These "Minute with Maxwell" short leadership videos by John Maxwell are shared with folks in my office, as someone comes across some gems from the daily emails.
This one is perfect for our pool game:
Katniss from the Project Hunger Games of my blog shared some insight with us:
As more pool matches are happening again, I can’t help but notice how some of players are so fundamentally stable! It’s like the pandemic never happened, like the pool halls and bars never closed, like they never stopped playing. I even hear some of them exclaim, "I haven’t hit a ball since March." But, yet their skills on the table are showing me otherwise! I’m over here just drooling in amazement.
Then, there is the opposite. You check out another match and just cringe because you can see a player struggling. It’s painful to watch! They are frustrated and their play is going from bad to worse right before my eyes. Ouch!
What separates the two players? More or less experience? Natural vs unnatural talent? Good fundamentals versus needing more fine-tuning? Hunger or no hunger?
How will my play measure up?
Well, whatever decides to show up on my first match... just know I have the HUNGER!
Katniss from the Project Hunger Games of my blog shared some insight with us:
I have really enjoyed staying in during this pandemic. I have access to a pool table, mainly during the evening time, all to myself!
I have played and practiced by myself.
AND I have taught myself the ghost ball effect!
It literally took me years to finally understand it. And, it's something I would have never taken the time to fully learn and understand the concept of if COVID hadn't happened.
Pre-COVID, I was playing 3 nights a week for league, while combined with playing weekend tournaments. Whew! That was like 4 to 5 nights just competing! I did not have the time nor make the time to really concentrate on the ghost ball effect.
But, I have taken the time to learn new things....in total SILENCE. No music and no interruptions. It’s like I could hear my thought process out loud! It was an awesome discovery.
Now that the world is starting to open up, I get to put my new found tool to work.
I, however, am NOT looking forward to going back to playing so many league nights. But I am looking forward to some competition from other human life other than own.
When The Cueist emailed me his previous blog entry, I was surprised to read in it that he had read a couple of my own blog posts and referenced one in particular. Well, not much so as 'reference it,' but more so as to yell at me that I might be wrong, lol.
This is what he said:
"But as you (Melinda) mentioned in a previous blog, if you have a good stroke then we'd have nothing to worry about. But, I sure was worried there!!"
His blog post was entitled "Finding His Stroke" and if you haven't read it yet, I highly suggest it.
A few times the last couple of months, what he said above kept creeping into my mind. And I wondered, did I help The Cueist?
So, I did what I do best: satisfy my curiosity!
I sent him this Question:
Do you think it helped you to read that I said if you have good fundamentals, that your stroke won't go down during the pandemic?
I waited impatiently for the answer.
A few weeks later, he finally replied! I read it with excitement, waiting to pat myself on the back:
Sorry for the delay, but I've actually started writing this a few times.Ok, so my first instinct on this reply was "yes, it helped me tremendously." But then I thought about it, and thought "it helped me, but not as much as I thought." Then I thought about this again, and I'm sticking by my initial answer.... yes, it helped me tremendously.But, wait! There's more! :)So obviously, when any long time pool player takes a break for an extended period of time, you never really lose the muscle memory, or the ability to make a ball, or the ability to read a table. I think you lose the awareness of your abilities more than anything, and in turn, your confidence suffers. So you have to trust the process, and believe that you'll get back to your old speed (if you want to of course).Think about it....after 5 months of not hitting a ball, I still thought I could run a wide open rack. Boy was I wrong! So my confidence went down the drain, and fast!! Now, I'm playing very close to 100%, and my confidence is high again. Of course, I've had lows over the last few months. But I just kept telling myself "trust your stroke, fundamentals, and PSR." It goes back to pool being mental.
Seems like the title is a a paradox, right? The pandemic, if anything, has affected our mental strength because there are so many unknowns, and stress, and impacts to our daily lives, etc.
And what about our pool game and mental toughness during these remarkable times?
I have written a couple of times this year that from my experience, if you have solid fundamentals, your game will not go down during the pandemic. So, stop sweating it or worrying if you can't play a lot of pool - your solid fundamentals will carry you!
While I wholeheartedly believe this deep in my soul, there is a part that I forgot.
I am being reminded because of the struggle, tough times, and nerves that Katniss and The Cueist (and maybe you if you are back to playing) are feeling lately. Katniss said after a little tournament she played in, "It's like I lost my kilter instinct" and The Cueist shared in his recent blog post,
I started to get nervous! Now, don't get me wrong, I get nervous all the time. But I haven't felt nerves BEFORE walking into the poolroom since the early part of my pool career. The only difference was that this time around, I was nervous about not playing up to my usual expectations, and making a fool of myself.
I wrote about this same 'anguish' back in late 2016 - basically that I had played in a little tournament and while my fundamentals were solid still, my mental toughness was NOT, because I had not been playing in league or tournaments; I had cut down on my competing.
Yes, fundamentals are key. But, the brain is a muscle as well.
Honestly, the only thing that keeps me from competing well after taking years off is not my stroke, but the pressure I feel. The more we put ourselves in pressure situations, we find ourselves becoming stronger and stronger in those situations. But, if you aren't competing, that part of our game, that big muscle, has not been worked on.
As I said two years ago,
"The bottom line is, I know myself and based on my past attempts the last few years at playing in tournaments, I already know that I am only mentally strong when I'm consistently competing. Once I stopped competing, that mental toughness definitely went away for me.
As a matter of fact, I noticed it was the first thing that went away for me. Even though the brain is a muscle, for me my muscle memory in my arms and in my pre stroke routine were still there, but not in my mental toughness."
So, what can you do about this?
What would I do?
Take advantage of what you can control: I would read about mental toughness!
If you can't play in high pressure situations, then improve your mental toughness the only other way if you can't compete: READ, LEARN.
Winning Ugly is a book I have HIGHLY recommended a lot in my blog. You cannot read that book and not improve in your mental toughness arena. I PROMISE. Therefore, pick up the book and read it when you can't compete. I also recommend Mental Toughness Training for Sports. But, the point is, find books or articles or watch video Ted Talks about mental toughness, how to gain the killer instinct, how to be mentally stronger, etc.
I have this good book within arms reach right now,:
(watch out, you will also learn about leadership as well when you read about the mental toughness topic)
There are a ton of books out there for many different sports, but I recommend those about golf or tennis most.
I admit nothing can take the place of playing regularly in the middle of true pressure situations, but you can at least still work on it in other ways. Give yourself an advantage over your competitors for when you do start to play pool again.
One side note. When I was in my late 20s, my mentor suggested I read Mental Toughness Training for Sports. I happened to be in a big slump and was playing terribly. So, I decided to take some time off and NOT play pool. And so I read that book during the time I wasn't hitting balls or competing. My mentor told me later, "I wanted to share that with you, but wasn't sure you would stop playing for a bit. Not playing pool while reading/learning about the mental game is a great plan."
Again, if you can't play pool, work on your game!
Someone has to win, right? Might as well be you because you put in the time to improve in so many different ways even when you can't play pool regularly!
Latest thoughts from The Cueist:
So I've been slowly going out to play a little more pool. My first time back to hitting my first ball was about a week after my previous post. My Wednesday league had our league banquet, which was mostly to give the payouts for a very short season. But nonetheless, I went out there mostly to get out of the house. Usually, they have a small tourney to pass the time, but I had no intention of playing it IF they had one. I wanted to hit a few balls and find my stroke, which had been on an extended hiatus.
So, one of the shots that I spent a ton of time practicing was a stroke shot with inside English. I set the object ball on the spot, and the cue ball on the head spot. I also set up a ball on the short rail closest to the head spot, so you have to avoid the scratch, and go 3 rails for shape on the next ball. I get down on the shot, and my eyes are having a hard time adjusting to the sight picture. I guess it had been THAT long. LOL. I do a few warm up strokes and my arm feels so weird doing the cueing motion again. So I stand up, step into the shot and concentrate on the shot. Surprisingly, I fired it in center pocket, avoid the scratch, and float the 3 rails for shape. One of my teammates saw and said, "Wow, haven't been playing my a$$!" I laughed and set up the shot again. Stepped into it, and boom....center pocket again. Now, this is one of my most practiced shots so I figured I made the shots due to the fact that it was so comfortable to me. So, I decided to break a rack of 9-ball and try to beat the ghost for a few games.
Now, this is where the wheels promptly fell off. LOL.
I took ball in hand and got perfect shape on the 2. Now, the 2 is about center table, and I had to force follow with inside for shape on the 3. So I get down on the shot and I missed the shot by a diamond. I set it up again, and same result. Now, I set it up one more time and adjusted.....missed the shot by 1/3 diamond this time - so I was improving, LOL. So I decided to scratch that and go back to the basics and do a drill my old coach Gordy used to have me do.
While I didn't have the actual track, I just set up the balls accordingly and practiced on mechanics. It took me about 30 mins, but I managed to complete the drill after lots of frustrations. But as you (Melinda) mentioned in a previous blog, if you have a good stroke then we'd have nothing to worry about. But, I sure was worried there!!
Now, since then I've gone to practice about once a week and have been sparring with a guy that's about 2 points (Fargo) lower than I am. He's got access to a table at home, but hasn't really competed either aside from playing the ghost at home. So the first night, we played 3 races to 7. I lost 7/1, won 7/3, then won hill/hill. The following week, the same exact result. The 3rd session, I lose hill/hill, win 7/1, win 7/2.
The practice was leading up to a goal in mind, and that was me playing in a tournament coming up. Last week, I made it a point to go play 2 times that week, and I felt like I was about 90% compared to my old self. But, while my muscle memory may have been there, along with my stroke, my mental game wasn't near at 90% come to find out.
So, the morning of the tourney, I woke up early and made it a point to stop and get breakfast at God's chicken house (Chick-fil-A). The poolroom is about 50 mins away so I got there with plenty of time to hit balls and finish my breakfast in the car. While finishing breakfast, the weirdest thing happened....I started to get nervous! Now, don't get me wrong, I get nervous all the time. But I haven't felt nerves BEFORE walking into the poolroom since the early part of my pool career. The only difference was that this time around, I was nervous about not playing up to my usual expectations, and making a fool of myself. I mean, last year I worked so hard on my game and was finally getting the results that I wanted in my league. So, I felt like I somewhat had to keep getting some decent results.
After the draw was complete, I realized I had to play a guy who is a low 600s Fargo on paper, but I'm the favorite. But he's been going out of state to play during the pandemic, while I've been doing home projects and woodworking projects. LOL. So it was a tough first match.
In my mind, I thought "oh great, there's going to be an audience for this attempt of mine to play pool again." Aside from that, the nerves started to creep up again immediately and I felt my grip hand quiver a bit during my PreShot Routine. So, I had to reset multiple times on each shot to try and shake that feeling.
Naturally, because of the extra concentration, I found myself playing pretty good actually. I gave away 2 games but overall, played well and made it to the hill first. I was up 7/2 and was firmly in the driver's seat. I was finally able to close it out with a score of 7/4.
My next match was against a good friend, teammate, who has tons of knowledge. So, by me not being at 100%, I knew I had to play good just to make it competitive. I played great, only made 2 mistakes. But unfortunately, he only made 1 mistake! Damn him, lol. He beat me hill/hill. It was a little disappointing because I played soooo well. But, I can't be too upset because he really did play almost flawless.
My next match was on against that sparing partner I mentioned (figures, right?). I didn't play too well in that match, and I ended up losing hill/hill. But, considering I haven't competed in five months, I'm both disappointed and proud.
Disappointed because I felt like I gave myself a chance to win both matches that I lost. And proud because I did give myself a chance to win. So, all of my hard work wasn't lost 100% during the pandemic. Sure, I have a little rust in my mechanics. But, give me another month and I'll be VERY close to 100% again.
Like you said in your blog.....give it time, you'll be fine if you haven't been playing much.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I had told The Cueist and Katniss that if they wanted material in their sections of the blog, they would need to write about it. I have been teleworking since mid March and my workload has increased substantially due to COVID and therefore I haven’t had time to mentally add creative writing into my repertoire.
I asked Katniss recently, “Do you have anything you want to write about for the blog?” Her response was, “Sorta! I just haven’t had time to write anything - been busy.”
I asked, “Let me get this straight. You no longer have your 2-3 leagues to play in and haven’t played any weekend or weekly tournaments, but you are short on time and busier?”
She kinda laughed, “Well, yes.”
I quipped, “Then why don’t you write about that first.”
A day later (yay!), she sent me this:
So, at the start of this world-wide Covid pandemic, we had nothing but time on our hands. At the beginning of it, I truthfully enjoyed the extra time to relax and just not have any plans nor commitments. I also really liked not having to deal with people’s drama or attitudes at leagues and tournaments. Further, I also realized I relished not having to stay out late due to league.
Bottom line, I enjoyed doing NOTHING... because that's all we could do.
I enjoyed it too much, though, and therefore my physical and mental health started to suffer. I started to pick up some unhealthy habits. I was disappointed in myself.
Consequently, I started to practice more pool (I had plenty of time, right?). Then, as the days went on and on and the pandemic was still going strong… I started to wonder, “Why am I even wasting my time and effort?? The pool world will never be the same. I would NEVER get to compete again.”
Yep, I was having a pity party! Hence the unhealthy mental state reference.
I decided I needed to make changes to both my mental and physical state. I started with small changes - diet and exercise. My exercise routine is now daily and it includes table time and walking. With the exercise came more energy. Imagine that?! And what comes with extra energy? Yep, a happy mental state!
So, yes, Melinda, my days are busier now than before the pandemic with my job (I am blessed I work in an essential position), my new physical/mental healthy habits, a new profound burst of energy, and a hunger to be at the pool table. Heck, I could REALLY, REALLY get used to this “NEW NORMAL” ha!
The difference between before and during the pandemic?
I am taking time to take care of myself now, as opposed to trying to take care of my league and pool responsibilities (which caused stress at times).
As the world is slowly opening up and tournaments are on the rise.....I am ready mentally and physically. This pandemic has taught me to slow down, but don’t give up!
"On a side note, " he started out, "I'm starting to get the Jones to play again. I actually got out on Saturday and played in a tourney. "
"Not bad for someone who has played in maybe two tourneys in the last 12 months, " he quipped.
He asks me, "Tell me if this makes any sense. I am a Fargo 560 and my buddy is right around 590-600, depending on the day. When I decided to go play, I didn't tell him because I knew he would come out to watch. I wanted a chance to play without feeling that I had to play up to his rating. "
He continued, "I also told myself that contributing to a billiard magazine doesn't mean that every table is a Cosmo for me, and it's okay to have to stop and study, work out a plan, and bear down trying to make it happen. "
"I sometimes get the idea that since I watch a ton of top level pool to get ready to contribute to the mag, that it should be easy for me to run out on a bar box and that I shouldn't have to ever stop and study a table or shot for more than a few seconds."
"It is harder to get tournament results now than it’s ever been... Players are just flat out better now than they were 25 years ago and there are so many more of them. No result is guaranteed. The guys that do consistently well are the ones who put in the work."
“I practice at the house before big tournaments. But, what has happened to me is my whole outlook has changed. I just play... Very aggressive and confident. And I don’t quit. LOL.”
“Life... LOL. I’m not a wound-up person, so I can just concentrate on playing. I’m not afraid to shoot anything anymore because the result of any given shot means very little to my life. I know that sounds fatalistic and yet weird, but it works for me. I like playing and I like competing, but the truth is: the results mean nothing to me or my life. I used to be afraid both to fail and to succeed. Now I’m neither.”
“It’s that fear thing. I used to be so afraid to fail. Now I’m not. And, truth be told, I’m a more talented and polished player now at age 51 than I have ever been.” (he has great fundamentals he’s worked on for years and they are very solid now.)
“It just kinda happened. No figuring. It just seemed silly to be afraid to lose a pool game. Or afraid to win one for that matter. Funny thing is I still have little moments of crisis of confidence. But they don’t last long and the balls keep going in whether I have them or not. No explanation for that.
Observation about confidence: Am I playing well because I’m confident or am I confident because I’ve reached a predictable level of playing well??
“Let’s see. I guess I really first felt it about a year ago. Maybe around the time I realized I was at a terrible job with not much hope for better. I just know that when I turned my life over to a certain feeling of resignation it carried over to my pool playing and all fear was gone. No fear of losing, no fear of embarrassment, and no fear of winning even. It somehow freed me to just play. And to play a style that I enjoy. Because I was resigned to the fact that none of it really mattered.”
When I cannot calm my nerves, yes, I will take a shot. I actually did this in the first tournament of the year. I was playing a young lady that was just bouncing around the table making all her balls. For some odd reason, my breathing exercises were not helping me. I took a break (you are allowed one per match) and as I passed the bartender, I ordered a ‘Jose Cuervo dressed and chilled’ as I walked by. I went to pee, came back out, and my shot was ready. I downed it right then and there and then went to continue the match. I was calm within 10 minutes. I ended up winning that match. And, that was the only alcohol I had during that 14-hour marathon that day.
When I joined a new league team awhile back, we would always drink throughout the day during events. I'd get nervous, and thought I needed a drink to calm down. That was the captain’s way of coping with the nerves, and I thought the same thing. But that was more of a crutch, a habit, that I had developed over the years. Instead, I tried focusing on my breathing, PSR (pre-shout routine), and just having fun in order to get rid of the nerves.
At an end of a season tournament recently, I heard from some of my teammates that they believed that since our team drank every league night, that we'd all drink that weekend, too. Some of the players didn’t want to do that (I know, it doesn't make sense!). But, a few of us made a pact to stay sober the entire time while we played. Once the matches were over for the day, we'd have a drink if we wanted to (okay, most of us wanted to, lol). We kept up the 'not drinking' during pool playing - with the exception of when we made it the finals - some of them needed a drink to calm down apparently. But personally, I didn't feel any more nerves without having a drink of alcohol. So, it justified that it was simply a crutch.
I take my game more serious now, so yeah, I don’t drink as much.“Go on,” I nudged:
When I first started playing pool, I was excited to get out and get to hang out with other players and drinkers. Eventually I joined a league. The whole atmosphere was very new to me, but I loved it. At one point early on, I won a few games over a couple of weeks (even though I was a true beginner), and I liked that feeling! So, I took my game more seriously.
At some point, they made me the “anchor” for that same league team. One night I was buzzed and I missed the winning ball! (a shot that I make more often than not). I lost the match for our team. That feeling I did NOT like. Ever since then, I don’t drink as MUCH. Maybe 2 beers only.I prodded some more:
Both, actually. I want my mind and concentration to be clear and strong for the amount of energy it takes to compete. I think many players forget that...that alcohol interferes with energy.
Additionally, I feel like I should maintain a certain level of professionalism because I have some women tell me sometimes that they want to play like me. Or, “Wow, I want to be like you when I grow up.” While that makes me blush, it is a positive culprit for me to drink less. Besides, I don’t want to become a cocky drunk that thinks they are unbeatable. Alcohol makes us fearless, right?
You know that saying "dress for the job you want?" Well, it kinda goes along with that. While I don't necessarily have the want to be a full-time pro player, I started noticing something last year. There is a guy from Texas (Justin Espinoza) who was the one that made me notice it, actually. He used to drink at all the tourneys, etc. While he's such a great player nowadays, he made it a point to quit drinking while playing pool. And his performances in tourneys immediately jumped up a bit during that time. He kept hashtagging "soberpool," and it was one of those things that I just kinda kept in the back of my mind.That was it?
Well, no, lol. In Vegas one year, I noticed that most, if not all, of the top pros don't even touch alcohol while playing. Why? Because it's their job to play pool. And you don't want to be impaired while doing your job. Sure, they were all hanging out at the bars at the end of the day, but while they were playing they did not drink.
Bottom line is that drinking and pool is one of those things that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. But if you want to progress and play at a high level, you really need to have your full focus on the match at hand. And any bit of alcohol will impair that focus. While I don't plan on trying to be a top pro or anything like that, I do have a goal to be move up in my league standings this year. And that means focusing as much as possible, to give myself the best chance to win. Drinking can wait till I'm done playing matches for the day.
I’m taking break, and stop going to tournaments. I am going to hit balls at the house and kinda find myself with regards to my pool game. I need to relearn how to focus and also just hit enough balls that making them becomes automatic again. My lack of confidence and struggling is just making me not have fun. Same thing happened with golf - in high school I was a champion…now I don’t play, yet I still expect to play the same. Same with a couple of other sports I used to dominate.
I guess I should just accept this fate that I suck because I don’t practice. But, I’d rather just quit than accept being “less than.” But, then I go back to thinking “well, those good players play for a living or at least hang out in a bar every day. I can’t do that, but I have a good life otherwise….so, so what if I suck?”
Ahhh…here’s the problem. I’ll admit I’m ambitious and that you are logical in your advice and statements. My problem is that I can’t settle for what may be this moments reality. You see, I honestly believe that I have the potential to play top speed. Call me crazy (I’m totally ok with that). I do however know first hand that to perform at a world class level, then you must put in the work. So, that’s my logic and excuse. Basically, I believe I’m a top player, but without the time to practice or perform as they do. Hopefully this doesn’t sound too “prickish or egotistical” That’s why I often speak of humility, as I have to make a conscious effort to keep my ego in check.Not prickish at all, right? Just ownership of his thoughts and feelings.
"Next morning, my first match is against a guy that is always tough to beat, and I know he loves the bar tables as much as I do. But, I figured that if I had fun in the match, I'd still be tough to beat. There was a lot of people watching, but I was feeling comfortable. It ended up being a close match, but I won 7/5. "
I couldn't help but think that I was about to lose the game b/c of those stupid moves that that guy pulled. And I tried everything to shake it. I could hear my heart beating, and I just wanted to win so badly after this.First, I hate for anyone to have to deal with tough opponents or raised emotions while we are trying to compete. Sucks, doesn't it?
So I make the 1 and I'm still upset. I make the 2, and tell myself "just make one ball at a time. You don't have to get perfect, just get out."