Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PoolSynergy 17: Expert Tourney Tips

Every month a bunch of men and women who blog about pool agree to post essays about a single topic. This collaborative effort is called the PoolSynergy Project. This is our 17th installment. 

Our topic for March is tournament and league preparation.  Since I don't typically play in either, I figured I'd turn to the experts. I asked folks on my Pool & Billiard History Facebook page (you can find it here) how they prepare for competition. I've reproduced a sample of some of the responses, with a bit of editing for space.  And just above, I've reproduced video of some useful drills from regular PoolSynergy contributors Samm Diep and Mike Fieldhammer. You can find other PoolSynergy essays this month at ForumGhost516's blog, linked here.

Missy Moran Capestrain (Certified BCA Instructor and League Coordinator)
Players should always practice alone before a tmt or league play. To increase confidence they should do a progressive practice. This means begin setting up a very easy shot and shoot it in, including the use of the basics mechanics, feel, preshot routine. Beginning with easy shots builds confidence. Next put some space between the cue and object balls and shoot this shot. If done properly and the shot is made, increase the distance again — 6 or so inches at a time is a good rule of thumb. Keep doing this until there is a lot of green between the balls and the shot is consistently pocketed. Not only can the player practice tough shots using this method, they also get to practice all of the shots in-between. Confidence is gained every step of the way with successful pocketing of balls.
Source: 9-Ball Grand Prix Open (Own work)

Another idea is to use the same amount of practice strokes on every shot —except for maybe the very difficult ones. This is not only good practice, but it helps players to drown out unneeded outside interferences like sharking, loud music, and noise.
Skyscraper Chris:
When I was in a slump last year, around February, I realized I needed to desperately change my game. I had the ability to win, I had the knowledge, and I had the skills — but I was lacking in the mental toughness and stamina. So I made 3 changes not to my game per say, but to my playing habits:

First, I stopped drinking soda while playing, which I noticed was making me dehydrated, caused me to sweat and shake during some matches, and generally affected my physical well being while playing.

Second, I began keeping a close record of all my tournament matches, including wins, losses, weight given/taken, players and their ranks, etc. I still keep this up, and it motivates me to raise my numbers, sort of like an Accu-stat.

Finally, I changed something fundamental in my game: I am known for breaking and running 6 or 7 balls, then dogging the final 2 balls. This was not because I lacked the ability to make those balls, but because I mentally dogged the shot, doubted myself, or didn't focus enough. So, I decided that when I got down on a critical shot (money ball, key ball, final ball), I would 'dog' the shot in my mind, thus getting it out of my system, get up from the shot, chalk up, get back down with a clear mind, and pocket the ball confidently.

Since making these changes to my game, I have won dozens of tournaments, leveled up 3 times, won many more money matches, and increased my confidence. Before the changes, I hadn't won a single tournament.

Elijah Davenport:
Always think positive. Talk yourself into a shot, not out of it. Also take as much time as is allowed and needed. Remember, don't be in a hurry to miss.
Nick Baker: 
I noticed that when playing league AND tournaments alike that if I "dogged" a shot, or even worse —if my opponent dogged a shot and got lucky shape from the miss, that I would become timid with my shots. I found that approaching those shots like my opponent had played a great safety and really concentrating on "turning the cueball loose" greatly helped my confidence level. After hours of drills and practice, I just trusted my stroke and my first instinct on each shot and could usually rebound from my mistakes or kick out of whatever situation my opponent had put me into.

Cathy Jo Sawyer Almanza (player and tournament director): 
Many players start out by playing in a league and once they get better they start entering tournaments. Since tournament rules usually do not allow "group party socializing" during a match, my prep advice is for all players to recognize the differences in singles competition and group play, and to always conduct themselves appropriately for the type of event that they are participating in. 

-- R.A. Dyer

1 comment:

John Biddle said...

Great tips, Jake. I especially liked the one from Skyscraper Chris about preventing dogging shots. That sounds like great advice to me, and I'm going to start using it.