure, I played more pool back then and so I finished higher in many tourneys across Texas, but it's amazing to me how much more exponentially knowledgeable I am about the game today. How did I do that back then?
Is pool cyclical?
We go through life and sometimes pool is on the forefront and we place well in many tourneys. Then, things in life happen and maybe we don't play as much anymore. And while we may not place as high as we did before, we are still semi-decent players. Then life presents us with another opportunity to play lots of pool and we start to excel again. And we learn more about the game than we ever have before! We may not place higher, but we still play pool well (even... better).
Someone asked me in Vegas how it feels to be defined as an Open player, but everyone thinks I should be a Master. Or, at the very least, an Advanced player (by definition). My answer was simple:
"It doesn't bother me."
I shared with my friend that while I agree my physical skills may be at a Master level, my mental skills are not there yet. I think I should be an Open player based on my mental game.
I still struggle with pressure, expectations, nerves, future-thinking, wants, etc. My mental game is gooey, compared to my physical game.
If I didn't get nervous or if I could overcome my fears and pressure, I think I would have won many state tourneys by now, or even an OB Cues Ladies Tour stop!
I haven't "mastered" that part of my game. Although I've made much progress, and have come a long way, I still have mental obstacles. I obviously still struggle with my fundamentals every now and then, too. Therefore, I am fine with where I am right now: an Open Player.
I have the skills physically and the knowledge of Master players and also a lot of tournament experience, but mentally, I feel like I'm not there yet.
I do wonder though - will I ever be "there"?
Will I ever perfect my physical and mental game to where one day I don't say I still struggle with pressure or still jump up? I think working on my game is part of the journey and whether a Master or Advanced or Grand Master, I will always be working on things.
I honestly think I could easily be a Master player. I can't even imagine myself to the point where I could be MORE than a Master. I can't even fathom that. Grand Master? Me? Nah. I can't see myself playing at the pro level. Master? Advanced? Sure.
I feel I'm getting better and better little bit by little bit, all the time, though. It feels good. :) I hope it continues.
If I get more wins under my belt, and overcome that invisible pressure I put on myself, I think I will easily place high enough in a nationals tourney to be officially defined as a Master player again some day (soon).
Until then, this is who I am. And I'm very okay with that.
And let's talk about the elephant in the room. An Open player has more opportunities to play in tournaments. I can play in the leagues' Texas State tourneys and in local scotch doubles tourneys. I can play on an Open Women's Team next year. I can play in the Open Scotch doubles next year in Vegas for BCAPL with my boyfriend. I don't have to give up weight in certain tourneys because I'm still an Open player.
There ARE benefits to being labeled an "Open" player. When I become a Master player, I will embrace it and be extremely honored, but until then, I need to take advantage of the fact I am an Open player that plays pretty sporty.
I have a friend who is a Grand Master and she is almost penalized for her high finish in the Master's division a year ago. She cannot play in many tourneys, including even on Open men's Teams or Master Scotch Doubles with certain people.
I would be limited as an Advanced Player, but even MORE limited as a Master player. So, when that times comes (and I truly believe that time will come), I will embrace it for what it means: I am deserving of the label of a good pool player.