(February Issue 2002)

As pool players, we have all taken a risk from time to time. Overcoming the risk factor is one of the greatest thrills in pool, feeding our egos and generally inspiring us to continue the progression of improvement towards a higher level of play. It's like an obsession or addiction. Once you've had a taste of it, you want more and more.

Occasionally the risk factor overcomes us. We're stuck with "the agony of defeat". What a terrible feeling! After a few outings of losing many people quit playing altogether, when in fact they should humbly bow their head, walk out the door and go home. The smarter person would sit down, replay and analyze the whole match using their memory recall. Just like watching a video you can pick out your mistakes, log them in your memory banks and head for the practice table. The idea is to practice your weak points until they become strengths! It won't be long until you don't have many weak points, if you continue to practice and learn from your losses. This is the road of a true champion.

Without the R. I. S. K. factor there is no improvement.

R. in risk stands for reach. Reach forward and keep reaching. To be comfortable is stagnation. You must be willing to leave your comfort zone. Reach out and use each level of player as a stepping stone to improve your game.

I. stands for invite. Invite the tougher competition. Eventually you will start winning, if you're smart enough to use the R. I. S. K factor. You will never know what your true potential is unless you continue to invite. Invite and keep inviting.

S. is for search. Search and keep searching for opportunities to improve. Search for opponents to propel you to higher levels of understanding. These opponents will help you find and eliminate flaws in your game. Remember, iron sharpens iron. There is always room for improvement, no matter how good you are. Search and keep searching.

K. is for keep. Keep confident and know your time is coming. You are or will be the best player you can be! You must keep a good, positive attitude.

This method applies to all areas of life, whether it is business, sports or anything you do. A good player could be compared to a wise man. Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from mistakes. Show me a great player and I will show you someone who has been beaten a thousand times! The difference is these players learned early on to use the R. I. S. K. factor. They've made mistakes, gained experience and became wise enough to eliminate the same mistakes in the future. The bottom-line? Champions are made, not born. It's your choice. Use the R. I. S. K. factor. Take a tough game and learn from it. You will develop into a better player and person. Or stay where you are and stagnate. Without the R. I. S. K. there will be no investment in yourself.


(March Issue 2002)

In every athletic event there is an order of learning. The order of learning reflects each individuals level of achievement. There is always an exception to the rule, although better players usually follow similar guidelines. These guidelines can be categorized into four groups:

1... The beginning level
2... The intermediate level
3... The advanced level
4... The mental game

In the beginning a new player picks up his or her cue and tries to pocket balls. At this point the new player is learning to develop coordination and a feel for aiming at balls to make shots. He (or she) is making an effort to develop a form or body position to give them a straight swing. At this time much effort is given to the grip, stance, and bridge. This player would be shooting his or her shots with a center ball line of aim. and would be considered to be at the first phase of learning, or the beginning level. The beginning player is only concerned with pocketing balls and advances to the next level reasonably quick.

The next phase for the beginner is learning to play position on their next shot, make continuous runs and win games. At this level the player is learning about follow (high english), draw (low english) and is starting to experiment with side spin (left and right english). Like the first level, the player strives to improve and fine tune his or her form and swing as their level of understanding grows. The second phase of learning the game is to be considered the intermediate level. The intermediate player is beginning to learn one, two, and three rail position. At this level they are learning about the correct speed of hit to play position. The players will spend a varied amount of time at this level depending on their ability to digest knowledge, discipline, and fine tune their swing skills.

Now that the player has learned to pocket balls and play position with a certain amount of respectability, he or she is, or already has started moving in the direction of phase 3. At this point the player has begun to make difficult and easy shots. The player has learned to play a fair game of position, although not winning as many games as they would like. Phase 3 is when the player starts recognizing when and when not to break out clusters to make even more continuous runs. The player has started recognizing when and when not to play safe. Learning the little ins and outs of the game takes time and experience. Still the player continues to fine tune and develop his swing in order to further his advancement towards a higher level. This is the advanced level.

The final phase is the mental game. This part of the game is developed continuously through all phases of learning. I believe some of it is genetic, although the tenacious student will prevail with discipline, practice and experience. The mental game is displayed through shot selection, choices made, and the players ability to react calmly under stress. Like anything else these things can be learned. If you were to ask any good player, they would tell you they have made many mistakes over the years. From those mistakes they have learned to make correct decisions. By now the player has reached a reasonably high level of play. He has learned all the ins and outs of the game, yet seeks higher levels. He knows what to do in most all situations and makes correct decisions the majority of the time.

This is where the choice is made. Do I want to continue? Am I willing to sacrifice my game for a period of time in order to improve it later? Or, am I satisfied where I'm at? At this point the player is playing at a very respectable level. But, is the player playing to a level equivalent to their IQ level? This is a difficult choice to make. For most people, this level of achievement is satisfactory. They may or may not have the time to continue. This level of play may be good enough for them. To make the sacrifice and play to their full potential requires a major sacrifice of time and options within their life. This is true of all sports, or anything you truly want to be great at.

Finally, we have the professional player. The professionals understand they are still at the advanced level and realize the only way to improve from here is through improvement of the swing and form. He or she has learned all, or enough, ins and outs of the game. They have reached the end of the advanced level of knowledge, proven themselves and are self disciplined. The pro level players are the true students and must continue the quest to perfect their game. The only thing left to improve is their swing. They know "winners don't quit and quitters don't win". Perfection of the form and swing is the beginning and the end. You must train to fully understand this.....

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