© 2010 Mike Fieldhammer, BilliardCoach.com
Few endeavors have such highs and lows as tournament pool. Emotional swings within a single match can rival the story arc of a season of ‘Desperate Housewives.’ How can a player cope with such mood and momentum swings and win matches and tournaments without losing one’s marbles?
It has been said that the first and last game are the hardest to win. This is especially true when your opponent seems to be playing great as well as being the benefactor of some lucky rolls. What is one to do? Win a game at the earliest chance possible. Try to take away one game and give yourself a starting block to hook your toes into. What may seem like a small victory may wake up a monster. You may have needed a nudge forward and this may turn into several game wins in a row should your opponent falter.
Turning the tide in a match that is going horribly can be easier said than done. Sometimes a player must take a time out to regroup. Wash your hands or get a cool drink. Take a short break and return to the match with a fresh attitude and new resolve to play with hunger. When you are stuck in a rut and the wheels are spinning, reorganize and bring new energy to the match to swing the momentum to your favor.
When pool matches are going smoothly, winning games can seem like an easy task. When you aren’t striking the cue ball quite so accurately or your speed control is on the fritz, few things are as difficult as running out. When pool gives you this much trouble just take one game at a time, then one inning at a time, then one shot at a time. Bear down and focus on shooting just one shot to the best of your ability. Make every trip to the table mean something. Playing in the moment will vault you out of the quicksand with regularity.
Remember, when you are hopelessly behind, try to mount some kind of comeback, even if it is just a game or two so your opponent must really work for victory. This can have a couple of huge benefits. He’ll not take victory for granted in your next match, be it on the B side or in a tournament months down the road. Secondly, you have played a few games well and if the match were to start again from scratch, you may be the victor. As a matter of fact, if this defeat was your first, you could bring that ‘grind-it-out’ attitude into your first match on the left side of the bracket and mount a charge to win the tournament the hard way.
Don’t roll over in a match when you are well behind in the score. You may even come back and win the match! Remember what Nick Varner has to say about the scores of his in-progress matches: “I never worry ‘bout the score until my opponent is on the hill”. No wonder he’s always dangerous in a match. He plays one game at a time and never gives up!
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