Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Test is a Test, No Matter How You Slice It

I have written NUMEROUS times how I freak out in title tournaments.  The mere thought of winning a big title causes my palms to sweat, my heart to race, and my thinking gets clouded because I'm so nervous.

Pool needs to be played with a clear, sharp mind.

Nervousness is a block to the coveted title.

I found out the hard way on Monday that it turns out I have test anxiety in all areas of my life.  It turns out, being nervous about future events is common for me.

As I did an interview for a promotion at my job on Monday via a conference call (not in person), I had so much anxiety, I bombed the interview very badly.

After the first question, I knew I wouldn't get the job.  After the 7th question (the final question), I for SURE knew I wouldn't get the job.

I honestly couldn't think straight.  I would ask them to repeat the question again, and STILL couldn't remember what they had just said.  :(

I was trying to breathe and slow down my heart rate, but my future career was on the line and I was too nervous.

It reminded me SO much of my tournaments, where I have anxiety before I even play in critical positions on the brackets during title tournaments (the ones I crave the most).  And then, it ALSO reminded me how I was in college - I would study and study and know the material back and forth, but come test time, I freaked out and had test anxiety.

Before the interview, I stood at my window and told myself, "You can do this.  You have been through extremely tough things in your life and survived."

It's funny, I can talk in front of 300 people very easily.  But taking a test freaks me out.  Test anxiety.  That's what I have.  :(

It's amazing how powerful nerves are.  No wonder I can't perform well all the time in title tournaments.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Good Shot

I was playing in the BCAPL Nationals Women's Team event one year and I shot my last shot before the 8 ball and I messed up my shape!  As soon as I realized the shape wasn't good, I got internally deflated.

However, something weird happened.  The top player on our team says out loud, "good shot!"

I'm thinking to myself, "how is that a good shot?  I can't make the 8 ball down the rail into the corner now."

The 8ball was sitting sort of in front of the side pocket, but it couldn't go.

OR at least I thought.

Once I heard her say that, I second guessed the shot in the side. 

"Hmmm, maybe it does go?"

Sure enough, the 8ball could go in the side; not easy, but doable.

I made the 8ball and two things came from that experience.

One was - don't underestimate the side pocket or be afraid of it, like I had been in the past.

Second, sometimes saying "Good shot" out loud to people (like my boyfriend or friend when they are playing), I don't say it because it's a great shot, I say it because it wasn't a perfect shot TO THEM, but that let's them know they are still at the table, with options.  Even if they didn't get perfect shape, it's not the end of the world and they can still get out.

I Got Lucky

It really gets to me when I dog a shot that then allows my opponent to run out, and then after they win, they say out loud and declare they got lucky.

It's happened to me several times, and it gets to me every time.

It's not illegal or against the rules to say that, and I wonder sometimes what if I was to announce to my opponents, after they give me an opportunity, "Wow, I got lucky," how they would feel?

Would it sting as much as it stings me?

I think it depends on the player (obviously);  the person and the situation.

If I miss a crucial shot at the end of a game that lets my opponent get ahead in a short race, it will affect me more when they boast to me they got lucky. 

I already feel embarrassed enough to miss a shot that cost me a game, and to hear them tell me, it gets to me.

I know I need to not let their words affect me.  But if I'm not in the right frame of mind, I sometimes take it as them rubbing it in that I missed.  Instead, they are just prolly extroverts expressing out loud that they are relieved to have won that game when they thought they were going to lose.

But my miss combined with their words just exacerbates my unforced error and the fact I'm losing now in the match because of my mistake.

Obviously, I can choose to ignore their words, not let their words affect me, or accept they did get lucky, or accept I didn't play my best and that's why I missed a key shot.  It would be wise to figure out why I missed the shot, so I can recover.  However, I admit sometimes certain people's boasts can be distracting. 

It's weird, because not everyone says this. 

Only a few select people say it. 

I sometimes wonder if they *know* it can be sharking, and therefore deliberately say that out loud.  Because, it can be very distracting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

More Scotch

I played in a fairly large scotch doubles tourney last Saturday.

There were 36 teams.  My boyfriend and I played together again like we always do.  We actually practiced the night before at the house but didn't fair so well, lol.  That made him a little apprehensive, but when that happens to me, I think it's getting all the bad shots out of my system before a tourney.  :)

We started off well, won 3-0 then 3-1.  The second match I was making bad choices, but I got over my embarrassment and played better so we could win.  In the 3rd match, I missed a tough 8 ball shot, even tho I was told it wasn't tough.  And then I made an 8ball out of turn.  That meant we lost 1-3 and were sent to the one-loss side.  :(

From there, we went on a tear and won 4 matches on the one loss side.  I played SO good in those 4 matches; so good!

However, in the match we lost, it was all my fault.  I missed a shot in each of three games we played, and the other team capitalized and won.  I think we lost 1-3 or 0-3.  I was pretty frustrated about all my misses.  But, I think I was simply too exhausted to keep my focus?  Not exactly sure.  All I know is I played just fine the matches before, but faltered in this match.  We had chances; I messed it up. 

Bummed, but still happy to place 3rd out of 36 teams.  And, $220 richer, too  :)

Friday, February 15, 2013

That Personal Touch

A few weeks ago I received something in the mail from CSI (CueSports International).

I thought maybe it was my tax forms, instead, it was entry forms and a letter about the 20th Annual U.S. Bar Table Championships.

I was pretty shocked to get a flyer in the mail.  I haven't seen a flyer mailed in a LONG TIME.

But what was even more awesome about the letter/flyer/entry forms, was there was a note hand written by CEO Mark Griffin!

Now, I know Mark didn't personally sign every letter, but I still thought it was a nice personal touch for the players.  

"See Your Here,"
"Mark Griffin"

How cool is that?

Sure, I know Mark personally (no I'm not name dropping), but I felt like he was writing a little note just to me.  :)

I think the "personal" side to connecting to customers is going by the wayside because of social media.  People can reach us easily online and through apps on our phone, but to mail something ALONG with a personal note really impressed me.

Now, Mark is a great people person and you can walk up to him and have a conversation with him.  He's not stuck up or high on himself - he genuinely loves to talk to the players and the lovers of the sport.  

So, maybe I shouldn't be surprised about this?

Nah, STILL am! 

(click to enlarge)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Beating the Extrovert

I played in my men's league on Monday night.  I didn't know which team we were up against, but it turned out to be a real good team.

One of the members on the other team intimidates me.  I have wrote about him before

He basically shouts out when his team does well, shouts out his disapproval when they don't do well, and has even called me out for my choices on the table.  Sure, he's just an extrovert.  But, I don't like to be judged during my matches.  I judge myself enough, I don't need to be standing at the table, trying to decide what to shoot, while also worrying this guy might verbally not like my choices and tell me in front of everyone.

Granted, this is MY issue, not his.

BUT, it doesn't mean it's still easy for me to play pool in front of him.

I play my first match, feel myself choosing the wrong run, but decided I can do it.  I have to come with a shot on the ball before the 8 and scratch.  :(  I get SUPER embarrassed b/c I think someone clapped, but also b/c I knew I was running the balls wrong and felt this guys and others thought the same thing.

Next match, my arms are still a little wobbly from embarrassment and I admit I feel like people watch me more to see if I really deserved that National Team win back in May.  Yes, I KNOW I'm not suppose to think that way, but winning tournaments does NOT mean we no longer feel pressure.  Quite honestly, sometimes we feel MORE.

Anyway, I fly the cueball off on the break.  Ugh.  BUT - I get a chance at the table!  But, miss a tough shot.  :(  The guy runs out.

TWO losses right off the bat.

I win my next game and I tell myself, "I might be able to pull out three wins tonight, still."

I win my next game, too.   WHEW!

Then I realize, though, that I will have to play the extrovert as my last match.  Damn.  He's so tough to play.  Well, he's tough when he's on the sidelines, too.

He breaks dry (somehow) and get this.... I RAN OUT!  OMG!  I shook his hand after the 8ball fell and said, "That's the first time I ever beat you!"  All proud.  :)  He replies, "Yep sure is the first time out of all these times." (ugh)

But, no hooping and hollering from him this time!  Or telling me what I should have done different to run out. 

Instead, the only words I hear are from my boyfriend on the sidelines saying a few times out loud, "good shot!" during my run.  :)

I then tell my team as they high-five me, "CIRCLE!" Which means I ran out from the break - AND I get a quarter from each teammate.  :)


(just kidding)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sharking and Excuses Quote

I read this the other day on a discussion thread on Forums.  It was so powerful and a great reminder, I wanted to share:

"If you let something bother you, you're only sharking yourself and making excuses. " - Andrew Cleary


Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Can See!

I mentioned last month that I got very irritated and most importantly disengaged when practicing at the house with my b/f because I couldn't see the table.

We didn't have one stool or chair high enough in the house that I could sit above the table and watch him shoot or see the layouts.  I therefore, wasn't focused and ready to shoot like I am during tournaments.

In order for me to remained focused and engaged and learn, and be ready for my turn, I have to "see" the table and layout.  Being level with the table was NOT helpful.  And, it hurt my practice sessions.

Well, stopped by Walmart the other day for some new socks and milk, and walked out with a new stool!

I had looked for stools at another Walmart but didn't see this one.  I REALLY liked this one -

(1) because it looks good/matches the decor (lol)
(2) sturdy,
(3) Tall,
(4) less than $30.  :)  (cheapest sturdy one I have run across yet).

I can see!!!!

Check it out:

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Missing on Purpose

Let me share something about playing different levels of players.

I learned many, many years ago to not try to run out if I can't against an opponent that can't run out either.  Further, don't even try a tough run if my opponent is less knowledgeable about the game and the run is tough.

I'm not trying to be rude, it's fact.  And it's strategy.  And it's not "well-known," but known, if that makes sense, lol.

If I was playing a female pro player, I'd never do this.  Or, a top player.  You don't turn the table over after a deliberate miss to real good players. 

Here is the strategy:  you are playing against someone that can't run out regularly.  You see a cluster (you are playing 9ball for example) and it would be a really tough out.

Why not punt?  Why not hand over the table to your opponent and let them deal with the tied-up balls? 

What happens is, you either play a weak safe (i.e. deliberately don't lock them up) or you "accidentally" miss a shot.  Yep, you LEAVE your opponent an open shot.  Then your opponent will make a few balls and try to do something with the cluster soon down the road.  They will do the dirty work for you.

Now, this doesn't happen all the time and it doesn't work all the time, and other times, they will figure out ways to get out, lol.

But, if you figure out when you can do this and who not do this to, you will more than likely be the victor of this strategic move.

Now, what if someone does this to you (like has been done to me).  I admit it kinda freaks me out - did they miss deliberately against me?   LOL.  I just try to not to "worry" about it and just play my best and smart against them.  That's all we can do, right?  Play smart or smarter.  :)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Review: Mastering the Inner Game of Pool

I received an email a while back from David Krolick who said he wrote a small book on mental toughness. 

At first I was like, damn, I don't read a lot of books, but after I downloaded it, I saw it was only 22 pages (and that included the front and back pages).

My kind of book :)

I have been meaning to write this review for MANY months and I apologize in advance to David for taking so long. 

Honestly, I read it the second day I had it in my hot little hands.

I learned some good tips from the pages right away!  I have used some certain mental tips the last few months.  While some of the things he shares I have already experienced and know, there are tidbits that were new to me and I'm glad I read it.

I only have one complaint:  (and this is ironic), I wish it was longer!  It's chalk full of really fantastic mental advice and help that I wish it kept going and going!  He states suggestions clear and easy-to-read, and he could even elaborate on them.  But more so, I yearned for more because it was so helpful.

The biggest thing I got from his book was "The Subconscious Mind" section.  I'd like to share the specific secret I keep using in my matches, but will only do so in person if you ask me - otherwise, you'll have to get the book yourself either as an e-book or via Amazon on Kindle.

With the book being so short, I can't possibly even give up one tip.  No begging!

Thank you David for taking the time to write this mental toughness book for the players who want to improve their game!


Description of Mastering the Inner Game of Pool:  Thinking is fine for some things but can be a major distraction while trying to execute a pool shot. Baseball great, Yogi Berra put it this way: "You can't think and hit at the same time." The fact is that whenever you combine thinking and doing, the doing will always suffer.

Mastering the Inner Game of Pool will help you to solve this common dilemma. This small book will show you how to quiet your mind and allow the shot to happen unhampered by unnecessary thought.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Second Place Story

Might as well get this over with.

Write about how depressed I am.  While people are giving me accolades, I'm depressed.  Hear me out.  Here's why:

Last weekend I played in the Season Opener of the OB Cues Ladies Tour.  I was a bit apprehensive for a couple of reasons:
  1. I "hoped" to do well, but when I have "future expectations" I normally falter (it makes me nervous for some reason).  I do SO MUCH better with no expectations at all.
  2. I felt a lot of pressure to finish well.  Sure, who CARES what others think, I KNOW.  But I had so many people who look up to me, I felt pressure to do well.  I know, SILLY, lol.
I got a bye and then had to play a real tough player.  I felt the pressure almost immediately and when my friends would tell me I would place well in the tourney, I tried to prepare them all that my opponent plays really good and it will be a tough match.

I surprise myself and got up 4-0 right away by playing well, even with my adrenaline pumping.  Then I got distracted from the sidelines and fell apart.  I was not able to finish anymore and I only got by my opponent due to taking advantage of her mistakes at the end.  I admit that because I pulled ahead 4-0 REALLY helped me, but in the end, I didn't play well and I was disappointed in myself b/c my nerves and the pressure got to me.

But, I won 7-5.

I then played a girl who came all the way from New Mexico to play!  Her previous opponent told me she played fast and aggressive and so I thought I was prepared for that, but wow!  Fast and aggressive was an understatement.

She was getting out from nowhere and at 2-2 I asked my b/f to leave the scene of the crime because I felt a train wreck coming on.  He obliged, then I fought my way back to the lead with some smart play and taking my time, not playing fast with fewer mistakes.  I had to really focus and I won 7-4. :)

I then had hours to wait to play one of my teammates.  She started off strong and although happy for her, I still needed to play my game and try to beat her if I could.  A couple of misses late in the rack allowed me to win 7-5.  She was very distracted by a family birthday she was about to miss, but I was so proud of her for doing so well in the tourney!  She would place 9th outta 41 players!  :)

This meant, wow, I was in til Sunday on the winner's side!  I was in disbelief.  Really?  Again?  Second OB Stop in a row for me?

I got real good sleep, but woke up feeling like a truck ran over me.  I therefore got out of bed a full two hours before my match to wake my mind and body up.  Ate lightly at Waffle House and took a hot bath with some stretches to warm up my body.

My first opponent Sunday morning on the winners side is a friend of mine and it was tough to see her struggle in the match, but I won 7-3 with some good outs.

Now, at the last tourney, I had NEVER done that before.  I had never won THE match to put me in the hotseat of an OB Cues Ladies Tour stop.  So, since I overcame that hurdle at the last stop, this time I just "played pool" because I didn't t have that monkey on my back.  This wasn't my first rodeo anymore - lol - I had played in the hotseat match just a month ago, so I felt NO nerves or pressure to reach the hotseat.   

I then waited a couple of hours to play in that coveted hotseat match,.  I had no expectations, wasn't nervous, nothing.  That's when I play my best anyway :).

My opponent was running over everyone in the tourney so I just expected the same to happen and would be happy to play for 3rd place again.

However, I made a few mistakes in the match and she was up 5-2.  At this point, my last ill-safe, I took a break to call my b/f who was at league.  He told me to calm down and focus.  I told him I was really upset because I was giving it away.  I then just made up my mind to take my time and enjoy the experience.  I def wasn't having fun and needed to get the scowl off my forehead.

At this point, she misses the 9ball so badly, it almost goes in another pocket and then she urges it to go in!  I was livid inside.  REALLY?  You are already beating me badly and yet you are wishing for the 9 ball to "shit" in?!  I told myself, "That's IT!"  I won that game and the next because she ticked me off.... I wasn't going anywhere.

However, she got on the hill first.

My opponent is a very talented player but I have noticed she gets out of line late in the racks a lot.  She started to do that as I won a few more games. 

At 5-6 her, I missed an 8ball and saw my future set, until she bumped the 9ball and had to bank it.  She scratches as she made the 9ball and the entire room moaned with disappointed.  I felt everyone was rooting her on when they did that.  Miffed, I say under my breath "sorry to disappoint you all, but we have another game to play."

In the final game, hill-hill, 6-6, I'm SO relaxed because I'm simply relieved I clawed my way back into the match and started to play better.  I'm actually thrilled to have 6 games and do not even care about the outcome.  I'm already doing better than the last tourney (I only got 3 games in the hotseat last month - heck, I was making progress!).

I lean over to my friend Amanda and said, "I've never had this many games in the hotseat before.  I don't care what happens, I'm just happy to have so many games!"  She tells me, " you are doing good!  And it's not over."  My opponent. misses a combo on the 9, I try and run out but get out of line and play safe.  She gets to the table and starts to run out and has another combo at the 9 - a tougher one.  Shes studies it and finally shoots, but misses....  and of course everyone moans again.  I take my time, as I really don't want to miss the combo she left me and in the past I HAVE very easily missed it by rushing.  I took my time and made it!

OMG, MY FIRST TIME EVER to win a hotseat match in the OB Cues Ladies Tour!  Only a few claps were going on and I was jumping up and down like an idiot.  I shouted "It's my firs time to ever win a hotseat match, come on people, clap!!"  People in the crowd clapped for me and then I immediately apologize profusely to my opponent for acting like that.  I felt so ashamed and a fool for doing that; I didn't mean to come across so rudely, I was just SO excited!

She told me she understood when I apologized later to her (again).  I don't know how she handled it so well, honestly. 

I felt so embarrassed for acting a fool and showing how excited I was and also verbally asking the crowd to be excited along me, as it seemed it was against my opponent.  But, it wasn't intentional.  I promise.  My emotions just took over. 

I can't begin to tell you all the feeling of winning the hosteat of a big tour like this, tho!  A tour I have played on for TWENTY Year!  Seriously!  Since 1992!

Someone reminded me I would have to be beat twice in the finals.  I had forgot that. 

Wait?  The finals?!?  OMG!  I was in the finals?  Of the OB Cues Ladies Tour?  For the first time ever in my life!  Wow.  I was so focused on the "hotseat" I kinda forgot that meant I would be a player in the finals, lol.

It's funny, last stop, I placed 3rd - my highest finish ever.  Now I'm playing for 2nd?  Really?

My boyfriend told me earlier in the week I was going to win the tourney.  I told him he was crazy.  I never had envisioned I could really do that.  Too many tough girls on the tour.  He says I'm one of them

I want to publicly state that he has been my biggest male supporter in pool I have ever had in my life.  No one else has had so much faith in my game as he does.  Of course, he might have been hit on the head as a child, too.  lol. 

I was pretty ecstatic of my "position" but - I was mentally already drained.  I could tell.  And I knew that wouldn't be good for me.

I got a little bit of food in my tummy, hit some balls, and waited for the winner between two killers, lol.

I again had no expectations and was just happy where I was - the farthest I had ever been in an OB Cues Ladies Tour stop!

I ended up playing my bff, Amanda Lampert.  She had lost her VERY first match and made it all the through the finals!  She jumped up and down after her final win before the finals b/c she had made it so far!  Our poor opponent had TWO people be ecstatic to beat her, lol.  Well, the girl plays good!

As I type this out, I am a little less depressed now.  I really did accomplish something, didn't I?  I got 2nd!

However, I feel I didn't get to where I was because of great play, but because of taking advantage of mistakes.  I'm sure that's part of pool and that's how things go, but as I won each match, I felt like it was just "my time."  Not because I played well, but because I was getting chances.  I also didn't get the toughest draw in the world.

Now, don't get me wrong.  It wasn't a cake walk and I still played really, really well!  I just didn't run rack after rack; but I did get out well when I needed to and when it counted.  And I need to pat myself on the back for all of those matches I did that and stop being so hard on myself.

So when I found myself in the finals, I was still extremely ecstatic and I WILL learn from this  experience (as they say, the second place loser is the real winner because they learn more).

However, I'm not very proud of myself in the finals.  I'm not proud of how I acted, I'm not proud of how I played... I'm not proud.

I felt good I didn't fall part - I have had wobbly arms from nerves and not been able to make two balls in a row before and giving away matches like that is FAR worse than anything in pool (imo), but I... I don't know what happened.

I came out firing well.  Ran out most of the first rack but missed a 6ball or something.  I made the other balls really well and got great shape, but missed the 6ball.  A few games later, I miss an 8 ball I don't know how to shoot.  I say out loud, "I knew I was gonna miss that."  Which shows I already had doubt in my head; which meant I shouldn't have shot the shot yet.

I felt embarrassment I said that out loud.

Many people were watching that had never seen me play before and I got embarrassed.  I also "felt" like people knew I wouldn't be able to handle being in the finals.  Let's face it - I'm new to it; I haven't been in many BIG finals before - I was very wet behind the ears.  Further, I didn't handle the mental thoughts well (pretty obvious reading about all my doubt and caring too much what others think, huh?).

My mental toughness skills were nowhere to be found.  And that hurt me.  It was almost like someone else wrote this entire blog, lol.  Where was all the vast info I have learned over the years???  lol.

I was playing well, I SWEAR I was!  Good safes, excellent kicks, but I would miss another 8ball.  And then ANOTHER 8ball.  And by the time I had a shot on a 9 ball in the side from a miss, I missed that, too.  My body didn't feel nervousness, and my arms weren't wobbly from nerves, but I wasn't finishing racks and I got more and more embarrassed.  I would say things out loud like, "I knew I was gonna miss another 8ball!"

I didn't really think that, but I was hoping I wouldn't.  I honestly missed it because I was worried about shape/scratching.  But, again, I verbally indicated doubt and mental weakness.

Everything happened so fast, I couldn't recover.  Honestly.  I have written a million times (exaggerating, lol) that it's important to figure out WHY you are missing and also to refocus before the match ends.  Don't wait til after the match to figure out your "aha" reasons for missing.  Figure out it asap.

I didn't do that.

I just kept getting more and more embarrassed.  And the match seemed to fly by so fast, I didn't have time to figure things out.

Ironically, I still made a lot of fantastic shots, safeties and outs, just not last in the rack for some reason.

I lost the first set 4-7 so those 3 8balls, yes, are haunting my brain cells.  I have replayed them over in my head a million times this week, sending me into a depression.

The second set I had a chance to take advantage of a miss - the 9ball sitting in the hole and I hit it so hard, it came back out.  I was DONE; at. that. moment.  I was done.  I was rattled and embarrassed and done.  And that was the very first game of the match.  :(

I still fought, but just couldn't make anything work.

At 0-5, from a lot of mistakes, I FINALLY figured out what was going on with me!!!  I wasn't looking at the object ball last.  OMG!  And that's why I missed the 9ball in the hole in the first game of the second match!

I then made a super tough long shot on the 4 ball and got out.  I got to 2 games (2-5) before she ended my finals experience.

I hugged her and was very happy for her but I was relieved it was over.  I wanted to get out of there.  I acted happy I got second, but that was only to deflect how disappointed I was at my own play and embarrassment.  And since she lost her first match, her win is that much sweeter for her and everyone is talking about it.  I am proud of her, OF COURSE, but I am depressed for my actions.

I know in my heart I will ONLY learn from this and be better for next time.

I know that from experience.  And I am ready.  I really am!  I just hope and pray for another opportunity.

But in the meantime, the pain of missing so many key shots b/c I hadn't figured out what was going on early enough really saddens me.

I will get over this; it will just take time.  And, the experience will help me out for who knows what is in store for me in the future!

Did I mention I placed my highest finish yet on the OB Cues Ladies Tour?  :)