Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What I Know For Sure

So, what has happened the last few years that propelled my game?

(Don't worry, I'm curious, too, lol.)

This is what I know for sure.  (btw, in case you don't get the reference, this is a column Oprah has at the end of each of her monthly magazines.)

First, let me say obviously I wish I had taken stock in the things that have helped my game the last few years.  Notice I didn't say, "wish I knew sooner."  Because, I knew these things, I just didn't know what to do about them.

STAY DOWN.  I heard this the first 15 years of my life of playing pool (and I've been playing for 25 total years).  Stay down.  Yea, I KNOW.  I just didn't know HOW to stop it.  What I know for sure is, you need to try all different kinds of "tips" til you find out what works for you.

I was told many things:

  • Stay down til the ball falls in the pocket.
  • Have someone hold a board above your head when you practice (seriously, a coach did this for one of my friends).
  • Stay down until the cueball stops.
  • Count to five after you hit the cueball.
  • Take your time, it will come naturally.
  • A quote from a friend, "Stay down and admire the shot."  (it helped for a little while for me)
Here's the interesting thing about STAYING DOWN.  It's part of your shot routine.  So, get solid, secure, redundant fundamentals, and staying down becomes part of your shot routine.

LOOKING AT THE OBJECT BALL LAST.  What no one told me that I found out through experimentation, was what helped me most to stay down was to look at the object ball last.  Now, this was also about the same time as when I learned a smooth stroke.  But, if I personally look at the object ball last, I'm less likely to move my head or jump up.  Like my friend Mark Garza told me around 2005, "you already know where the cueball is going after years of playing, why are you so worried about looking at that?"  Because when I looked at where the cueball was headed, of course my head moved more to see if I "got shape."

Granted, there are THOUSANDS of differing opinions on if you should look at the cueball or object ball last.  All I know for sure is, looking at the object last helps me stay down and pocket balls better and more often.

SMOOTH STROKE.  I heard this from Sylver Ochoa back in 2010.  I was like, "uh, okay."  It was his number ONE advice.  And once I figured out NOT to whack at a ball, my game improved.  Here's the deal, players do not realize that you don't have to hit balls hard if it's a tough shot.  If you "whack" at a ball, then you hit it too hard, you then jump up, you hit the cueball at the wrong spot, and you don't make the ball.  The players with the BEST, SOLID fundamentals will hit every single shot the same - no whacking, no hitting hard.  SMOOTH stroke on all shots.  I figured out that if I use a SMOOTH stroke on tough shots, I'm less likely to JUMP UP.  Do you see the connection? This is what I know for sure: Smooth stroke, staying down, good fundamentals.

GOOD FUNDAMENTALS.  Everyone HEARS this, but do you work on it?  Do you REALLY have a solid pre-shot and shot routine?  The best one is SPF that I have heard of.  Set.  Pause.  Finish.  Randy Goettlicher teaches this at Pool School here in Dallas (I haven't been to it, not use SPF, but it would help you stay down for sure).  Here is an article I found about SPF that said his ball making improved by 30%.

The key here is good fundamentals.  EVERY pro mentions this.  Why wait to work on it?  Why not take lessons or go to pool school NOW to solidly this extremely important part of every one's game. 

MENTAL TOUGHNESS.  Okay, Melinda, how do you get mental toughness?  Play in as MANY tournaments as you can!  Practicing your heart out wont give you experience.  It only gives you time to figure out how to make balls.  But you wont go through all the ups and down of competing if you DON'T GET OUT THERE AND COMPETE.  Like I said before, every dogged shot led me to my recent wins.  Every moment under pressure gets you closer to being able to handle pressure.  How else have you learned how to refocus early?  BREATHE to slow your adrenaline?  STAY DOWN under pressure shots?  These do NOT come from hitting balls all the time with friends, under friendly conditions.  It comes from gaining mental experience playing in as many competitions as you can.

MENTAL TOUGHNESS (2).  The other way to get mental toughness and that killer instinct is to READ MORE.  I have written how Liz Ford suggested I read Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert because it helped her so much.  And of course I offered mental toughness advice from my friends Lisa Marr and Jennifer Kraber before, that also helped me.  I seeked out how to have more mental toughness.  You should, too!  I also recommend Loehr's book, Mental Toughness Training for Sports.

CONFIDENCE.  I have recently gained a lot more confidence than I ever had in my entire 25 years of playing pool.  Recently someone told my I was more confident.  How did they see that?  But, now that I think about it, it's true.  I AM more confident,  But, confidence doesn't just come out of nowhere!  Confidence comes from gaining experience from competition.  Do you see how these things are all connected?  

I see now looking for links to this blog entry, that I have already written about most of these before, back in August 2011.  There are a few other items on that list of TEN in that blog entry you should check out.  

But, what has changed for me from now til then?  All the above I mentioned back then, and even more.  

I think I have been put in more tough situations because I got better from the topics above.  More tough situations means I have more confidence.  I have more experience in national tournaments in team events; in State events.  And of course I have finally experience enough to shut my brain off, lol.  

But in a team event, I don't think ahead.  I just play good pool now.  By playing on a ladies league, I think I have been very blessed to have been asked to be the clutch for my team playoffs, team state tourneys, team nationals tourney, etc.  I was giving a lot of experience that has helped me.  But, let's face it, I didn't run out (video link here) in 2012 and stay down in this hill-hill match my very first women's national team event from CHANCE.  No, not at all.  Instead, it was all the above!!!

What I know for sure it, Pool is a Journey.  If you want to improve in 2-5 years, instead of the 20-25 years it took me, then I highly suggest you really take in what I state above.  Read the words.  Check out the links.  You'll love me for it!  :)

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