March 18, 2013 – In my Grasp: The Elusive Quiet Mind

Posted: March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized

After several weeks of sub-mediocre performance, I finally busted out last week.

My first match was in “198”. I did OK. Not dazzling, but managed to score above my average. It felt good.

My next match was in “220”. My partner struggled early, and was pretty quiet as a result. While I was sympathetic to his struggling game, his quiet frustration kept me from being distracted. I simply focused on staying mentally quiet. My first few games were uneventful, no run-outs but the table was breaking well. I finally caught a gear in the fourth game and cleared the table to score a cut game. (Yay!) In the next game my break dropped two and all the other balls were well-positioned. I could have executed the option and gone for the 1-ball, but it required a really good shot. I elected not to use the option, but ended up running out for a snap game. (Woo hoo!)

It is really satisfying to be in that comfortable mental zone where the problems on the table don’t really feel like problems; they are just challenges that need to be overcome. As an example, I short-stroked one shot and didn’t get the cue ball nearly far enough out to where I wanted. In my mind I did not panic. There was no internal yelling or name-calling, it was just a calm, “OK. That’s not what I wanted, but here is the new shot.” I knew I just needed to execute a harder cut shot and make sure the speed was right so I didn’t hook myself. I’ve done this shot before, so I knew I could manage it. I was mentally comfortable; I had a quiet mind focused on the task.

So in the sixth game, I break and drop a ball and I get to running balls. I hook myself halfway through (D’oh!), pull out my jump stick and make a good shot to keep the run going. My partner, bless his soul, kind of gets excited, and chats it up some. Not a lot; just a little, but my ego responds, and I can feel my head beginning to ease away from the table. Fortunately, I was close to finishing the table and I managed to get out for another snap game. (Yesss!)

Game 7 opens well; I drop a ball on the break and get to pocketing balls. Things are looking good but then I hook myself again (Dang it!). I break out the jump stick and manage another good shot. My partner is now a little more excited. “Wow! TWO jump shots in one match!” he says to another fellow who’s watching. I appreciate his excitement and my ego responds a little more. My focus is now only at the edge of the table, not on it. I manage to drop a few more balls, but end up dogging the 9-ball, missing out on three snaps in a row.

When I go to put my stick down, my partner is excited for me, smiling and laughing, and comes over and shakes my hand and says, “Congratulations! Wow! That was impressive! You have a score of 75!!! You are definitely in the money now!” In my head I know we still have four games to go, but he’s making it feel like I just finished a great match. The other fellow says, “You got a good score going.”

Well, of course, now my formerly quiet mind is buzzing with the excitement of fellow competitors, probable money, and the imaginings of a potential career score. As a result of all the extracurricular thinking going on in my head I lose my quiet mind. My scores for the remaining four games go: 2, 3, 2, 1. (Nice.) My final score for the match was in the mid-80’s. That’s a great score for me and I’m happy, but it ends up being a really good learning experience. It shows that when the breaks are good, I can do well. I also experienced that very amazing place of “higher performance” in the middle of the match. I want to go there again soon!

There are actually two lessons here. First, it is clear I need to be mentally stronger. I found my “quiet mind” that allowed me to excel, but I let outside stuff completely erode it. My ego allowed me to pay attention to the excitement over me when I really needed to keep my focus on the table. I have to quit thinking about what people think of me and stay in game in front of me. I had the focused mind and I let it be pried away. It is frustrating to literally watch it slip away. More frustrating to me is that I could not get it back.

The second lesson is, unless you are sharking, it is really more appropriate to discuss another player’s game AFTER the game and not in the middle. Hold the comments and congratulations for the end when potentialities are gone and realities rule. It’s fine to quietly acknowledge a nice shot, but leave the exuberance and ebullient demonstrations for the finale. Those of us with weak and addled minds would sincerely appreciate it.

“220” Game – Old Average: 46.65 New Average: 47.15 Goal: 70.00
“198” Game – Old Average: 67.69 New Average: 68.21 Goal: 90.00

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