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DSAPOLIS
11-21-2004, 05:21 PM
The Focus Factor

by
Blackjack David Sapolis

One of the main things to do while sitting in the chair is to remain mentally focused. It's one thing to sit and watch a guy string 3 or 4 racks together, and then when you get to the table you are physically cold, but when you are mentally cold, it spells double trouble.

Every player varies in levels of concentration and focus. What works for Player A might not work for Player B. One of the things that I have found that works universally, is training your mind to remain at the table while you are still in the chair. This is not easy to do at first, but can be practiced quite easily. I recommend observing others quietly, and practicing centering techniques and breathing techniques (which are discussed in Building the Perfect Game) while you are observing. Use this time to keep your mind fresh at the table, so that when it is your turn to shoot, you will be ready mentally. The body will follow the mind. If your mind is busy and consumed by the playing surface of the table, your body will be as well. Many players sit in the chair dwelling on the errors that got them there. Then, when it is their turn to return to the table, they try to turn on the switch. This usually doesn't work, and even if it does work, it doesn't work very well.

Learn how to shift gears in concentration while playing. When you are playing a competitive match, there are different gears:

Drive

Overdrive

Reverse

Idle

Assuming we are in competition, we have checked the oil and fluid levels, got the keys and turned the ignition. The engine is now on. What you do from there is very important. You can put the transmission into drive and hit the gas. How fast you go depends on how much you can control the vehicle in it's surroundings. Go too fast, you might crash into something. You have to look out for obstacles in the roadway. You must obey traffic signals and road signs. You must be aware and utilize good judgment. It's one thing to know how to hit the gas, but you need to be able to control the speed, and utilize the brakes every so often.

If you are able to control the speed, it is important to learn how to utilize overdrive, and learn how to close out the match. This does not mean that we recklessly try to bulldoze our way through. We need to maintain a high level of responsibility when we have our game out there. Just because we are shooting well and free wheeling, does not mean something won't go wrong eventually. We need to be able to avoid potentially fatal collisions.

Every once in a while you will find yourself in a situation where you will need to go in reverse. You need to learn how to do this, as every once in a while you may need to back up and reassess the situation. This does not mean that we "revert" to old habits. It is simply a gear used to park and un-park our vehicle, which is opportunity. By backing up and reassessing things, you gain a broader perspective of what the task at hand is.

When we sit in the chair, we "idle" our vehicle. We do not switch off the ignition. Many (or the majority of) players do this. Turning off the engine shuts it off. The engine becomes cold, and when we restart it, it needs to warm up again. This is the problem when we sit in the chair. Idling, is what you would do in your car if you were at a stop light. You merely stop, apply the brake, and observe the aparatus that communicates the signal that says we can proceed. We don't even have to take the vehicle out of gear. If we shut the engine off, or stall, we tend to rush things, and act in haste, and leave ourselves prone to errors in judgment. If we keep the engine running and focus on the game, the balls, patterns, and most importantly, the surface of the table, we remain at the table.

I also recommend keeping your eyes completely fixed on the playing surface of the table while you are sitting in the chair. Don't just sit there staring into space. Read the rack as if you were at the table. Concentrate on your breathing exercises and remain "Centered". By that, I mean transfer your air into your body until you feel it in your Center of Mass, and exhale evenly. Repeat this until you feel your mind entering the ZONE, or what I call "centered". Your eyes should remain fixed on the playing surface of the table, within the six rails. This helps you avoid distractions. Your breathing will aid you in two ways:

a) it will keep you calm

b) oxygen intake + more oxygen = better thinking = Centered (See Breathing)

Sitting in the chair and fuming over a mistake that happened five minutes ago buys us no advantage in accomplishing our purpose, which is to win the game, and ultimately, the match. Recognizing that a mistake was made. Let it go, and focus on what matters, which is being ready and able to return to the table with a positive attitude. Negative thoughts are like potholes in the road, you can avoid them if you can see them up ahead. Understand that sometimes you have absolutely no control over that first negative thought that enters your mind, but.... you do have control over the entertaining of that thought. If it comes in, you have the ability to reject it or accept it. If you allow it to come into your head, and you entertain it, breed it, and give it shelter, you will become consumed by it. That is a fact. Remember that in the war between the positive and negative thoughts in your head, importance is not strength in numbers, but strength in beliefs. If you believe you made a mistake, and that you did it because you were stupid, and it was the worst mistake ever made in the history of pool, and that you'll never be good enough, and you'll never win, and you'll never learn how to do things the right way, and it'll cost you game, and it'll cost you the match, and you'll continue to suck for long periods of time because you make the same mistakes over and over and the world as you know it just a big bucket of crap .....then try this on for size....

No matter what the level of negativity, no matter how bad the situation looks, even if your down 10-0 in a race to 11, and he's got the 9 ball hanging in the corner pocket, and no matter how much negative bull crap your mind throws at you while your sitting in that chair, that next thought can be positive if you want it to be.

If you shut the engine off, or if you stall, start it back up again. It's one thing to attain great levels of concentration and apply great levels of focus. It is something completely different when you must reapply that focus. Reapplying lost focus is not as easy as turning on a switch. This is different for every person, but when you find your own way to get yourself centered and in the zone, find a pattern and stick with it. Learn how to exercise applying your concentration and your focus. Most of us have difficulty with focus and concentration because we have flabby concentration and focus muscles. Wake those muscles up and exercise them. Give them a work out. Find what works for you and develop those muscles like a bodybuilder would. Work those muscles hard and get them into shape. Competition is no place to be if your focus is weak or out of shape, and worse yet, out of breath. Learn to recognize what distracts you. Distraction is a word that can be broken down quite easily.

Distraction - to divert attention/ cause mental confusion/ to break the attention of

dis- to take away

traction- adhesive force or friction to an object on a surface (your focus and concentration needs traction on the surface of your goals)

It is vitally important that your thoughts maintain traction while you are sitting in the chair watching your opponent shoot. If you lose traction and start spinning your wheels, you won't be able to go anywhere.

I hope this has been useful & helpful to you.
Good Luck & God Bless

wolfdancer
11-21-2004, 05:30 PM
Thanks David, good read!!

PQQLK9
11-21-2004, 06:41 PM
Thanks David, good read.

JimS
11-22-2004, 06:41 AM
FEED that Panther!! /ccboard/images/graemlins/wink.gif

Fasteddy7
11-22-2004, 12:26 PM
I'm always feeding the snake........