Thursday, March 28, 2019

Confidence Playing in Big Tournaments - an example

I'm always a tad jealous when I see players who are excited about playing in upcoming tournaments that I know I would be super anxious and nervous to play in.  

I believe (still) this stems from the "test anxiety" issues I've had all my life. I have freaked out due to nerves before many big exams in college and also for job interviews. And so I have talked a lot about how I had jitters before almost every big tournament. I honestly feel I would have won BCAPL and ACS State tournaments much sooner in my pool journey if I didn't have "test anxiety" or "title tournament jitters."  I would just get psyched out before even making the drive to the events, lol.

So, when I read on Facebook a friend of mine, Tyler, was excited to play in the US Open 9-Ball Championship this year, I was like, "look at him - how cool is that that he's excited."  

If you haven't heard, the US Open 9-Ball Championship is no longer held on the East Coast in Virginia Beach in October.  It is now headed by Matchroom Sport and it moved to Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this April.  Here is what their website says about the tournament:

The US Open 9-Ball Championship comes to Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas as America’s most prestigious billiards tournament is relaunched by Matchroom Multi Sport with a record-breaking prize fund.

One of the biggest titles in world 9-ball, the US Open sees the best players on the planet battle it out over three breathless days to reach to the final 16, after which all matches are sudden death knockout played under the TV lights in front of an international audience.

The US Open roll of honor is a who’s-who of billiard legends and is now under the banner of Hall of Fame promoter Barry Hearn, whose Matchroom Multi Sport company are renowned in billiards for the Mosconi Cup, World Pool Masters and World Cup of Pool.
Tyler won a Qualifier in February to the US Open. Here is that flyer and a photo of him from the tournament that I stole from Facebook for this blog post, lol:

I congratulated him on the win of the qualifier and he replied, "Thank you! Going to be neat to go to that event! I'm excited."

I thought to myself: Excited? Dude, you are playing top pros of the world! Aren't you scared and nervous? "Excited" is not the word I would use. "Petrified" or "Crazy" maybe. hahaha.

See, there's the difference - I would be nervous, apprehensive, and be shaking already and yet he's freaking excited. 

However, I admit I am thrilled and get impressed by that mentality and really love to see that type of positive, confident attitude, because it's so opposite of mine.

But, it got worse! Someone shared on his Facebook page this article about the "Unprecedented field for US Open 9-Ball," stating, "Upcoming US Open 9-Ball field is hands down the strongest field we've seen."

And of course Tyler exclaims, "Going to be an awesome event! Stoked to be able to play against the best players in the world!"

If only I had a smidgeon of his confidence and excitement to play in tough events...

Go get 'em, Tyler!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

A Perspective: Singles Finals in Vegas

A friend of mine finished an impressive 2nd place in the BCAPL National singles event last year. It was the highest national singles title he's ever come close to!  He has had several big wins here and there throughout the last 10 years or so, but none on the national singles stage.

He has put in the time and he was due for sure - we were all very proud of him!

He shared with me his tournament experience because we used to share these type of things many, many years ago. Plus, he knows I LOVE hearing these type of stories :)

He told me, "So I was reading your blog, and it made me reflect on pool in general and I think you'd be the person that could relate to it the most." And he was right! Trust me when I say I could blog about five topics just from these few paragraphs, lol. A lot of great insight he shares.

He's a very funny guy and I actually call him my "Favorite Mexican," but then that makes my other friends jealous, lol. I have written about his Mom before in my blog: here.

I would never even begin to adequately be able to describe what he did, so I'm going to simply copy/paste his words so you can experience for yourself this amazing, unforgettable time in his life. You will enjoy this, I promise!


I've never been able to put myself in a position to play in the finals of the nationals in singles, and I got super nervous when I was playing in the semi-finals match. I walked around the table trying to calm down, took deep breaths, did my PSR [pre shot routine], and just made sure to stay down on every, single, shot until the 8ball dropped.

So now, I'm super excited I'm in the finals, I damn near wanted to cry. LOL. I called my wife, then walked to the bar. I knew I had to calm down from the excitement, and figured a drink would help (mental right?). So I get to the tv arena, and I hit a few balls. Those tables were super fast and rails really bouncy. I was overrunning everything during warm up. Up until that point, I made it a point to not look up. Just wanted to focus on my table, and that's it. Well, there was a slight delay in the start of the match, and then I looked up. Ugh! Just about everybody that was there in the building from Dallas, was in the stands! Then I looked over to the table next to ours, and see two top players playing, Jesus Atencio vs Omar Alshaheen. 

At that exact moment, I got a text from my friend Alex. In '09 when I got 3rd at the state tourney, Alex was texting me and calling me, telling me to have fun in every match towards the end of the event. It really helped! Well, the text that I got from him was something similar. 

Since we hadn't started yet, I stood up, took a deep breath, then turned to look at the crowd. I took it all in, and decided to enjoy the moment. I mean, who knows if I'll ever be in that spot again. 

The nerves instantly went away. It was weird. I felt a sense of calmness just before my opponent walked back up to the table. It was just a matter of tapping into the mental calmness for a bit. Of course, we all know how the finals went, LOL [he lost :( ]. But afterwards, I didn't feel any kind of regret or sadness. I just felt great to be able to play in the finals of that event, which had been my goal since stepping foot in the BCA league.


What is your favorite part of the story?  Mine is pretty easy:  "I stood up, took a deep breath, then turned to look at the crowd. I took it all in, and decided to enjoy the moment."

I just loved that whole sentence - it truly captured everything we all wish and hope for to feel some day in our own pool journey!

Congrat's to my Favorite Mexican! err, I mean, Juan!  SO FREAKING PROUD OF YOU!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Might as Well Learn While You Lose

One of my friends captured on video (I believe it was live stream via Facebook) about 5-10 minutes of a match in a big tournament in Vegas. And what I saw on the video disappointed me. I mean, I understood what I saw, but I was still disappointed.

You see, the match pitted one of the top players in the world against an amateur.  The video was showcasing a REALLY tough out by the pro.  The pro (some guy named Shane Van Boening) didn't have an easy out, but of course made it look easy, lol.  But it was his opponent who I was also focused on.  His opponent was looking away from his own match, I'm guessing because he was perturbed about being beat and that Shane was running out (yet again I presume).  Instead of watching and learning from the top player, though, he was looking elsewhere.

It was a HUGE missed opportunity!

He could have spent his time (instead) wisely while sitting in that chair to watch, learn, and absorb from one of the best players on the planet! Instead, he seemed kinda miffed and deflated Shane was running out.

In the short clip, he sat holding his cue looking at anything but his opponent. He would glance back over to his own table right before Shane made each shot, but then quickly look away disinterested when he didn't miss.  The guy finally set his cue down and looked somewhere else while Shane continued a pretty phenomenal out.  

I get it.  I really do!  Who wants to get beat?  Who wants to not have a shot?  Who wants to lose?

No one.

But, if you can already tell that Shane is going to beat you, why not take advantage of the front row seat you have?  Why not watch his stance?  Or his shot selections?  Or how he would get back down on shots he wasn't comfy with?  Or how walked around the table looking for the best position for his cueball for his next shot?  Or what pattern he chose?  The guy only glanced occassinaly back at the table to see if Shane missed or not.  

There is so much more to this game than making balls - and to be able to watch Shane is a huge treat!  To be able to watch how pro's approach the table (literally and figuratively), what choices they make, what patterns they choose, and how they take their time with their shots....  Omg peoples, take advantage of these learning opportunities!

Monday, March 25, 2019

Search by Topic - New Addtion to Blog

Earlier this month I received a nice note from Brett:

"Hi Melinda, I have started listening to ABR and am enjoying it a lot.
Found your blog from there and wow - thanks for all you are doing to
support the great game of pool. I live in Canada near Niagara Falls btw.

Is there a way to search you blog by topic - so many posts and eventually I
want to read them all but would like to cherry pick a few that are on my
mind first..."

I ran to my blog and noticed sure enough, I no longer have a list of the topics/labels like I used to have on my blog. 


I then added the labels back to the front of my blog and immediately was reminded why I removed the list: there are too many!  Ahhh, that's right, the long list ran WAY down the page - it just wasn't feasible to add because there are just too many labels and it took up a lot of unnecessary space.

For background information, I choose one or more certain words to assign to each blog post, depending on what I wrote about.  Those words (i.e. topics/labels) are listed at the bottom of each blog, but there is also a list of all the topics/labels that can be displayed on the blog so one can choose the topics you want to read about.  For example, if I write about an interesting situation where some guy wouldn't shake my hand after I beat his azz, I would label the blog "handshake." And then if you wanted to search all the blog posts I wrote about "handshake" you would see all the posts by choosing that word "handshake" from the list.  

I'm not sure so many labels/topics is worthwhile, but I do talk about a lot of different things and kinda like the ability to search blog posts by the different topics/labels.

I then went to the all-knowing Internet and searched for ways to display the topics in a shorter format - maybe drop down menu or simply a link that would go to a separate page that would list all the labels.  I luckily found several options to add coding that could offer a solution.  I tested several options on my blog and then finally decided on a code that will allow for the topics to be chosen via a dropdown menu!

So, on the right of my blog you will now see this:

So, now you can all search by topic from the front page again!

BIG thanks to Brett for sending me the kind email and also asking the question - his inquiry helped spur me to find a solution to add that back to my blog in a more effective way.  Thank you, Brett!

Saturday, March 16, 2019

That Chin!

I shared with one of Dave's good friends (Joe) one morning that initiative I announced in January, "Return the Faver."

The easiest way to explain the initiative was to simply share the link with him so he could read all about it.

He called me that afternoon and was so excited about this for Dave! He's been friends with Dave since they were kids, so this means a lot to him and he really loved the idea to keep Dave's memory in the pool world.

Then I discovered that wasn't the only blog post Joe read - evidently, he read some of my other posts.  He told me he had no idea that I played pool, lol.  Yet, he said, he could tell right away that I played well just by looking at the pictures of me.

"What do you mean?" I asked him

He shared and explained that when the cue is close to the chin, that is an automatic sign that a player shoots well. Means they have a solid stance, are usually seasoned, and normally stay down well on their shots.  As I thought about it, I did eventually get lower in my stance later in my pool journey, which helped my game go up.

I actually didn't realize my chin was so close to my cue, though, but it does reinforce what I tell people: that a player has a more solid stance and therefore are more effective if they are lower on their shots because their cue is much more level.

If you picture snooker players Allison Fisher or Karen Corr in your head right now, you automatically picture then lower near the table with their cue near their chin. Right?

Well, it's not just snooker players - check out just this one male pro I picked from the US who does the same thing:  Mr Sky:

Oh, and here's a pic of me and my chin, errr, cue:

I have to admit it was quite cute that Joe went on and on about how he had no idea how well I played and he stumbled upon it looking through my blog. It really made me smile.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Gordy Vanderveer Interview! March 2019 Billiard Buzz

I was lucky to get to interview one of the best guys around the pool scene, Gordy Vanderveer! If you don't know him, you are missing out, as he is wonderful to be around with a contagious, positive, fun attitude and a very knowledgeable pool game (that he is passing on through "SLA" - read about it in the interview). Even if you do know him, you'll enjoy this interview, too. Thank you so much, Gordy!! 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

There are Different Forms of Practice - Project Hunger Games

Katniss (of the Project Hunger Game Series section of my blog) shared with me a few months ago one afternoon that she was playing well, even though she hadn't been able to practice but one time that week. And that "it was very unusual for me to not practice more."

I discovered that she plays league twice a week, maybe plays a tournament once on the weekends, and also still practices three to four times a week.

Holy cow that's a lot of pool!

I was hesitant to share my opinion, but I really thought she was practicing too much. I actually consider league practice and also playing in tournaments practice. Sure, those are not dedicated "practice sessions" (if we want to put a label on it), but it's still playing pool - it's still working on your game. 

Let me put it this way, if you not playing league or tournaments or gambling, then yes, you should be putting in a practice session or two a week if you can because otherwise you aren't playing at all.

Further, this might sound silly, but if in your mind you think you have to practice, let's say four times a week, and you only get to practice two times that week, you might think it will hurt your play.  And you might blame not shooting well because you didn't put in your normal 4-times-a-week practice session. Yet, the reason could be stress at work or not enough sleep or because you just had a bad night.  What I didn't want Katniss to get in the habit was, was to think that she had to practice four times a week to play well.

I shared with her, "You may not like this, but I think you practice too much lol. So, only practicing once, then having league twice, and playing in a tournament is actually a lot of pool. :) Therefore, it makes sense to me you are still playing well, even tho you don't feel like you practiced enough.  I think reading can be considered a "practice" day because you are still working on your game, for example. :)"

She explained, "Yes, I do practice a lot, but I enjoy it! I'm obsessed with the game lol. I may back off some. Well, I will try anyway, lol."

I explained further, because I didn't want to deter her, "I'm not necessarily saying back off a lot. But I am suggesting that you should consider league night, reading, gambling, and/or playing a weekly tournament as forms of practice. So if you don't get in the dedicated practice you are used to, you'll still feel good. :)"

She replied, "That is true. Hmmm, never thought of it like that."

What I diddn't share with her is that sometimes when we ease up on so much dedicated practice, and realize that other activities (reading, playing league, watching videos, etc.) are a form of practice by working on our game, it actually helps us. Consequently, we will still play well (and sometimes better!), even though we aren't physically playing pool during a "dedicated practice session." 

I talked to her over the weekend and she said she hasn't been practicing as much. I was surprsied, as I didn't think she was really going to cut down the number of her dedicated practice sessions.  

I was like, "Really?"

"Yep," she said, "And you know what? I'm playing better."  

I smiled to myself and was so happy she experienced that positive consequence! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What Do You See on Streams?

I mentioned yesterday, the female pros I listened to this past weekend who commentated for the stream of the WPBA tournament we're really extraordinary!

They would talk about why certain patterns a player chose were best, what the players should do with their shot selections, what options might have been more effective, talked about safeties, all sorts of gems that if one was to pay attention, you would have loved as well from all the learning opportunities.

It made me wonder:

I wonder what other people listen for and watch when they are watching streams? Does everyone do what I do? Are they listening for gems? Are they paying attention and learning about patterns? Or are they just watching two players play on the stream?

I noticed so many things like: who walks around the table more than others, who stays down well on their shots, who walks into their shots, who has great pre-shot routines, all that type of stuff. So it's not just patterns I like to see, I also look for the nuances of why one player might be better than the other.

Obviously I'm not noticing these type of things because I'm still playing pool.

Watching streams helps remind me of great tips I can share with my clients/friends. Further, watching streams also provides me topics I can blog about (case in point, right? lol). And ironically, a few times the commentators this past weekend said something helpful and I responded proudly to myself, "Hey, that's exactly what I've stated before!" It's nice to get confirmation of the tips I have shared via my blog or with my students. :)

Monday, March 4, 2019

Women's Pro Tourney on Stream

Well, I turned the sound on the stream again this weekend. I know, I know, I mentioned just last week that I don't like to turn the sound on because the commentators usually annoy me, lol.  However, I deliberately turned the sound on this time because I saw that a female pro friend was going to be commentating on the WPBA matches.

I didn't get to hear her commentate after all, but I heard some other female pros and they were fantastic!  And it reminded me that when I watch pro events when pro's are commentating, I turn on the sound.  Therefore, it's during amateur events when the commentators are kinda just talking on the mic and not about the why's of the choices of the players when I don't like to listen.

The pros I listened to this weekend for the WPBA tournament we're really extraordinary! They would talk about what the players should do with their shot choices, what they should have done that would have been more effective with their patterns, talked about using certain English, about staying down on their shots, better safeties, all sorts of gems!

At one point, a non-pro joined one of the female pros in the booth and I was immediately distracted by him.  I am not trying to be rude, but I simply enjoyed the knowledge from the pro's so much better.  They kinda had to correct him a lot on his suggestions. I'm not saying that's good or bad for the viewers, but for me personally, one of the bonus's of the platform of streams is for us to learn.

I was actually very excited for all the great commentary from the female pros this weekend!  Very valuable insight!

Friday, March 1, 2019

Practicing Alone Effectively

The other day someone posted on Facebook looking for advice.

Because I am a huge fan of Copy and Paste, lol, I thought it would be cool to share with you all the question and the answers this player received.
Q:  Anyone else have trouble focusing when practicing alone? Need some tips on how to practice the way I would play against an opponent. 

Reply 1: Practice playing the ghost, and commit to competing against it the whole set, start off with shorter sets and even give yourself a reasonable spot and work your way up to playing it even

Reply 2: Definitely play the ghost like suggested, really work to stay focused. Straight Pool is also a great way to practice. Sometimes you can begin to play 9ball unconsciously because the balls tell you what you need to do. To play straight pool you’ll need to be constantly thinking of what to do next. It will improve your game all around as well.

Reply 3: Go on the road. (this received a lot of laughing emoticons)

Reply 4: I didn't contribute to the discussion on Facebook, but I will share my thoughts with you all here.  I wrote a blog post many moons ago that shares how I practice.  When I played by myself (which was most of the time back then), this was my practice routine - and it helped me all these years.