Monday, September 30, 2019

Second Place is the Real Winner

I wrote about this topic a couple of years ago. But I'd like to touch on it again real quick.

I remember distinctly after I lost in the finals of a big tournament in Florida in 1998, one of the local good players told me, "Second place is the real winner." Of course at the time the sting of losing in the finals was too strong for me even hear what he was saying. 

And then of course it took me YEARs to figure out and finally understand what he was talking about.   
I hadn't really understood a lot about the mental part of pool at that time, was hardly putting effort into improving, and didn't understand all the beautiful nuances of the sport yet, to truly fathom how powerful that one sentence is.

One of my friends recently placed second in a big tournament and I was SO HAPPY for her! I'm guessing she might have felt deflated and maybe defeated because it was second place, but all I could think about was how much she was going to learn because she got second place!

You see, if she had won the tournament, she may not be as reflective as she will be now. Let's face it, second place means you didn't win the tournament, so you're going to evaluate what happened, think back on your shots. Was I staying down? Was I tired? Was I nervous? What was going on? Had she won the tournament, none of those great questions would have entered into her mind for her to reflect on and learn from.

Lessons we learn when we lose big matches are sometimes the highest gifts to our game. Second place is the real winner.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"Return the Faver" Goes to Ohio (twice!)

The next free entry fee to a tournament has been identified for Return the Faver!

If you don't know what that is, please check it out here; this Player Scholarship Fund Award is in honor of my dear friend Dave Faver. 

I have been corresponding with Sonia, who has been holding straight pool tournaments in Ohio. Dave's friend since childhood (Joe), got me in contact with Sonia to help with this endeaver of a free entry in Dave's home-state, and I have been so thankful of our collaboration! 

A free entry ($55) was donated to the "Summer Sizzler" Straight Pool Tournament in Wickliffe, Ohio in July, and I just sent her another free entry ($65) donated to her "Fall Frolic" Straight Pool Tournament in Ohio in October!

She sent me this kind note, and I am truly thankful for her help with Dave!
"I just wanted to thank you once more for your more than generous donation to my straight pool tournament.
Again, you are awesome and Dave Favor's memory will live on!"
This all makes me so happy!

Here is the flyer, and the words on it about Dave:

"One lucky participant will have their entry fee paid for in full, thanks to a generous donation in memory of Dave Faver. Each pre-paid entry will be entered to win. Drawing will be just before Calcutta, and that winning participant’s entry fee will be refunded in cash, prior to the start of the tournament."

Monday, September 23, 2019

What do you do to Improve?

A friend of mine, Tina, has been working on her game so much so, that her persistence has paid off.  She recently won her end of season league tournament - a first for her!

Everyone has noticed her game has gone up and her stats and finishes have also soared. So, of course that led me to wonder what she was doing to improve.  But I didn't need to ask her.  If you follow her on social media, it's evident.  She WORKS on her game, works on improving, and works on learning.

Here's my question to some of you: Are you just playing pool?

First, if you are - that's fine!

But if you want to improve, what are you doing about it?

Don't be upset with me with the harshness of this statement, but:  just showing up at league or tournaments is not enough.

Tina doesn't just show up to her 'main' league and play pool.  She also plays in two other really tough leagues. Additionally, she plays in big tournaments around the DFW area, and sometimes in big tournaments in OK and other cities across Texas. She also plays on two tours (a ladies tour and a men's tour), and further, at times plays in weekly tournaments.

It's almost like she read my blog from the past where I shared many things one can do to improve your game.  I was ADAMANT many times that in order to improve, you MUST play in many different type of tournaments (yes, some tough); you aren't going to improve by just playing in league.

But, wait there's more!

If there is a stream on over the weekend, Tina has it on and she's watching. Watching great pool and patterns helps our game immensely (I've written about this before here).

side note: as I was writing the draft of this blog post last week, I noticed Tina posted this on her FB:

Proof she watches streams!

Oh, and guess what?

Yep, there's more!

She also practices.  She will either practice at home, meet up with league-mate at the pool room and hit balls before tournaments, or sometimes even go to the pool room and hit balls by herself.

Additionally, she reads.  I know, so rare! She will get out her reminders and go over them. Or she will grab a Phil Capelle's books and read some sections.

Further, she will sit herself in the front row of tournaments and watch matches while she waits for her own match to be called! I have written before about how crucial this is. And, she is taking advantage of the "free" learning lessons by watching the great matches right in front of her. She could be sitting in the corner reading a book, or drinking with her friends at the bar, or playing video games to pass time. Instead, she's using her time wisely.

See what she's doing?  She is working on her game!  She hasn't been playing pool for a long time, but for some reason, she knew in order to improve, she needed to put in work for her pool game to improve.

I can easily admit for the first 10 years of me playing pool, that that's all I did - just play pool.  I only played on some tour stops and played on a league, and then wondered why my game never went up.

It took me years to figure out I needed to put in work and not just show up to a tournament and hope for the best.  I finally set practice goals, read, watched DVDs, wrote in my pool diary after each match, practiced diligently, and played in a ton of different events. And guess what happened? Yep, my game improved. I became more successful in my tournaments, in my standings, and started to win tournaments.

What I love about Tina's journey is she knew pretty soon out of the gate that she if she wanted her game to improve, she needed to work on it. And, so she did!

Again, if you want to improve, are you just playing pool?

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Perfect Practice: The Cueist Project

I learned something really valuable from The Cueist the other day.

I have always been of the opinion to practice like you're in a tournament.

What do I mean by that exactly?

For me, what that was if you have a pool table at home, don't play in your pajamas or slippers. Instead, wear the same clothes that you would wear if you were competing.

I didn't like a pool table at home because I didn't have the same atmosphere or feeling as during a pool tournament. You can turn off the TV, put the dogs in the bedroom, you can shut out any distractions. But is that the same atmosphere as a pool tournament?

Um, no.

I've written a lot about how I love practicing in pool rooms because things will be distracting, just like during a tournament. The music may be too loud, someone might try to talk to me while I'm playing, these are all the same things we have to deal with when we are in a tournament.

So again, you should play pool in the same settings as if you were competing in the tournament.

But The Cueist actually goes further.  And I'm so excited to share this all with you today!

He says one of his preparations to get ready for tournament is to spar with a friend. But instead of just sparring, he is instead thinking of his opponent as a nemesis.

No, no, not me.

I'm not his nemesis. (wait, I hope not!)

But pretending you are playing your nemesis makes you bare down more!

He isn't just really sparring with a friend, he actually has the feelings during a tournament against the guy that is always tough for him to beat.

I think this is a very important learning experience for you all to try to incorporate!

He describes it much better:
Since I don't get to practice as much as I used to, I tried doing something else at the start of this year. A few years back, I talked to Rodney Morris about a few different things in pool. But one thing he mentioned about practice is this:

"When I was young, trying to learn the mental game, my mentor told me, 'you need to learn to play within yourself.' For me, that means practicing exactly like you play for real. When I'm practicing, I try to convince myself that I'm in the finals against whomever is my toughest opponent. I try to create that pressure situation. Because if you just practice like you're practicing, when you're playing for real, it will be different and you won't know how to react. People say practice makes perfect, but that's not true. It's perfect practice that makes perfect. So train correctly and imagine yourself in the toughest situation every shot and you'll be able to emulate that and stay within yourself no matter what is at stake:)"
The Cueist went on:
I just happened to see Rodney's message at the start of this year, and what I started doing is picturing my friend that I spar with as my nemesis. That made me bare down a lot more, and I got to the point where I am beating my friend in a race to 18, and he's now not even getting into double digits!

Aside from mentally picturing my nemesis, I also changed things up a little when practicing certain shots, or playing the ghost. I started picturing that I was back in the finals. By just picturing the lights, etc, it helps me bare down, even when doing something as mundane as practicing the same shot over and over.

Obviously, everyone is different. And this is just what's been working for me. I'm sure I'll be changing my nemesis as needed during my next practice sessions. :)
And by the way, since he has started visualizing his sparring friend as his toughest opponent in a match during a tournament, he has noticed his game is gone up a ball. That's pretty fantastic.

Learn from The Cueist, folks! 

Next time you spar with a friend, pretend they are your toughest pool enemy.  And/or visualize your surrounds from a previous tough match, and incorporate that when practicing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Passion Can Come Across as Upset

One of the things on my "to-write-about" list is something I noticed I did back in November.  I didn't get around to writing about it yet, though. Dang it.

And then what do you know, I found myself doing it again just last week. Now I'm even more determined to write about this, as it is something I am not proud of at all.

What did I do that was so horrible?

I got on to a friend for something I am passionate about.

I know, doesn't sound horrible per say.

But, when I am passionate about something that I learned that helped me deeply and strongly about my pool journey, I tend to speak up more about it.

It's difficult to describe.

However, let me share something real quick:  I recall distinctly a friend in the late 90s telling me that my personal goal to win Most Improved Player was ludicrous.  It took me awhile to realize her point, but she was saying basically my goal was dependent on others. I had no control over that - someone else decided that "title" (and no, I did not win it, even though I came close).

So, fast forward 20 years and I kinda got on to my friend who shared with me back in November ironically that was her goal for the upcoming year. I should have listened more to her and also been kinder in my response. Instead, my passion for what I learned took over and I didn't really acknowledged her goal, just more so told her it wasn't a good idea.  I didn't want her to go through the same thing I learned the hard way. But, I could have stated it all better, as I told myself as I drove away from our outing.

Fast forward 9 months later and I recognized on my drive home from visiting with a different friend, that I kinda got on to her for a comment she made about big tables versus bar tables.

I admit when I am passionate about something or feel strongly about something that exponentially helped my game, I will speak up. But I don't need to be rude about it.  Ugh.  I pretty much told my friend she was wrong, and I kept stating all these reasons I learned why it's best to only practice on a 9 foot table, and that that will in turn actually help you when you get to smaller tables.

I even quipped, "don't you read my blog?" lol.

She laughed at the moment, but I am betting she felt badly I was so vocal about the topic.  (here is just one blog entry I wrote about why it's crucial to practice on 9 foot tables and how helpful it is to your game on all table sizes.)  (see, I can't stop!)

I really need to be better at giving advice at times.  Just because I learned something that deeply helped my game, doesn't mean I need to be a bully about it. I can be kind and still make points.

I am trying to figure out why I was so vocal these two times, when usually I'm pretty calm and reserved, and actually carefully think about how I'm saying my advice. I want my learning experiences and advice it to be received well, so I normally am very careful with my word choices so they don't come across harsh.  Not sure what was going on these two times.  My apologies.