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DSAPOLIS
04-09-2004, 10:39 AM
Getting Your Hands Dirty

By
Blackjack David Sapolis


∑ "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work" -Thomas Edison

Ainít that the truth! I wish I had a dime for every time I have had a beginner ask me what "the secret" is. The secret is that there is no secret. To attain mastery of this great game, you must be willing to put in long hours of practice - structured practice. You must be willing to work through adversity, and challenge yourself to improve, even through the bad times. You have to be willing to do more than work - excel at what you do!!! Nobody has ever achieved greatness by merely wishing and hoping. Do more than dream - DO!!! Nobody has even achieved greatness by cutting corners or taking short cuts. Remember: nothing costs more than doing the wrong thing.

If you strive for excellence, you will have things go well at times, and you will have things not go well at times. It is how you deal with both of these situations that will shape the player that you will become. The road is not smooth, in fact it is rather bumpy. If the road gets too rough to you, you have several options:
A) Stop dead in your tracks after you hit the first bump in the road
B) Turn around and go back in the opposite direction
C) Speed up and proceed recklessly
D) Slow down and proceed with caution

What the obstacles are is not half as important as how we deal with them. Obstacles are learning experiences along the road to greatness. If we learn how to effectively deal with obstacles, our climb up the hill will be less strenuous. However, there is no easy way to get up the mountain. No matter how much talent we possess, no matter how much natural ability we were blessed with, sooner or later we all need to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.

Stumbling Blocks

Stumbling blocks come in many different shapes and sizes. The most common stumbling block is never getting past a certain level in a tournament, or never being able to beat the same player. What works best for most is to change your outlook on these "Stumbling Blocks", as they are really just benchmarks in your progress. Sooner or later, youíll beat that guy (or girl) and believe it or not, another challenge awaits you down the road. We get frustrated because weíre not getting the results that we want, when we want them. Understanding that staring at the laundry basket wonít get the clothes clean, we have to get up and do something about it. Sort through the laundry and find what it is that has been keeping you at the same level, or what has been keeping you from getting ahead. This might seem like a simple solution, but youíll need to start somewhere. Just like doing the laundry, you need to sort the whites from the colors and delicates from the rest of the clothes. Taking care of this is very similar. Itís one thing to use bleach, and itís another thing to use bleach correctly. What I mean by this is that you must use the proper amount of care when taking care of the problems. Radical approaches can (and do) work occasionally in special situations, but usually nothing good comes from filing your nails with a belt sander.

Bumps in the Road

Of all the things I talk about in this section, this is the most common. Almost every pool player I have ever talked to, believes wholeheartedly that they should win all of the time. This just isnít possible, and anyone that tells you this is lying to you. We cannot enjoy the comfort of the smooth ride until we have experienced what it is like to hit the bumps in the road. Much like stumbling blocks, the bumps are there not only to slow us down, but they serve as a signal for us to proceed cautiously. Nobody wins every single game, and nobody wins every single match. Everybody misses shots, everybody scratches, everybody makes stupid mistakes and mindless blunders. We are all human. Bumps in the road are usually encountered on hazardous paths. Many players stop and try to fix the road instead of using common sense and using an alternate route. The hard way is not the only way to get to the top. There are many routes; some are bumpy, some are smooth.

Dead Ends

Dead ends are roads that lead to nowhere. The most common description of this is the "A" level player that is content playing in "B" and "C" tournaments and leagues. Yes, this player will garner much success, but there will be very little growth. The other extreme is the "C" player that tries to compete out of his/her level. It is important to know when the path you are on actually leads somewhere. There are also many players out there that are stunted in their development because they believe they know it all, or that they have reached their full potential. There is always room for improvement. Thinking otherwise is a sure sign that you are trapped in a dead end by your own thinking.

Hills & Valleys

Quite simply, these are the ups and downs of competition. We have upward battles, climbs to the top, descents, and plummets to the bottom. Your travels will be much like climbing mountains and hills. When you fall down, it will hurt. Anyone that tells you different is lying to you. Sometimes you will become discouraged. This is completely normal. Self belief is an awesome weapon in times of despair. If you donít believe in yourself, nobody else will either. Peaks and valleys are just part of the trip. In my opinion, it is not how you act when you stand atop the mountain, it is how you act during the climb and descent. That is what will define you as a player. Nobody stays on top forever, and most of your journey will be on an incline. Each step is hard work. Each steps leads you closer to your destination. The highs and lows make the trip more exciting.

The Ascent

During my teenage years, I was the best player in my area. I stood tall atop the mountain I called home. When I ventured out to tackle higher mountains, I found an entirely different group of players that were either at or above my level. It was a real eye opener for me. The new mountain was 10 times harder to climb than the one at home. For a while I spun my wheels and became frustrated. Once I took a few steps back and reassessed the situation I was able to get a clearer picture of what lay ahead for me. Sometimes, in order to get up the hill, you need to get a running start. To do this, you may have to back up and get some momentum going on level ground. The more momentum you muster up, the farther you will get up the hill. Eventually, the momentum will give out to the resistance at a certain point, and you will start to roll back down the hill. I believe that with each attempt, you will get stronger (and more confident) and that if you keep at it you will get further up the hill every time. The trick is to not allow the hill to win. If you believe that the hill or mountain can beat you, it will. If you believe that you can and will get up the hill, chances are that you will succeed.

The Descent

The cold hard truth is that sometimes you will plummet down the side of the hill. This is true for everybody regardless of skill, attitude, or ability. It is part of the growing and developing process. Understand that your trip on the way down will not be pleasant, bump-free, or delightful. We all know the saying "what goes up must come down" but when it is our ego, we take offense. It is completely normal to run into difficulties, especially when we are traveling through uncharted waters. I went to the Junior State Tournament in straight pool 3 times before I cracked the top 10. On my fourth attempt, I finished a respectable 8th place. The next year, I was able to win the tournament. I had a long, 5 year ascent to the top of the mountain. I was so happy that I had achieved one of the major goals I had set for myself. The next year I was the defending champion, and I lost badly in the first round. I lost by over 70 points to a young man that was 3 years my junior, but hungrier than I was. Everybody was shocked, especially me. It was so embarrassing and humiliating, that I wanted to go home right away. If I could have crawled into a hole and died at that very moment, I would have done so. Worse yet, I had to go back home and explain to everybody what happened. I was so sick of having to explain my failure to everybody that I stopped talking about it. It was my last year competing at the junior level, and I blew it. I blew it badly. I rolled down that mountain because I had forgotten that when you are on top, you still have to climb the hill and get on top again to repeat as champion. My attitude was that I was already on top. That made my fall much more severe.

Running in Circles

Running in circles is the direct result of having a poor game plan, or no game plan at all. It is like trying to get somewhere without a roadmap. This might seem ultra-simple, but it comes down to preparation. The player that prepares for each opponent the same way, loses to every opponent the same way. Puzzlement and bewilderment usually follow, and the player is left there with their head in their hands wondering what is wrong.

Establishing goals will lay down the ground work for your preparation. You have to be clear in your goals, so that when you prepare, you have a vision of what you want to accomplish. It doesnít matter if you are a pro or a league player, clarity is a must! If you needed a gallon of milk, youíd go to the supermarket. You have to know where the supermarket is, how to get there, and where to find the milk upon your arrival. You need to pay for it, which means you must have money prior to getting to the supermarket. Many players are like a shopper that is standing at the register and finally realizing that they have forgotten their money, credit cards, and checkbook. They canít get what they want, so they end up leaving it at the register and having to come back another time. When they come back, they either donít have enough cash, their credit card is not accepted, whatever. I believe that this is an accurate description of many players that always fall short, or end up running in circles.

a) Know what it is that you want to achieve
b) Find out what you have to do and where you need to go to get it
c) Make sure you have what it takes to get it
d) Seal the deal

If you follow that short list of instructions, you will not run around in circles. In fact, you will know when to stop and reevaluate, or when you are in over your head, or off course. I believe that many players that are running in circles donít know it, or are comfortable in the role.

Going over the Cliff

Going over a cliff isnít so bad as long as you never let go completely. Itís not the cliff thatís so bad, or the fall. Itís the impact thatíll hurt you. Pool is a game that has a great deal of emotion. There are emotional highs as well as emotional pitfalls. During a match, it is just as important to control our emotions as well as we control the cue ball. Iíve lost some pretty big matches. Not one of those losses were fatal to my playing ability, or my playing career. Iíll be honest, some losses have really hurt. Some took more time to get over than others, but I was always able to come back a stronger and wiser player. The only thing that is fatal to your game is quitting, or just giving up. Many others will say that becoming un-teachable is fatal, but I believe that the quitting and giving up comes first. If youíve gone over a cliff and you are dangling by the skin on your fingernails, DO NOT LET GO!!! Bad things can and do happen at the table. Get over it, learn and move on. Good things usually follow!!

Good Luck & God Bless

PQQLK9
04-09-2004, 10:43 AM
Hi david
always nice to read your posts

Ralph S.
04-09-2004, 03:48 PM
It is good to see you start posting again David. You always seem to have worthwhile reading material.

irunrax
04-09-2004, 04:44 PM
I really enjoyed this post. I found it to be very enlightening and informative. Thanks, DAvid

Chris Cass
04-10-2004, 11:32 PM
Hi David,

I think we've both been down these roads before. I am on one now where the subject might be named humility and although, I've been keeping all negatives in my mind in check it sometimes gets me down a bit.

Maybe, you can help me. I fighting this tournament trail with a positive atitude and have embarassed myself to no limit. I don't know when I can break through as I've done in the past. I do hold on to one thought. That is, one day it will all fall into place. I lost something long ago and don't know how to regain the formula. The mental formula that made me know it was alright to win.

So glad to see your name again. I hope you feel good.

Regards,

C.C.

Rod
04-11-2004, 02:01 AM
Chris, I know what you mean. Although I haven't embarased myself real bad, I just don't perform like I should. I don't have high expectations but I do know I shouldn't be missing some balls that I do miss. I also know not to judge my game like I was 30 again, heck I didn't miss very often then. I blame it on just not playing enough so my concentration level isn't the best.

I think at our level, probably should use past but realistic examples. It could be in your case (sometimes me too) your over anal-izing stroke etc, especially during practice. That stuff just carries over into your real game when you should just get up and shoot. When you were playing good you never give that stuff a second thought. Hit the c/b where intended and send that pup home!

Your also going through physical changes and I'm sure not fully recovered. Even a change in weight and strength has an effect. Your mind, whether you know it or not has to deal with all of those changes plus deal with doubts in your game. Do me a favor, put in your practice but don't get to anal about slight imperfections. In time, you will, through practice and play get your game back. It may or may not be as perfect as it once was but you have to accept what you get for now. I'm not saying forever but just take it as it comes, an old Doors tune, but true in life situations. LOL

David, good to hear from you. Glad to see your making a come back, your posts are always helpful.

Rod

Chris Cass
04-11-2004, 11:09 AM
Thanks Rod,

The toughest thing for me right now is dealing with these drugs in my system. I take Vicadin and it messes with my vision a bit but moreso with my mental thoughts. You'd think it would help you to become more fluid but it makes me doubt my direction and effects my setup. My stroke is straight and seems to be in line. I just don't feel right when I'm down on the ball. It seems to help when I take more of a pause in my final stroke. I'm missing by hairs but that can cost and does for me. I've adjusted and learned to live with my shallow breathing and that was hard. If I could only get rid of the pain in my ribcage. Then, I'd kiss these Vicadin goodbye. Maybe, I'm just making excuses? I've always been very critical of my game and refuse to use any crutch to make it mentally right. If I think I can solve a problem then, I'll do anything to do it.

Thanks brother,

C.C.

Troy
04-11-2004, 01:59 PM
You'll get there CC. Recovery ain't quick as we both know.
Vicodin is supposed to relax you so it makes sense that it messes with your mind. Just hang in there Bro.

Troy...~~~ Wants his stamina back, NOW
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote Chris Cass:</font><hr> Thanks Rod,

The toughest thing for me right now is dealing with these drugs in my system. I take Vicadin and it messes with my vision a bit but moreso with my mental thoughts. You'd think it would help you to become more fluid but it makes me doubt my direction and effects my setup. My stroke is straight and seems to be in line. I just don't feel right when I'm down on the ball. It seems to help when I take more of a pause in my final stroke. I'm missing by hairs but that can cost and does for me. I've adjusted and learned to live with my shallow breathing and that was hard. If I could only get rid of the pain in my ribcage. Then, I'd kiss these Vicadin goodbye. Maybe, I'm just making excuses? I've always been very critical of my game and refuse to use any crutch to make it mentally right. If I think I can solve a problem then, I'll do anything to do it.

Thanks brother,

C.C. <hr /></blockquote>