Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Going Mental

I've got a few largish tournaments in the near future: first up is the APA 8-ball Classic Singles Regional Finals in Phoenix the first week of March. This tournament is a qualifier for the APA 8-ball Classic Singles National Championships, which I competed in last year.

Next up is the Southwest Challenge (8-ball) here in Las Vegas at The Riviera. The Southwest Challenge is a fun format - teams of three with a total skill level cap of 14 (the 9-ball version of the tournament, played in the fall, has a skill level cap of 15). For this tournament, you have to declare the roster order when entering so there isn't any control over individual player match ups during the tournament. As a result, it's not uncommon to see top rated players playing against beginners - and with the APA handicapping system, the beginners can be a challenge to anyone.

At the end of April is the APA Singles National Championships. I'm already qualified for the 9-ball Shootout at this event after winning the Regional Finals last fall. A win (or even second place) next month in Phoenix would qualify me to compete in the 8-ball Classic as well. Since the 8-ball and 9-ball events run pretty much concurrently at Nationals, I have mixed feelings about taking both on. I'll be well warmed up, that's for sure!

There are a couple local annual tournaments coming up that I'm also considering entering, so needless to say I'm going to get my fill of higher level tournament action over the next few months!

My plan of attack in preparing for these tournaments is to focus primarily in three areas: the mental game, simplification, and safeties. To start things off, I'm making another pass through my 'mental' books.

As I mentioned in my December PoolSynergy post, Pleasures of Small Motions is one of my top gift recommendations - it's well written, a fairly quick read, and ideal for an occasional mental tune up. Of course I wouldn't be giving the book for gifts unless I found it useful myself. I've already read this book cover to cover a couple of times, and it's back in my queue for another pass as soon as I finish what I'm currently reading... A Mind for Pool.

In this book, well-known pool author Phil Capelle covers the mental aspects of pool from just about every angle imaginable. It's a very thorough book, covering everything from getting started to dealing with the pressure of competition.

Of course there's much more to pool than simply dealing with the pressure of competition, so Phil makes many stops along the way to discuss things such as: being a good student of the game, self evaluation, breaking bad habits, keys to consistency, dealing with distractions, learning from losing, and enjoying the game.

I'm truly amazed at the number of people I see on a regular basis that get so incredibly wound up during a match. I can't help but think it hurts their game more than it helps. Sure, there are a few examples of pro hot-heads out there, but even then I dare say they're probably more controlled when it counts than they appear to be. They might spout off in between shots, but they're usually able to quickly turn it off and refocus when they're down on the next shot. If they weren't able to do that, they probably wouldn't have achieved the level of success that they have.

But on the other hand, it's entirely possible that they could have achieved even greater success if they were able to keep things under control a bit better. Consider The Color of Money (the match, not the movie) - a long, grueling, high stakes race to 120. Two incredibly gifted shooters... but the winner in the end was the one who did a better job keeping it together mentally, erasing a 15 game deficit for the come-from-behind win.

I'll be discussing my other two areas of focus - simplification and safeties in future posts... stay tuned.

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