Friday, May 23, 2014

My Brain Finally Shut Off

Might sound like you need to think to play pool, especially since pool is mostly mental, lol, but not for me.

Don't get me wrong - thinking IS key.  But when I think of the expectations, status, what could be, etc, I falter.

I fully and completely admit that my brain got in the way of winning title tournaments

I feel that back in 2012 when I played at the ACS Nationals for the first time, and I found myself in the hotseat for the Women's Open 8-Ball singles, that that FAILED experience was a HUGE LEARNING experience for me.

Here are my exact words from that blog entry:

"The next morning, I get up early because I'm still on Texas time.  After some yoga, I try to go back to sleep for a nap and it suddenly dawns on me:  I'm going to be playing in the hotseat for a NATIONAL tourney!  Further, I may not play in this tourney again so it's my only chance.  Omg, the calm before the storm: I all of a sudden was freaked out.  To think to yourself in just a few hours you may be a National Champ is very unnerving.  And for me, who always freaks out in title tournaments anyway, made it extremely difficult for me to be mentally strong for such an important match. 

And sure enough, true to form, I did not play well in the hotseat.  I lost 0-4.  :(  My opponent shot well, but I also had a chance in every game.  I wasn't nervous, just, didn't play well at all.  I was playing timid and unconfident. "

I know in my heart that that experience helped me WIN the 2014 ACS Nationals Women's 9-Ball Singles event this year.

What's funny to me is, I heard most of my life from books and audio-tapes that you are suppose to think like a winner.  Well, I tried.  But, every time I walked into a pool room and tried to think like I winner, I faltered.

I wonder if I did that too early in my pool journey?  I didn't really have enough experience yet or have my fundamentals down pat enough yet to be thinking that way back then.

But, I think it but too much pressure on me.  It really did!

All I know is, at the BCAPL Texas State tourney, the most important thing to me was my checklist  AND to NOT think ahead.  Not to freak myself out.  Not to want the win so badly that I don't even play pool (like I had the last 6 years before).   And, I finally succeeded and won!

And that's what I did this time in Vegas in the ACS Nationals 9-ball women's division.  I didn't think ahead.  Well, I tried with all my might not to think ahead!

Even when I was still on the winner's side the second day and about to play for the hotseat, I didn't think ahead.  Even after I lost that match and then beat the favorite of the tourney to play in the finals, I did NOT think ahead.

Even after I WON the first set in the finals, I tried NOT to think ahead.

I just wanted to play pool.  No expectations.  No thinking.  I just let my years of experience kinda show up through my body and play the game.

Was I hopeful?


Did I want to win?

Well, sure.

But I just tried not to think, "OMG I could be a National Champ!"

THAT is the type of thinking that has always stopped me from winning in the past.

This time, I just played pool.

If I caught myself thinking ahead, I stopped it.

If I thought something negative, I reversed it or fixed it.

All the years competing have led me to this point.  All the times I was the clutch for my team (only the last 2 1/2 years mind you) have prepared me for this moment.  All the failed tournaments.  Lost matches.  Dogged balls under pressure.  Mental game got the best of me.  .... All led me to this point.

Don't get me wrong, there were MANY positive experiences that led to this point too.  But what I'm trying to say is EVERY SINGLE experience.

Even in 1999 I can remember someone telling me "second place the real winner" because they learn more from getting second than winning.

It's also important for me to realize that my recent win at the Texas BCAPL State tourney was a huge confidence booster.  I fully admitted I had not hit balls before this event and only wanted to have fun in Vegas.  That is a key for me - no expectations.  I always play best with no expectations or wanting to win a title tourney, lol. 

But as Phil Capelle told me directly:
Congratulations on your latest win. I remember once advising you that you must let winning go to your head, but in a good way - and apparently you have! As the great Jack Nicklaus once said, "Winning begets winning." And it is so true. Once he got the habit, he won majors for 25 years. I see your latest win as another big confidence booster - the kind of thing that will help you to quell that voice of doubt once and for all. And do not explain away you win to good luck or whatever. Winning takes a separate skill from playing, and you are showing that you have learned it. I am so proud of you and I wish you more happiness with your game and the sport as you march forward into battle. You go girl! Best always, Phil

So, maybe that recent win was helpful?

Phil thinks so.  :)

My point to this entire post was my brain really got in the way before.  I don't even want to think about the future possibilities of my pool career - even now.  I honestly feel like retiring, lol.  Seriously!  But, I think that's key - I have accomplished a lot already in my pool life in just the last 2 years, and no longer freak out during title tournaments because I am NOT thinking ahead.

I have always known this.  I just always wanted the wins so badly that desire got in the way.

I didn't know how to quiet my thoughts and just play pool when it counted.

That's why I STRESS playing in as many tournaments as you can so you get experience.  I think playing in these women's team events the last few years has helped me gain more composure, play better under pressure, focus on my fundamentals when it counted, etc.  Being the clutch is no easy task, but it gave me a lot of experience.

I also felt like *I* could be the person to be held accountable.  Not everyone can lose gracefully for a team and handle it behind closed doors well.

All of the experiences in local, regional, state, and national tourneys has led to a quieter mind and "easier" thoughts during these big title tournaments I yearned for so badly.

The more experience, the better you will do/play/get each and every time!  :)

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