Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Support as We Improve

I think one of the coolest things I've witnessed in my 20-plus years of playing pool is when a league captain or league teammates understand that at times their high caliber player(s) may be picked up to play in state or national tournaments.

Obviously I'm not talking about stealing you away, lol, but if your current league team isn't going to state or nationals, and you get picked up by a strong team, that's a pretty cool honor! And when captains and teammates see this as an amazing opportunity for their top shooter, it means the world to that player to have their support! And when I see this type of support, it warms my heart full.

Let me be more specific.

This means their teammates not only understand, but are genuinely happy they were picked for a high-caliber team, because it means they either play that good or have improved so much they are now sought-after for big events.

What am I trying to say?

I am trying to say that yes it's normal to be jealous of a teammate who excels, and obviously this wouldn't happen if your a team was already going to state or nationals, but when captains or teammates are unhappy, jealous, and/or vocal to a teammate who gets picked up for a national or state team, it's actually not very fun for that player. They get hurt, upset, and the words can increase their anxiety when "friends" make crappy comments (instead of being understanding and supporting).

It's so cool when our game has improved so much that other teams are seeking us out to join them for state and national tournaments!  We go to sleep with a smile on our face because we are so elated people have noticed our game has improved, and we get to play with that team who's teammates we always looked up to. We share with our loved ones and closest friends how excited we are about the new opportunities and we can't believe it!

But then our happiness is squashed like a bug when our captain or teammates make rude comments about us "leaving them" or "we didn't get asked to go" or "why did they ask you?"  They make us feel bad; they really don't understand. And instead of seeing this as a great reward for us improving, they only rain on our parade!

It kind of reminds me how a great leader would never stop their employees from getting promotions. They might have been the perfect fit for your group at work, but a good leader will let them go, will let them succeed, will let them prosper, and happy for them to be moving up.

So, when I hear that captains and teammates aren't supportive, it makes me feel bad for that player.

I went through it; most players who have improved have experienced this lack of support and jealousy. And that's what's kind of crazy, right?  We work on our game to improve, people notice, and then our own teammates get upset at us.   

wth?!  lol.

Here's a little secret - it's actually not an easy decision to step away from our current league team to play in a state or national tournament with others. Sure, it's a natural progression to our game, but the first few times we do this, it's actually a little uncomfy. So, it would be helpful if we had people that supported us, instead of getting upset with us. 

That's why I think it's so wonderful when a captain or teammates are supportive! I'm proud and happy for those who have worked on their game and improved. Aren't you? 

Monday, April 29, 2019

Players Who Need Money Versus Players Who Have Fun

I have discovered, as I'm sure many of you have, that there are really only two types of players in the world. The players who aren't there to make money and enjoy just having fun, and the players who need to make money.

Obviously, this seems obvious. LOL.

You may think this isn't an issue - who cares, Melinda? Well, the problem is the reaction from players who need to make money from playing pool and/or how they treat others.

Let's face it, many of us who love this game get agitated sometimes and mouth off when we lose. But it's the players who needed that money who have more sting to their words. Or, players make certain decisions to play or not because of the need for money.

I have seen, heard, or experienced unfortunate situations because of these differences.

For instance, a friend of mine found a great new scotch doubles partner, and she was very excited because they made a great team. However, he doesn't want to play unless there is a Calcutta in the scotch doubles tournament. And unfortunately around here, the scotch doubles tournaments don't normally have a Calcutta associated with them.  It's really just a tournament to have fun all day on a Saturday and for a team to raise extra money to go to Vegas to play in Nationals.

Of course the top one or two teams make some money from the payout of the tournament, but there's no Calcutta money (which is normally where most of the cash-ola comes from). So, my friend lost a valuable partner because he didn't want to waste time on "just having fun." In his eyes, if there is a Calcutta, though, he would jump all-in to play!

Another example of the difference in the philosophy about playing pool for fun or money is during times players want to split the finals. Usually this is requested by the team/player from the one-loss side when the tournament is running late.  Or, because they want more money out of the situation.

I experienced this directly at a scotch doubles tournament in Dallas about 6 years ago.  It was getting really late in the night, spilling over into the morning hours, and the couple that would have to play us in the finals would have to double dip us.  The guy of the team wanted to split first and second. The guy even tried to strong-arm me to "just split." But, I was there to try to win that tournament with my boyfriend - I hadn't come close to winning that event before so it was exciting to be in the finals!

Sure, the team didn't want to stay any later, but the guy knew they were probably going to lose. Therefore, to get more money out of the situation, he just wanted to split. But the title meant more to me than that and so I told him no; he wasn't very happy with me.

This came up a few times for me and people would get upset when I never split. But from my point of view, I hadn't won many tournaments yet and I wanted to play and try to win first place, not just split.  One Friday night a guy called me a bitch because I didn't want to split the finals with his girlfriend.

Rough crowd, huh?

Another scenario is when a player needs money, and is dependent on their finish to make money, which of course comes with a lot of pressure. I was talked about behind my back once by a scotch doubles partner because I didn't play well. Turns out (I didn't know this at the time) that he was depending on a good finish from us to make money so he could afford the room he was paying for in Vegas. Well, then he should have got a better partner because at that time (about 20 years ago), I couldn't shoot straight with a protractor.  This guy actually told people I "stepped on my dick."  I was so upset he was talking about me like that!  Well, after I found out what that meant, haha, as I had no idea, lol.  (turns out that meant I played badly)

When I ran the Omega Tour, I never got chewed out by the players who had other jobs for income. But players who relied on their finish to pay their bills chewed me out the most (you know, because when a player loses it's always the Tournament Director's fault because of the handicap system *I* personally put in place, haha).

Which player are you?  Has fun and elated when you cash?  Or relies on a decent finish to pay bills? (hopefully if you rely on pool tournaments for income you are still sweet to the people around you :)

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Toodles Danielson

I am torn about this announcement.

I have decided to retire the Danielson project of my blog.


Well, "Danielson" no longer plays pool.

Part of me is very happy for Danielson, but part of me is sad because it was a great way to share learning experiences to you all. I still do this through Katniss, but Danielson was the first project like this, so it's a tad sad, right?

But, I am also happy for him and proud of him because he stepped away from the pool room and from an atmosphere that was bad for his health, marriage, his pocket book, his self esteem, his job, etc.

Why continue to do something that causes you strife and grief?

But he did (still does) love pool and so it wasn't an easy decision. But he knew this was for the best. Aww, Danielson is growing up!

While he misses some of his old friends (and he better miss helping out through my blog, dammit!), he is enjoying more quality time with his wife, he's away from drama that can come from long nights in the pool room, and he's spending less money.

Bottom line - less stress and he's happier!

Thank you, Danielson, but also goodbye to the Danielson of my blog!  I will leave the link to the project on the top of my blog for a bit - I am not killing him off right away, haha.

Oh, and I'm talking to someone else who we might be able to learn from through his pool journey, but he hasn't said yes yet.  But, if that comes to fruition, you know I will announce it here!

In the meantime, I wish Danielson well! I really am happy for him because he is happier.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Watch Out for Crossing Old and New Habits - Project Hunger Games

Katniss (of the Project Hunger Game Series section of my blog) mentioned a few months ago that after she practiced with someone who was giving her pointers (I believe a scotch doubles partner or maybe a teammate? This is what I get for not going down my to-do list sooner - I lose some of the details!).

As we all know, our game goes down before it goes up when we get lessons or are in learning mode, but she rebounded much quicker than most.  She said she was struggling at first after the practice sessions, but then she started to play better.

My curiosity was peaked! That's not normal, haha.

Why did she play better so soon?

She explained, "The few times I practiced 8 ball after the first session, I was struggling because I was trying to use my new knowledge while still keeping some of my old habits."

Interesting observation on her part.

She added, "And I was getting nowhere lol."

You all know me, so I asked for more specifics, please.

She explained, "I was looking at the table differently, but yet I was not walking around the table, which is a bad habit of mine."

"Further," she continued, "I was not taking the time to truly figure out the table - I was leaning on my old bad habits of just shooting. "

Her great self refelctions and observations are important to share. Don't hang on to your old habits while you are working on new ones - they only get intertwined and become counterproductive, which are of no use that way.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Phil Capelle Interview - Billiard Buzz April 2019

I was lucky enough to get to interview my friend (of almost 20 years) and esteemed billiards author of the Play Your Best Pool books (and more!) for the April 2019 edition of Billiard Buzz! I hope you enjoy learning more about Phil, all he has done for pool, and his long list of ideas for the future!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Negativity About Female Pool Players

I was taken aback last year and then again this year after two of the female players I interviewed for Billiard Buzz had both shared their experiences regarding what they heard about female players versus male players in the beginning of their pool journey. The similarities caught me off guard.

One of them stated, “When I get to the table, I am going to make them forget I’m a female and remember me as a pool player; I want to be respected by everyone."

I was taken aback because I had never thought that way before.

But then she also shared, "The culture is very different in MA vs TX. In MA, I was conditioned to think I wasn’t ever good enough. I was only pretty good for a female."

Ah, then it made much more sense.

The other female player had similar experiences.  "I had a lot of preconditioning to overcome. It was beat into my head early on from everyone who surrounded me in the pool room, that women couldn’t win. I had always looked at women as inferior pool players, counting myself amongst that number of course."

Yippers! Where did these girls play pool??

She continued, "I started playing pool in 1992, before there were many widely respected dominant female players. The pool room where I started, it was just a statement of fact that women played so far under men. That is why when I started playing pool I developed such a big stroke. I wanted to play as good as the men, and when looking around myself I saw a lot of women rolling in balls, and not able to come with big outside English draw shots that bent off rails. I spent hours practicing these and other shots to set me apart from other women. This both helped and hurt me years later."

You can tell both players were affected for many years by what they experienced and heard in the pool room about the differences between male and female players.

And when I posted the interviews, one of my female friends said they related - they had encountered similar situations.

Hmm, wow, really?

I just didn't experience any of that.

Therefore, it made me wonder why I (being a female) hadn't endured this, also.

My first guess is, the male players I associated with never discussed in a negative way about male versus females players. They never made me feel inferior and they didn't downplay females, it was just a fact/opinion I heard, but with no negative connotation to it. I played pool in both Florida and Texas - big states - but just didn't hear such raw comparisons about females. I did hear that guys think males play better than females, but it was never something that had a negative tone to it - it was just kind of a generic topic that sometimes the guys might talk about. We talked about POOL, not gender of pool.

My other guess is because I was around a very strong female player when I started in the pool realm. Strong at the game and strong in her character.

When I was about 22 years old, I was practicing pool one sunny weekday afternoon in San Antonio Texas at Clicks Billiards.  The pool room was pretty empty, as it was a very beautiful day outside, and June Hager Walter (who I didn't know at the time) was practicing on another table.  She came up to me and told me that I was cute and had a good stroke, and that I could get sponsors and should consider playing pool for a living.

Um, What?

When I told her, "But I have a job," she still looked at me like I was crazy, lol. Maybe she thought I didn't have good, steady job or one that made decent money, I dunno, lol.  But when I explained I actually had a career with my job that I went to Texas A&M for, she then said, "Oh, well, you should definitely do that instead of playing pool."


It was really funny.

But her and I became very good friends and it turned out that June was a very good player who had been on the road in the '80s and '70s.  Her husband at the time was a well-known road player and so she learned how to play pool very well, and also how to handle herself. Don't get me wrong - June was very sweet, extremely caring, and would do anything for her friends. But she also stood up for herself and handled herself well in all situations, which was something I hadn't seen growing up.

Because her and I became great friends (she was instrumental in helping me overcome something in my late 20s), I would travel with her to tournaments not just in Texas, but also out of the state. I saw her play a lot of very high money matches, and so I'm witnessing a female who was playing high-caliber pool against other high-caliber female pool players and they're playing for a lot of money. So, in my mind I never thought much about the differences between a male and a female pool player. I mean, I know there's differences, but there was never a negative connotation tag to it, as I read in those two interviews.

I'm very thankful I was around a lot of people in my pool journey that didn't talk negatively about female pool players. That would have sucked.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Be Leery of Giving/Receiving Compliments

I believe it was in February when a friend of mine was playing a scotch doubles tournament. I don't like to ask my friends how they are doing during a tournament, because if they are losing, the last thing they want to do is share that info, lol. Right? Talk about a Debby Downer, haha. So, instead, I deliberately and intentionally send generic, but positive comments to show my support.

So I sent her a sweet text (because I'm sweet like that - hey, don't laugh!). I didn't ask her how it was going, instead I simply told her I hope it was going well and that she was having fun. Oh, and I asked her who her partner was.

She replied, "Thanks for checking on me! I am playing with BB.* " 

I asked her BB's last name, as I wasn't sure which BB it was.  She tells me and then says, "He knows you...but you are famous...so no surprise there. "

I replied, "Omg, you're silly, lol. Have fun!"

But in my mind I was doing cartwheels! It was the BB I knew and he is a fantastic player!  I was SO excited for her to be playing with a top-notch bar table player. I knew they had a great chance to win.

She said she was suppose to be playing with someone else, but he backed out on her.  I told her, "Good! You will have fun with BB."

Continuing my focus on the fun part of playing pool (i.e. no pressure).

She shared, "I'm having a great time... and we are shooting good together!!"

Well, "duh" I said to myself. She already plays jam up and so to add a scotch partner who also plays jam up, it's like Christmas in July!

The next day she told me they won - went undefeated!  I knew they made a great team, but did you notice I never told her that?

Come on, did you?

I hope so, because that's the point of this blog post.

Sometimes giving compliments can affect our game. We can get OVER-confident which can affect our routine and then we miss more. Further, overly confident thoughts and expectations can fill our head - which is a distraction and takes way from our game.

Just like negative emotions can interfere with our performance, so can highly positive comments.

I have played a lot of matches and lost because I was too confident. It's a weird thing that happens to us, but it does.

Players have actually used this as a sharking technique. A player may deliberately comment to their opponent during a match how well they are playing, because that might distract them from being in the zone. It causes the opponent to start being more conscious about how well they are playing, and then they start to miss.

Of course, the other obvious reason I didn't show my excitement for them as a great scotch team is because that can sometimes add pressure.

Sheesh, Melinda, can we say anything to our friends?

Lol.  YES!

But just remember any distraction - good or bad - is still a distraction.

So, my advice is to wait until after a tournament to give all the accolades and compliments you wish! But during or before tournaments, simply focus your support by telling them to have a good time and enjoy the game we love to play (see what I did there?).

*not real name to protect the innocent

Monday, April 8, 2019

Tips to Help Negative Feelings During Matches - Project Hunger Games

Katniss (of the Project Hunger Game Series section of my blog) was telling me the other day she felt "off" during one of her matches at league and then she lost a crucial game because of it.

You all know me, I dove right in!

I asked her about 1,000 questions (give or take a few) to get to the bottom of what she was trying to describe.  What did "off" really mean, why did she feel that way, and what was going on?

Long story short, she wasn't comfortable and she was distracted because she had some negative feelings going on. Poor girl, she had a lot of things going against her. And as we all know, it's tough enough to already play our best without distractions lol.

  • She was playing in local bar that she didn't feel comfortable in (it was very small, it was crowded that night, and also on a bad side of town)
  • The two tables were so close to each other, she would have to lean her butt on the other table at times to shoot well (difficult to get comfy and worried how cute our butts look, right?)
  • The other team had people cheering for them loudly because it was their home bar
  • She was having some issues with a teammate who was upset with her (who knows why - you know how women can be, lol)
Like I said, she had a lot of things going against her - distractions and some negative thoughts/feelings.  No wonder she felt "off" and didn't play her best.

I want to right away jump into what will help during your matches in the future if this happens to you.

There is a mental thing you can do and a physical thing you can do.



The most important thing before you can implement any tool during a match to help you when you might be struggling is, is you must learn early to become fully aware that there is something going on. You don't need to identify it, but if you realize and recognize early enough that you are bothered, upset, distracted, feel pressure, embarrassed, WHATEVER, then you will know it's time for you to implement tools during the match to help you regain confidence. "Hey, I'm not playing well because something is bothering me. I don't know what it is, but I can tell I'm upset for some reason, and my arms are a little wobbly, and my heart is racing."

Don't wait til after the match is over to realize something was bothering you and that's why you played badly. I admit this takes some conditioning to learn, but once you do - your game will skyrocket. Instead of Monday Morning Quarterbacking, you will be solving problems right away! So, keep aware of your state of mind, your emotions/feelings, that your body feels "off," etc - if you can identify soon that something is bothering you, then you will have time to use tools to help you.

I actually think this a huge part of your repertoire.

Now, let's get to the tips!

So, I gave her two suggestions of what to do when you are playing badly while feeling pressure, embarrassment, or have negative emotions:

(1) I've written about this before, of course, which was when Phil Capelle gave me advice on how to handle embarrassment. I was almost paralyzed from competing well for about a year because I had intense feelings of embarrassment and judgement. When you're feeling negative emotions, how can you possibly play your best pool? The way to combat that is to get your mind busy with something else. Pretty simple, but very powerful. He suggested I focus completely on my pre-shot routine and three-ball shape. It was a miracle worker! My brain was so busy focusing on those two things, it had no time to think about the judgement I felt I was under. So I told Katniss if she notices she is playing badly and also has negative emotions or feelings, that she needs to solely focus on three-ball shape and her pre-shot routine (fundamentals) because it keeps your mind busy.

(2) The second thing, which I think sometimes is more important, is when you are feeling pressure you need to stroke the ball more. I've also written about this before as this was a huge learning experience for me as well, but the key is a lot of times when we feel negative emotions (pressure, upset, embarrassed, etc) we simply don't shoot the same. We actually rush our shots when we feel pressure. So the way to combat that is to stroke your cue more. I know this seems opposite of what we've all been taught - that you should have a set pre-shot routine and stroke the same number of times (except for tough shots). However, when we are nervous, we only take two strokes, and therefore we aren't following our pre-shot routine anyway, lol. Furthermore, when we are nervous or feel pressure we honestly don't even realize that we are two-stroking at all because our brain is distracted with these weird sensations of nervousness and pressure.

I've actually been in situations where I'm playing in a tournament and I'm nervous, and someone will tell me, "Hey, you're two-stroking; slow down, take your time, stroke some more." I was SHOCKED! I had no idea I wasn't stroking normally - I thought I was! You see? These negative feelings and emotions can affect our routines. Therefore, if you become aware of negative emotions and you also recognize you are playing badly, then immediately start to stroke a few extra times when you are down on the ball. You'll be amazed how effective this is.

So these are two important things that you can utilize to help you play better when you are nervous or feel pressure. There are a ton of other things you can do (read more here about tips I shared from 2011), but these two things are golden.


Again, to even be able to start to use these items is you have to have self-awareness that you are nervous or feeling pressure in the first place. Sometimes we don't know til it's too late why we are struggling. Self-awareness really is one of the most important things because without it, there's no way to begin to correct what is going on.

Til next time!

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Choice of Words on Streams

For someone who stated I don't listen to streams sure has been posting a lot about what they hear on streams lol.

But, I have discovered recently certain tournaments have really good commentators, so want to definitely talk about them!

I listened to the stream of the DFW 9-Ball Tour last month. This is the tour that took over the Omega Billiards Tour I used to run.

I was very impressed with the commentators! Several of the players seem to consistently commentate - a few I recognize the voices (like Jeff Georges who is a great commentator), but others I have no idea who they are lol because I'm away from pool halls now.

But, you all know I do my homework so I put on my Big Investigator Hat and went to work finding out who commentated certain matches so I could talk about them, errr, showcase them in my blog.

I found out one of the players I wanted to point out was Billy Guy - he was a really fantastic commentator!

One of the things I admired most (besides his vast knowledge of the game), was how he handled commentating matches of players who aren't seasoned.

While I listened to him and watched the stream, I recognized and was very impressed with his wording choices. You see, if a player did something unconventional or maybe kept making the same mistake, instead of calling the player out or saying something rude/hurtful, he was actually very kind with his choice of words.

I was so impressed, I think he should be a coach to players because he has a way of making a point without being judgmental.

Now come on people, don't make fun of me! I know you all know someone who has given you crappy and hurtful advice, no matter how well-intentioned, right?

Anyway, the one thing he did repeatedly was instead of saying what the player did wrong, he would instead say what they should have done with a preface like, "I'm a big fan of..."

Let me give an example instead of being vague, lol.

If a player was, I dunno, continually using top English on certain shots, when instead they would get better results using a stop shot, Billy would say something like, "Again, I'm a big fan of using a stop shot for that position. It allows me to control the cueball and also get great shape for the next ball. Top English on those shots can cause too much unnecessary movement with the cueball."

This might sound perfectly normal and you might be thinking, "Well, Melinda, isn't that how most people would say that?"  I would argue no. I can guarantee you I've heard instead from other commentators something like, "What are they doing? Why do they keep using top?"

[Watch out - here's where I talk about leadership in my blog]

You may think the second example is perfectly fine, but I would argue that it:
  1. passes judgement (What are they doing?
  2. doesn't give suggestions, alternatives, or advice like Billy Guy did ("Using a stop shot for that shot allows me to control the cueball and to get great shape for the next ball.")
  3. And further, doesn't explain why this other option might be better ("Top English on those shots can cause too much unnecessary movement with the cueball.")
  4. Billy's intro was so gentle and not passing judgement or blame on to the player, either. "I'm a big fan of …" and actually points to himself, not to the player.

So, which one would you listen to and learn from if someone said this to you:

"What are you doing? Why do you keep using top?"


"You know what, I'm a big fan of using a stop shot for that position. It allows me to control the cueball and also get great shape for the next ball. Top English on that certain shot can cause unnecessary movement with the cueball."

See the difference?

Yep, we are all more receptive to the second example.

(BTW, Bill gave some great advice about safeties that I will write about soon!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tip Tournament Director?

The other day I read a comment from someone on social media that suggested when you win a tournament, "Don't forget to tip your Tournament Director," or something like that.


Well, if there's anything I've read on Facebook that I didn't agree with, this is something I definitely don't agree with.

Although there are a few exceptions, most everyone who runs a tournament is getting something already. I admit they aren't getting a lot, but they are getting something - whether it's free drinks during a weekly tournament or a free entry into a that weekly tournament, or even getting paid somehow during monthly tournaments or running a tour.

I whole heartedly admit that even if someone is getting paid to run a tournament or makes money from running tournaments, it's NOT a lot at all.

But, my personal belief is: it's already tough enough to make money at pool, so I say: "Congrat's on the win! (and keep that money in your pocket!)"

As a Tournament Director, I would rather receive instead is a sincere thank you in person or maybe a post on Facebook after the event expressing how much you appreciated how well the tournament was run.

I mean, sure, anytime $20 or $50 bucks thrown my way is a nice gesture, but I would rather the pool player keep that money.

I know, I know, some players are just super thoughtful or it's in their dna to want to give a little tip to the Tournament Director. I'm not saying to go against your personal beliefs, folks.

But I feel pool players shouldn't ever feel obligated to pay the Tournament Director. Sure, if you win 1,000G's you can remember me in your will, but otherwise don't ever feel obligated to tip a Tournament Director.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Joining a new League!

I get asked still off and on if I can come out of retirement and join this team or that team. It's super sweet that people still think of me and consider adding me to their team roster.  Really makes me smile!

And, it seems to always happen when friends are putting together a new team at the end of a league season or getting a stacked team ready to play at State tourneys or National tourneys.  So, the text messages kinda come in waves.

Again, super sweet that of all the players in the area, my name still comes up as someone who would be a benefit to their team.

Over the weekend I got yet another request and although I have been saying "no, but thank you, means a lot you thought of me," this time I said YES!

I'm super excited to be playing pool again!  And on a new league!

NOT.  This is all an April Fool's joke.