April 13, 2013 – Slaying Dragons

Posted: April 16, 2013 in Uncategorized
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This past weekend was Behind The Rock Tour’s first “198” Tri-Annual Tournament.  I love big tournaments.  I love the buzz, the pressure of the competition, the do-well-or-go-home sensation.  Sadly, for as much as I enjoy the big events, I often do poorly for the simple reason that I let my brain interfere with my stroke and strategy. If you’ve read some of my prior posts you’ll recall that I have a soft mind; any small distraction is enough for me to lose focus, to lose intensity, to lose my stroke.  Because I never remember all this, I was excited entering the day.

The tournament is set up into three stages of competition.  Stage 1 is the opening round consisting of two matches for each competitor.  Their best aggregate score of the two raw scores plus handicap determines which shooters to go to the next stage.  Stage 2 is the Sudden Death Round where competitors get one match to prove they are worthy for the final round.  Because there is only one shot to get through, it is intense!  The Finals Stage gives each competitor two matches to prove they are the best of the tournament that day.

This tournament was a great experience for me personally for the simple reason that I felt I overcame a particularly difficult circumstance.  Not the circumstances of competition or individual competitors, but the distractions that applied to me personally.  This weekend, I had every opportunity to succumb to the “noise” around me.  In fact, it was a problem during most of the day, but for the few key seconds of every shot, I was able to block it out and perform at a winning level.

In Stage 1 I started with a very good score of 84, almost 20 points above my average.  I was feeling good about it.  Unfortunately, right at the end of the match I made an error in judgment, inadvertently interrupting a couple other players at a crucial point in their match; one of them suffered, the other didn’t.  I felt horrible for causing the break in concentration, and it affected me all the way through the next match.  As a result I did poorly finishing with a score of 52, well under my average. But with my first score, I was able to sneak through the first round to get into the Sudden Death Round.  So did the player I accidentally “sharked.”  I was relieved beyond description.

And at this point, someone walked into the bar who I’ve had professional dealings with over the last year or so; mostly they’ve been challenging.  For whatever reason, her personality and mine have, to put it softly, just clashed – like steel swords smashing against each other.  If she’d behaved like as if it were a regular workday, things probably would have been fine.  But she was drinking in a bar in the middle of a sunny Saturday making her loud and uncharacteristically open about her life in her conversations with others at the bar.  For hours on end I heard her every word and I was learning a lot about her personal life.  It was incredibly distracting. 

It was nearly impossible to block her out, but I did it.  Every time I stood at the table I could hear her voice ringing off the walls, but as I leaned over the table, her presence wilted, and by the time I was in position ready to stroke, I heard nothing.  I saw nothing but the cue ball, the object ball, and the stroke I needed to deliver.  After the ball fell into the pocket and I stood up, I could hear that voice again.  I was able to block out the voice and the face for those crucial, vital seconds when I needed to deliver.  It was liberating.  My Sudden Death score was 118!  It put me into the finals.

My main distraction never left the scene, but with every match, every game, every ball, I blocked her out for a few vital seconds of each shot and I delivered the performance I needed to.  In my first match of the final round I shot another great score, this time a 112.  Two matches in a row scoring over a hundred, in spite of a personal handicap!  I felt I’d won, not the tournament, but I’d won the internal mental game I’ve struggle with every day in my life.  With that inner satisfaction of slaying my mental dragon, I coasted in the last match ending with a 66. 

In the end, the 112 score was enough to win the “Open” side of the tournament.  I’m certainly proud of that accomplishment. More importantly, though, I’ve cleared a major hurdle.  I feel like my pool life has changed.  I can concentrate.  I can block out the distractions.  I have the ability to focus.  Looking down the road, I see a lot of doors opening ahead of me.

 “220” Game –            Old Average: 47.15    New Average: 43.70               Goal: 70.00

“198” Game –             Old Average: 68.21    New Average: 73.70               Goal: 90.00

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