View Full Version : Pacing Yourself

03-02-2003, 12:14 PM
Pacing Yourself

Back when I was very young, I fell in love with the game of pool. I would practice diligently, perfecting my craft, hoping that someday I could compete with the better players in my area. I would sneak across the river to New York City and check out the great straight pool players. I idolized the greats like Lassiter, Murphy, and Crane. Very early I dedicated myself to becoming the best. I wanted to be the best that anybody would ever see. I would go to bed at night with dreams of that perfect run, holding the trophy over my head, and collecting the winner’s cash. I would fantasize about beating the “the man” for all the marbles, beating the fight out of him while emptying his pockets. I wanted to be good, at any cost. I wanted it and I wanted it in the quickest way possible. I wanted to strike fear in the hearts of everyone as I entered the room. I wanted to be “the man”.

I doubt if I am alone here. Many of us have dedicated ourselves to the same idea. As a young player, I was fortunate to have come in contact with some of the great players of the time, including Cisero Murphy, Danny Jones, Irving Crane, Jimmy Caras, Buddy Hall, & Cowboy Jimmy Moore. I learned a lot from each of them. They recognized my hunger and the desperation I had in wanting to attain greatness in the quickest way possible. Each of them in their own unique way tried to calm me down and slow me down, telling me that Rome was not built in a day. Being young, I tried to tell them that I was different. I could learn quicker than most, and I was the exception to the rule. I didn’t know any better.

I was once told that you cannot see until you can see, and you cannot hear until you can hear. The process of development takes a very long time in this game. There are things that I am only just beginning to understand. In this game, many things are revealed to you in their own time. I believe that it takes time to achieve both the emotional and mechanical balance necessary to play this game at its highest level. For younger players, frustration creeps in much more quickly. I don’t believe you will ever become immune from frustration, but for me, I placed very high expectations on myself and my performance, and concentrated more on the outcome, rather than the process. This a key mental flaw that comes with emotional immaturity in any sport. Along with this flaw comes worry, and an unreasonable fear of failure. Fear leads to panic, and reason flies out the window. A lack of patience is also to blame.

An example of mental immaturity can be seen in what I believe was a crossroads in my professional playing career. One year at the Akron Open, I was in the third round and playing the number one player in the world, Mike Sigel. I was pumped for the match and was determined to win at any and all costs. I played flawlessly, trading games at first, then I hit my stride. I made it to the hill at 10-8, and it was my break. I felt the blood in my head rush to my feet as I broke and made a ball. I had an easy out, all I had to do was maintain my composure and get the remaining balls into the pockets. Somewhere between the one ball and the four, my brain disconnected. I had two ways to go from the four to the five, and I made the wrong choice and paid for it. I sat down and never shot again. What was to be the greatest victory of my career, quickly turned into a disaster. I mulled over that match for years, thinking of “what might-a-been, and what could-a-been”. After beating myself up about it for years, I came to the realization that I was not emotionally mature enough to deal with the pressure of that situation. Even if I was to have won the match, the next match would have brought more pressure with it, and so on. Instead of just running out the rack, my thoughts switched to “I am going to beat the number one player in the world….” therefore I choked and the rest is history.

Pacing your development is very important. It is wise to progress your level of competition in stages. It took me a long time to get on the pro tour, and believe me, it took me a long time before I acclimated myself to the level of play up there. That is true at any level. Winning the local bar-box tourney at Joe’s Tavern is nothing compared to the pressure cooker of a state level tournament that is chock full o’ run-out players. Taking baby steps in development is advantageous, as you can gage your progress much more thoroughly. By doing so, you will know exactly when you are ready to move to the next level, and upon doing so, it won’t be that much of a shock to you. It’s very similar to crawling before you can walk, and mastering walking before you can run. Pace yourself in stages and monitor your progress closely. You will hit snags in the road along the way. Sometimes you need to take a few steps back before you can move forward again. Do not be discouraged when this happens. Look at it like this, if you had to jump an six foot high brick wall, you would probably need to back yourself up a bit to get a running start. By taking a few steps back, you can get a better perspective of the object, and devise a plan of attack. Also, from further back you can develop a little bit more momentum and acceleration. It’s the same thing with obstacles in your game. Do not fall into the trap of trying to run through the wall, you’ll just get hurt. Don’t try to go around the wall either. If you cannot get over the wall on the first try, back up, reassess, reevaluate, and attempt it again. If you tire yourself out without getting over the wall, then you can deduce that something is wrong with your training or your technique. Iron out the flaws, strengthen the areas of weakness and try again.

Goals are very important in this area as well. Setting up short term, mid term, and long term goals will keep your training organized. It also keeps things in perspective. If winning the local 9 ball tournament is your short term goal, all of your focus and training should be geared towards bringing your game to that higher level. Along with that goal should be sub-goals that deal with getting you closer to achieving that objective. It might seem like micro-management, but the closer you monitor your progress and your training, the easier it will become to identify deficiencies. When you lose, you’ll begin to understand why, and from there you can take the appropriate action to correct the deficiencies and turn your weakness into a strength. Strive for progress rather than perfection. Perfection is an ever-elusive, unattainable goal. The higher your expectations, the greater your frustration will be when you don’t meet the unrealistic expectations. I’m not saying that your should not set high goals, I’m saying not to expect too much from yourself too soon. Dream big, but remain realistic in your expectations.

Blackjack David Sapolis

03-02-2003, 01:14 PM
human nature is to want it all at once. i have been playing for the last two months a good 20-30 hours a week, trying to get to a level where i am satisfied with my performance. i am nowhere near there yet. i have been spending a lot more time in the pool hall, and less time in the bars, because, i learn more in the pool hall playing 9ball with good players. i understand that it is a progression, but i want to be great now.

03-02-2003, 02:13 PM
Without the use of metaphor,you have stated a Perfect Truth.

Yours is an explanation that I hope many cbber's not only read,but remember.You have laid out in complete context what sometimes takes eons for a player to appreciate.I am certain any player will draw a direct correlation to their own experiences.
I have seen many young gifted players come out of the blocks like a rocket,only to fizzle downrange.Pool is not a sprint,but a distance run that requires stamina,especially mental stamina.

Honor to you and all who compete with you.

c /ccboard/images/graemlins/grin.gifajunfats
the Bayou Banger

03-02-2003, 07:23 PM
I went to your site and surfed around for a bit. I got to say its one of the better sites ive been to. Keep up the good work.

03-07-2003, 12:56 AM
well said.

03-07-2003, 02:23 PM
Well said Dave! I've followed pool for a number of years and went to quite a few of the 14-1 tournaments in the NY area years ago and don't recall seeing you play.Wish I had, but then again maybe I did, and don't remember!I was able to see some of the great NY-NJ 14-1 players, play at some of the local clubs and learned a lot,by watching them.
After years of studying and watching this game, I saw a few players that just mentally couldn't perform under the pressure, but played great when in there local rooms.
There are a few that are born with a gift of eye hand coordination and mental toughness to make it to the top.
I think these people would be successful in any sport!