Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Expectations by Katniss

One of the main things I disliked about competing was those damn expectations.

Expectations has been my Achilles heel for sure!

When you play someone you've beat 10 times the last 10 times you played, then you let your guard down and don't play your best when you play them again, right?  Then what happens?  They beat you!  All because you expected to win.

And that really stings.

Or, how about when you are still in the winner's side on Saturday night going into the tournament on Sunday?  The expectations you have for yourself of doing well (or scared you wont do well) affect you.  Or, how about the thoughts you have of others and their expectations of you?  OMG why do we put ourselves through this trauma!?  lol

These thoughts get in the way of us performing our best pool.

I wrote about this before, but when I was going to be playing for the hot seat the next day of a National 8-ball tournament for ACS in Vegas, I freaked myself out. When I got to my hotel room, it hit me - "omg, tomorrow I will play for the hot seat and I could be a national champion!"  I immediately started to shake and got nervous - and I wasn't even going to play until 24 hours later!

Golf and pool truly are mental sports. We can let our thoughts get away from us and then that ruins any semblance of a stroke, or we can try to tame our thoughts.

As I wrote about the other day, being mentally strong takes experience and takes putting yourself in numerous situations that make your mental toughness strong.

Just a mere two years after that debacle of not even being able to make three balls in a row because I was so nervous of the possibility of becoming a national champion and not staying in the moment, I would find myself in the finals of ACS 9-ball Nationals in Vegas.

My mental game was pretty extraordinary at that time (in my opinion) and I had no worries, concerns, or expectations.  I was thinking only in the moment completely and I simply played pool and double dipped my opponent in the finals to become a national champion!

I share that story to show you that any and all invisible expectations CAN be overcome with time, practice and experience.  I even wrote after that win, "I know in my heart that that experience two years ago of me falling apart helped me WIN the 2014 ACS Nationals Women's 9-Ball Singles event this year."


Oh shit!

This blog post is suppose to be about Katniss, not me, so let me get on topic here, lol.  :)

Katniss played in a tournament a couple weekends ago.  She shared with me about her two losses, "In my defensive they are both great players...but I have beat them both before. So I guess I EXPECTED to beat them again."

So, she wasn't playing as tough because she expected to win again.  Doesn't this resonate with you all?!  Damn expectations lol.  She didn't have the attitude to beat her opponent 7-0 or to squeeze them like a boa constrictor (btw, this is a reference from the book Winning Ugly that I highly and always recommend), instead she played both girls on expectations instead of focusing on the game in front of her.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but if you focus on your pre-shot routine, three balls ahead, and you stay down and follow through - there's no room in your brain to be thinking of expectations or worries or distractions. (btw, this is one of the most helpful tips I ever received in my pool journey!) It doesn't mean you're always going to win, but you're going to give yourself the best chance to win.

I've been in Katniss's situation a thousand times it seems like, and it's so frustrating to accept that the reason why you lost a match was because of the way you were thinking - not because of the way you were playing.

I appreciate her opening up to me about this, as it gives me a chance to remind folks to stay in the moment and don't think ahead and don't have any expectations (good or bad).  Remember, if you are thinking, you aren't playing pool.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Danielson - Back in the Game

So, Danielson has been playing pool a little bit more than what he was before. I mentioned that thing called grownup responsibilities (ie, "life") kept him from being able to play and focus on pool like he did in the past. But, as most people who take a little step away finds out, we never really lose the desire to play and therefore it came back to Danielson, as well.  Yay!

He played in a tournament a couple of weekends ago and of course the first thing I asked him (kinda interrogating, oops) was, "So, uh, do you have your checklist?"  As I've said a million times in my blog (I could be exaggerating again), reading the reminders on your checklist before every tournament or every match will really help you. And because Danielson hadn't been playing or competing in several months, reviewing his checklist would really be beneficial for him.

He said the checklist was in his case still, so that was good news.  I honestly do not know if he took it out and actually took a peek at it or not, though.  But, I can be hopeful because at least it was on his persons, right, lol, and not lost or forgotten.

He provided an update a few days after the tourney and he said he had lost his first match, but it was really close.  He shared that overall he played well, but he missed late in the rack a few times.  He thinks because he lost focus.

This is actually something I've been trying to explain what I have personally "lost" by not competing anymore.  Strong and solid fundamentals help us make the balls in front of us, but our strong fundamentals do not help our mind from wandering, getting distracted, or thinking of other things.

Eventually, what you all will find (if you haven't already) is the more often you compete, the stronger your mental toughness becomes. The brain is a muscle, too, and when you play in a lot of tournaments, that muscle (the brain) gets stronger and stronger.  You will find that you are more mentally prepared for each future tournament because of this.

However, when you don't compete often, then that muscle acts like any other muscle you aren't strengthening and therefore it may not show up well in a match for you.

While taking a break is sometimes very good for your game, if the break is too long (I'm talking 6 months or a few years or more), when you come back you're not as mentally strong as you used to be.  Good thing for us tho, because the brain is a muscle, putting time and effort working on it will strengthen it again.

I want to reiterate your fundamentals will still be there if you had a strong, solid fundamental pre-shot routine before your "break." What I recognized in myself was my fundamentals were still very strong and so I played pretty sporty the few times that I picked up a cue and hit a rack or two. But as soon as I competed, the pressure got to me and I couldn't play well or perform my best. So, it's not my physical skills that have gone down, it's my mental toughness that isn't as strong as it used to be.

So, Danielson told me without even prodding from me (ah, Grasshopper!), that what he needs to do is practice a little more maybe with some cheap gambling sets so that he can work on his focus which in turn will strengthen his mental toughness that is currently just locked away, but ready to come out.

I'm excited he's playing again! I just hope that he doesn't get frustrated with the process to get back into competition form and decide to throw his cues in the trash LOL. I'm just kidding - I doubt he would do that.  But my point is it can get frustrating when your game isn't where it used to be and it takes patience while you wait for it to come back.

But, if Tiger Woods can do it, so can Danielson ;)

Saturday, September 22, 2018

More Talk on American Billiard Radio

Mike Howerton asked me to join him on American Billiard Radio last week and of course I obliged. You all know me - Imma ham!  haha

I'm used to being on the podcast for only a segment of the show;  Mike and I talk about a topic, maybe two. This time I was informed right before we started that I would be the only guest for the entire show!


Did that startling info rattle me right before he hit that "record" button?  Aw, heck no!  I mean, who wouldn't want to talk about themselves for an hour, right?  Not this chick.  lol.

Our discussion ranges from Serena Williams to why I didn't turn pro to the weather (yes really!) to Katniss and Danielson (the two special sections in my blog) to verbal abuse as a Tournament Director to green fees to playing in tougher tournaments.

Mike REALLY keeps me on my toes and keeps it engaging the entire time.  I had no idea we talked for an entire hour, I just keep yakking like I can do sometimes :)

Here is the link if you want to kill some time and hear Mike and I discuss all sorts of things related to pool.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Shannon Daulton Interview

Had another great interview this month for Billiard Buzz!  Gosh I really love doing interviews.

Shannon Daulton! I was so ecstatic he said yes to being interviewed, as I've been following his success for YEARS. I know you all will enjoy getting to know Shannon more, just like I did. It was such a treat working with him!

Here is the link to the awesome interview: https://issuu.com/azbilliards/docs/september_2018/12


Friday, September 14, 2018

More Tips for Your Tool Box - Understanding Personalities

I know I write about personalities a lot in my blog, but I strongly believe if you not just comprehend different personalities, but realize how they can affect you directly when you're competing, it will give you an advantage over your opponents.  And as you all know, I love it when you all add more tools to your toolbox!

I'm sure a lot of you have heard of Myers-Briggs. I have written about it a couple of times myself.

Long story short,
The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator is an introspective self-report questionnaire with the purpose of indicating differing psychological preferences in how people perceive the world around them and make decisions.
Leadership books teach us you shouldn't treat someone as you would want to be treated.  Instead, you find out their personality (or Myers-Briggs Type) and then treat them based on that.

I realize as I write this out that some of you will be surprised to hear this because it goes against what we've heard for years, "you should treat people how you want to be treated."  But, nope, that isn't really the best thing to do.

So, let me give you one example I can think of right off the top of my head. If you are a supervisor and one of your employees gets an award, how do you give them that award? Myers-Briggs says based on their personality determines how you should give them the award. Some people are fine with getting an award in front of others; they like the accolades and they like being respected by their peers. Other people, however, do not like the attention and they would prefer to get the award handed to them maybe in their office, so as it's not in front of everyone drawing attention to them.

You can see the opposite ways people handle accolades. So, if you were to treat others as you want to be treated, the way you give the award would based on your feelings, not theirs. What you should do instead is to find out how best they would like to receive an award.

So, how does this all relate to competing, Melinda?

I'm glad you asked!

Well, if you're lucky enough to be aware of or already know an opponents' personality ahead of time, then when you play them you can use that knowledge to not let their reactions or emotions bother you.  Let me be specific.  Extroverts can be loud, talk a lot, verbally show their emotions when they are upset (or happy) and those things can be distractions.  Many of us assume they are directing their words directly at us personally.  But in reality, that's just the way they are.  It's not personal.  It's not directed towards you, they are just that way all the time.

Therefore, knowing that their actions/words are not personal to you is a huge advantage.  It will allow you to focus on playing your best, instead of stealing mental energy away from you by getting upset because they are talking too much or you think they are upset with you personally.

Myers-Briggs will also tell us if I, you, or others are a "feeler" or a "thinker."  If you play someone who is a feeler and you upset them, their reaction is going to be completely different than someone who is a thinker.  Thinkers don't usually take things personal and don't think about the issue again.  Feelers will hold on to even the slightest bothersome thing and let it affect them.

Again - how does this help you?  This helps you because if someone reacts in a certain way it's usually not because of something you have done, but it's more so their personality that brings out their attitude.

Some people can be extremely mad on the inside, but you'll never see it on the outside because they just don't show it. But if they do show it, and you know they are an extrovert or a feeler, then you can use that as a tool to not react to how they are acting, realizing that this is just their personality.

I hope this helps you in your pool journey, peeps!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Does Added Money Deter You?

I was pretty shocked last year when a pro player was in the area for a funeral. No...I wasn't shocked he was in town for the funeral, but I was shocked what I heard him say about a potential tournament he could play in.

He was asking about tournaments in Texas that we're coming up for the weekend and I found one flyer on my phone and showed it to him.  It happened to be a really big tournament, which is right down his alley because he is a top Pro.

He looked at the flyer and immediately said, "They're not really adding a lot of money - the flyer implies that, but the added money is just coming out of the large green fees.  It's not worth it for me to go."

So, I tried to find another tournament for him. I did find another flyer and he looked at it and he exclaimed, "Hey, no large green fees and true added money- I'll go to that one."

I have two thoughts about this.

What I think is pretty sad is the state of pool.  It's so bad Pros have to decide if they can attend a tournament or not based on how large the green fees are compared to the added money. Golf and Tennis players don't have to even worry about stuff like that - but pool Pros do because there's just simply not enough money in our sport for them.

The other thought I have is about us amateurs.

Amateurs don't think of things like this. Most of the amateurs I know just want to experience lots of different tournaments, experience new places to play, experience competing against people that maybe we wouldn't normally get to play, etc.  When we look at a flyer of a pool tournament we are interested in, the last thing on our mind is, "What is the green fee and are they adding good money?"  We just want to play pool!  We just want to compete!  So, us amateurs are actually pretty lucky we don't worry about such things.  Why?  Because we aren't hitting the pavement trying to make a living at playing pool like the pros, so we can just go and enjoy playing in any tournament we wish to play in (well, if we can afford the expenses, of course).

In all my years of playing pool, I hadn't heard a player state it wasn't worth it for them to play in a certain tournament because of the reasons this guy said.  It really took me aback.  But, I suppose it does make sense.  As long as they have options of different events, the pros almost need to choose the ones that have better added money and less green fees.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Maria Ho Advice - To Play Your Best

You all know I love to compare sports.  Well, today is no exception!

Recently at Winstar Casino (located on the border of OK/TX) the poker room held their annual River Poker Series.  It's their largest poker event of the year and it lasts about the full month of August and ends with the big poker event over Labor Day Weekend.

Several top pro poker players play in it, and that includes Maria Ho.

She was also signed on this year as their Celebrity Spokesperson.  So, she was on their Instagram page in different areas of the casino for a couple of weeks.  Then I noticed a Q and A session with her.  One question and answer reminded me exactly of our parallel sport (pool), so wanted to share!

Q:  What is the most frustrating thing for you at a table from your table mates? Too much talk, too little talk, not enough room, body odor? I personally get frustrated when someone reeks of smoke or body odor. Thoughts? 
A:  I mean B.O. can be a little rough especially if you couple that with not enough room to hide from it! ? Otherwise I try not to let myself get too frustrated at the poker table because that could be detrimental to my ability to play my best.
I love her answer!

As you all can attest, I actually state quite frequently in my blog about not letting things distract us that can get in the way of us playing our best pool. And she used almost those exact words!  And I will add a reminder, once you figure out there are many things you can't control around you, then that allows for you to focus back on playing your best.  "Give yourself the best chance to play your best."  I should put that on a shirt!  lol.  Too much?

Thank you for reinforcing my favorite advice, Maria!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Distractions - Project Hunger Games

Katniss (of the Project Hunger Games series of my blog) recently told me a disheartening story that happened during one of her recent tournaments.

She was playing a match and on another table a verbal altercation started between two players.  She lamented, "I know I shouldn't have let is bother me and distract me..."

I kinda cut her off (sorry, Katniss!) and told her that while yes we can try to not let things bother us, this was a different situation where we can't help but be distracted.

You see the two players argued for quite some time and were loud.  Katniss had to go to the tournament directors (TDs) (who were watching the altercation, not doing anything about it) and had to ask them if they could handle the situation because it was so disruptive to the matches going on.

I admit I have seen this a lot.

And what people don't realize is, altercations between two players distracts all the matches around them as well.  It's disruptive and therefore causes other players to lose their focus, it interrupts their rhythm, and interferes with their concentration.

However, I do admit that in order to resolve the conflict means more distraction because TDs normally address the situation/players at their table which means other matches around them are still affected until it's resolved.

BTW, Katniss was able to regroup and win her match.  Yay!

And this is a great reminder!  Remember that there are a ton of things that can happen unexpectedly during a tournament that you cannot control.  And being able to refocus is key.  I have written about both of those things a lot, and although it's unfortunate Katniss had to go through that situation during her tournament, I selfishly am glad because it provides me the perfect opportunity to remind you peeps of these two important things that will help you in tournaments.  :)

1.  Things will happen you don't have control over and try to not let them bother you.
2.  Getting distracted is normal.  Refocusing is the key for all great athletes.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Everything is Pool Related

I went to Lake Charles, LA last week for work.  While there, I captured a good shot of the National Weather Service Doppler Radar in Lake Charles, LA:

I posted that photo on my Facebook page and there were several general comments about it.  And then here comes Mike Page, "Here, let me fix that for you, Melinda."  And then he posted this, LMAO:

Red circle cueball, anyone?  Hysterical!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Practicing Scotch - Project Hunger Games

I have pontificated a lot in my blog that players who play scotch doubles together do not necessarily need to practice together if they already know 8ball well.

Katniss changed my mind a bit.  I love seeing different aspects of things!

What I hadn't really thought of was when two people who don't know each other at all play scotch doubles together, it is actually very beneficial to practice together ahead of time because then you get to find out about their personalities.  Some people show a different side to themselves when they are competing, right?  Competition can bring out the worst in someone, and if you don't know that about your partner, you will be surprised.

You see, Katniss played in a scotch doubles tournament with that guy a while back and he is the type of player who shows his emotions when he's upset - usually a small tantrum sort of thing - walking off mad, quipping about her slot selection - nothing loud or obnoxious, just a hint of upsetness.

He's like this all the time when he plays, but she hadn't seen him play a lot in tournaments and didn't know this about him.

So when they played together for the first time, his negative emotions and reactions bothered her, and therefore distracted her from playing well, because she thought she caused his tiny tantrums.  I tried to explain to her after the scotch doubles tournament that he's like that all the time, and while she understood that and it made her feel a little better, there was still some doubt and she continued to take some blame thinking her mistakes on the table upset him.

As we all know, we play our best not distracted.  Therefore, because he showed his upsetness, it definitely distracted her and she didn't play her best.

They decided to play in another scotch doubles event together, but this time they got together to practice a week or so before.  And what did she see?  She saw him act the same in their practice session and it clearly proved that it's just his personality and nothing to do with her!

So, when they played again in their next scotch doubles tournament, she felt much more at ease with him, wasn't taking things personal if he got upset, and they played much better together!  I'm not saying they won the tournament or anything lol, but they played better together and felt better much better because they got to know one another a little better during the practice session.  They are also becoming friends, which helps in scotch doubles, as well.

I definitely failed to see that when two people don't know each other at all, even if they know 8ball well, finding out about their personalities ahead of time can be a key element to shooting well together.

Thank you, Katniss, for the lesson!