Guess what I ate today? This afternoon I went over to Edgie’s Billiards in Milpitas, California, to shoot a little pool and I saw a guy that I had seen there many times before, but had never played. I walked up to the table next to him, and he turned and said, “Hey, would you like to shoot a few games today? I see you in here all the time, but we’ve never played.” I reply, “Sure!” We meet, and he tells me his name is Mike. “My name is Mike also.” Ironically, there’s only one other customer in the entire place, and I know the guy. Guess what his name is? Mike! (What are the odds?!) Tony, the guy who owns the place, noticed the oddity, and leaned over the counter and yelled to no one in particular, “Hey Mike! I wouldn’t play Mike. He’s the best player here!” We all three respond simultaneously, “Thanks Tony!”
I must admit, lately I’ve been doing a lot more writing about pool than practicing, but I was pretty confident in my game, so I figured I’d take it easy on the guy. We’d just play for fun, nothing serious. I’d seen the guy play some months before, and knew that he was relatively new to the game. It really shouldn’t be much of a contest, but what the heck, sometimes I need to pad my ego. I figured I’d just play around with him, try to take some risky but cool looking shots, showboat a little, etc.
Flash forward one hour: I was doing a LOT of sitting, and I was already trailing the guy 7 to 4. To make matters worse, I found that he’d only been playing about two years. TWO YEARS?!! #*$%&@*%&!!! I unscrewed my pool stick, flipped the guy a ten to cover the table time, and headed for the door.
What’s to be learned? First: never take any player for granted. Second: always play to win; act like the county or city tournament is on the line. Third: theory is great, and practice is great, but there’s nothing like playing a live breathing human. In practice if you miss a shot, you just take another shot. In competition when you miss a shot, it could be your last.
What’s the next step? Go back tomorrow, and play him again. And again. And again.
Well. It sounds like you didn’t practice good process, but what’s really tipped you over the edge is your comparative results. You have absolutely no idea how many hours of deep practice this person has put in. None.
Backing up, you decided to take it easy on the guy, play for fun, nothing serious. What does that entail? You’re not thinking the game as seriously? You’re not focusing as much as you normally would? At this point in your journey, can you afford to practice bad process?
Ouch!! Nothing hurts more than the truth! John, you have absolutely hit the nail on the head. I was not taking the games seriously: I was not going through my mental checklists, I was not thinking and planning ahead before shooting, I was not focusing on each shot as if it was the winning shot. Basically, I was not getting into the deep practice zone. You are right: at this stage in my journey, I can not afford to use a ‘bad’ process. Thanks again for your insight and keeping me on the straight and narrow.
I didn’t mean to be harsh. Sorry if it sounded that way. I imagine that at some point the vision and planning you’re developing will be automatic. You’re trying to train your brain to make the connections effortlessly, which means you can’t afford to play without doing the difficult analysis.
Maybe playing for fun doesn’t have to mean you’re playing to win. Maybe it means you add difficulty to each shot to practice specific skills (caroms, banks, etc). But as you do that, you have to evaluate the time you’re spending as practice of that skill, not on the outcome of the match.