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Winning Posture

Good posture can really say a lot about a person.

Think about the player that’s slumped over in his chair or practically spilling over the edge of his stool. He’s looking all around the room and now he’s text messaging his buddies. What impression is this player giving you? Does he intimidate you with his killer instincts? Does he look like he’s focused and ready to snap off a tournament?

Next, take a look at the guy that is sitting upright with his cue in his hand, ready for action. He’s staring at the table. He’s alert and intense. He acknowledges you when you call a shot and he sits deliberately, barely moving when you’re at the table. Doesn’t he look respectful and professional? Isn’t he just oozing of poise and confidence?

Now that you have a visual of these two players, which one are you?

Take a look at my favorite player, world champion Ralf Souquet from Germany. He’s a world class player in every respect of the term and no matter what he’s doing, he’s conducting himself as such. Whether he’s sitting, standing, resting, drinking, or waiting to pounce, he carries himself deliberately. Even if he’s leaning forward, he’s not slouching. Every ounce of his energy is exerted with intent and purpose. They don’t call him “The Surgeon” for nothing. Ralf understands the importance of good posture with every move he makes.

Sharing The Light – Mike “Tennessee Tarzan” Massey

Mike Massey

Our next entrant is one of the most recognizable pool personalities in the world. His up and down and up again story is shared here in his own words, as only he can tell it.  

Hi, I’m Mike Massey and would like to share with you my testimony, then if you ever had me to sign an autograph, I think you will realize why I always sign “Jesus Loves Us.”

I’m a Hall of Fame pool player, and have won 24 major titles in pool. I’ve been on ESPN Sports about 250 times and many other TV talk shows all over the world, and also 5 movies. I’ve traveled to about 40 countries playing tournaments, doing exhibitions, and teaching pool. I’ve performed for the Olympic committee in Russia and China, for Mafia leaders and KGB, and for the prince of Bruni.

My ex-wife and I travelled the world treated like Royalty, staying in nice Hotels, eating at the best restaurants, playing on the best golf courses, and associating with very wealthy people.

When you’re famous, people treat you different, and some worship you, and the problem is, you start liking it and thinking you’re more special than the common person. This happens with a lot of celebrities, and we start using our fame for vain reasons.  This is very evil and hard to repent of.

During my first marriage, I accepted Jesus as my savior. But by not getting grounded in the word, I backslid big time and became a worse sinner than I was before I started believing.

I lost everything I thought I could never have growing up in poverty in the small town of Loudon, TN. I had a good job, a wife I loved and two wonderful children, and lost it all because of my infidelity. I then battled deep depression that almost destroyed me.

I was a hypocrite, and suffered the consequences big time. Like King David said, my sins are forever on my mind. Even though I’ve repented, I still struggle to do what is right. I believe every born-again Christian understands what I’m saying, because once you truly start trying to serve God, sometimes your closest friends or family will turn against you.

Satan is the God of the world, and the world cannot know God. God’s ways are foolishness to the world. You have to hate your life in the world to gain it. Lots of things you loved, you will hate. And things you hated, you will love when you come to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

Hell is real, and is made for Satan, his angels, and false prophets. Anyone who truly accepts Jesus dying on the cross shall be saved. The only way to the Father is through Jesus, and the only way for Salvation is the Cross. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son so that we can be saved. The wrath of God was poured upon his Son for or sins. Through one, we all became sinners, and through one were saved. That’s the simple message of the Bible. The good news: it’s for all that truly repent and accept this. It’s free, we’re saved by God’s grace not by our works. Without Jesus, it’s impossible to attain salvation and the kingdom of God. Our righteousness is as filthy as rags.

He can even give us peace and joy in this messed up world if we’re obedient and let him give it to us.

We can also have the assurance that when we die, we go to a better place. All tears will be wiped away. No more heartache.

I’ve been trying to preach the gospel and witness to people about Christ for many years now.  I’m part of a ministry with Tom Rossman and Steve Lillis called Gospel Trick Shots and we go all over the world preaching the gospel of Jesus crucified.

We’ve been to most of the Muslim countries. The Muslims are very big into pool. They sponsor a lot of tournaments. I love the Muslims, but I disagree with the way they believe just like they disagree with the way I believe. Same way with all other religions; if you try and meditate your way into Heaven without going through Jesus you will end up in a pit of darkness. But if you cry out to Jesus, he will bring you out and guide you into the straight and narrow, if you let him.

You can check our website out, gospeltrickshot.org. You can also go to YouTube and see me preaching in Egypt. Just bring up Mile Massey in Egypt.

We also go to colleges and prisons. Colleges won’t let a preacher come and preach, but they let us through the recreation department and the chaplain.

I’m a born-again Christian, and wrestle tremendously with my flesh – liking the attention sometimes too much – and also the temptations that are presented to me. I was a horrible sinner with many generation curses on my life. I was demon possessed and tormented as a child, and had a father that beat my mother up many times and wanted to kill me and my brother. Sometimes he would hallucinate from being shell shocked from War II and thought we were the enemy.

I forgive my Father and hope he is in Heaven, because he surely went through hell here on earth.

If you don’t forgive, you will never have peace, and will imitate what your father did because you’re a part of that generation curse. Keep forgiving and asking God to forgive you. Jesus said, by my stripes you are healed. Those curses were broken at the cross.

I know there’s lots of people that have gone through this and feel there’s no hope. You may think God is not a loving God to let these things happen. God is not our problem. He loves us so much he gave his Son to die for us.  It all goes back to the original sin; we were all born sinners, which we didn’t choose.

At one time I traveled the U.S. hustling pool and associating with the lowest of the low.  I was gambling at cards, smoking cigarettes, and drinking beer, all at the age of eight. I’ve looked down a gun barrel many times at people wanting to kill me. These were drug dealers, bank robbers, hit men, and pimps. I’ve been in jail 5 or 6 times for gambling. I’ve had many head injuries as a child and as an adult. I’ve been hit by cars three different times, and almost drowned twice.

I had a very strong spiritual experience when I was at my lowest. I came to my cheap hotel one night after staying in the bars gambling for probably two or three days, taking speed to keep me going. As I was getting ready to go to bed, I looked in the mirror and I looked like a zombie, 6 ‘ 4” and about 150 pounds, rotten teeth, and nicotine stained from about four packs of cigarettes a day.  I heard a voice that said there’s a better life than this. My head turned to the right, and there was a bible laying on the night stand. I picked it up and opened it. Certain scriptures became highlighted – about three of them.

God was trying to lead me in the right path, but Satan didn’t want to lose his puppet that had been doing his work since birth.

I was guided into all kinds of cults and ways to try and become a better person in vain. Someone drugged my drink with LSD and I ended up in a mental institution. Whatever I thought of I would become: a monster eating earth, cancer in someone’s body, Superman, and even paper, stones, dogs, monkeys; even Jesus on the cross.

This lasted for years. I thought I was on the right path of trying to find heaven, but I found hell instead. I ended up worse than Legion and crawled around like a snake at times, and would go out into the woods and beg God and Satan to appear even though I didn’t want to serve either one. I sometimes would swing my arms for hours trying to fight the demons, only to fall on the ground and beat myself. I would walk the railroad tracks and sometimes lay down beside them, debating whether to lay my head on them when the trains go by.

My story has been told many times. You can find it on YouTube. PM Magazine did a documentary on me in 1980.  It’s called “Mike Massey, Pool Hustler.”  Billiards Digest did a long story on me when I got inducted into the billiards hall of fame in 2005.

The only way to stay out of the pit is to stay close to Jesus. You can be a saint one minute, and if you’re not careful, a monster the next. The Bible says we perish because of lack of wisdom. God’s wisdom is first pure and peaceful. I found out also our works without Christ is totally filthy as rags.

The only thing that keeps me going is when he tells me he chose me, and I believe my name is written in the Lambs book of life. Sometimes I have to look at him in faith and say, you said you’re the author and finisher of my faith so whatever you need to do please do it, because I can’t.

My main thing is to try and get people to stay away from palm readers; any type of meditation that is not bible scriptures; and especially rock, rap, and even country music that influences you to drink and party in the bars. I hate the bars and pool rooms of today. The music they play is out of the pits of hell. And the sports bars have many TVs playing sports and videos that are also out of hell. I love the people, and they seem to love me. I want them to be saved. Many times I believe I have met and talked to people that are saved and back slidden and get back into church. I have not one speck of doubt about what Jesus did on the Cross, but like I said before, without him and The Holy Spirit, it’s impossible to live it.

I also write and sing country gospel music. I have a song that is number one on ReverbNation country charts in Park City, UT.  It’s called Sharpie and a Cue. If you’ve been on TV, everyone wants your autograph or a selfie photo with you. The theme of the song is, ‘Did they ask Jesus for his autograph?’ The intention is to humble some of the celebrities that’s living a sinful life and being worshipped by the kids, just like a lot of us did as children growing up in poverty – believing that becoming rich and famous was the goal for happiness.

You see actors and celebrities on TV smiling and telling you how wonderful everything is, but most of them are totally empty inside and are desperately searching for something to fill that void. They’re actors, they know how to mask the pain and emptiness.

Almost all the titles I won there was no true joy, just ego satisfaction. The Christians call it “flesh” or the Adam nature. No flesh will Glory in the site of God. The human-heart natural man is deceitful and wicked. You can’t totally kill it in this world, but you can tame it with the help of the Holy Spirit.

It doesn’t matter how many material things you acquire, it’s never enough. Same with sex, food, whatever it is, there’s never enough. A lot of people turn to drugs and alcohol, but after a while this doesn’t help, then you reach the bottom, and a lot commit suicide believing there’s no hope.

There is hope and it’s for everyone, his name is Jesus. If you get ahold of him he says, I will never leave you or forsake you. It takes faith, and he’s the Author and finisher of our faith.

At times you can look Satan dead in the eye and say, get behind me. He’s already been defeated; Jesus defeated him on the cross. At other times, when he gangs up on you and you’re not on guard, you might get knocked down. But Jesus will heal you’re wounds and strengthen you.

You must realize you can’t hit back; you’ve got to pray for your enemy. Your weapons are not carnal. It’s not flesh and blood you’re up against, it’s spiritual.

I lived in fourteen different houses within a six-mile radius in the small town of Loudon, TN before I went into the military at the age of seventeen.  I only finished the eighth grade and never went a year of school without missing at least 20 days.  I was basically illiterate when God first came into my life, but now I have written books, articles for magazines, screen plays and many songs. If you give your life to God he can restore what Satan stole from you.

If you go to Mike Massey music video on YouTube you can see the music video of the song. God bless, and pray for me – that I will do his work with gratitude, and that it’s without strife.

Eye See, Eye See!

It is essential to develop and maintain a consistent pattern of eye movement if you want to be consistently successful at the pool table. Your system should be focused and deliberate for maximum accuracy, efficient enough to help maintain rhythm, and relaxed enough to prevent confusion.

As a general rule for your practice strokes, look at the cue ball as you stroke towards it and stop right next to it, and you look at the contact point on the object ball throughout your back swing. Within your routine, you may choose to look at either the cue ball or object ball for one or more strokes in order to really key in on your accuracy.

The reason you look at the cue ball when your tip is extended, is to prepare for the accurate cueing of the ball. That is also why you stroke directly towards the exact spot you want to strike. Remember, it is like a dress rehearsal for your stroke, so pay attention.

The reason you look at the object ball when you start your back swing is because this is what you should do right before your final stroke. You need ample time to focus on the contact point (which is what you should be looking at on 99% of your shots) before you strike the cue ball. On these practice strokes you are verifying the contact point and making sure you are lined up to hit it.

Now, it is up to you to put these ingredients together in a way that suits your own style, in particular the number and speed of your strokes. It might be a good idea to model your favorite top player’s eye pattern.

Once you develop a system that works for you, be sure to use it in all situations. Sometimes the pressure of a match disrupts your pattern and throws you off a bit. Try to get back into you pattern as soon as possible. Your eyes are amazing instruments and they will let you know if everything is on line, try using them in coordination with your cue stick.

Sharing The Light – Robin “The BankRoll” Dodson

Our next player needs no introduction as far as her playing accomplishments go. However, it’s most likely that very few readers have ever heard the amazing story of the events that caused her to turn her life over to God.

I began playing pool at age 12 (many moons ago) at a local family billiards in Westminster, CA.

I started with the four pinball machines on the second floor and worked my way down to the tables – only because the cute boys who played pinball also played pool.  Who knew that my new interest in boys would lead me to my lifelong love for the game of pool?

My love and passion were not only for the game itself, but also for all those personalities/players who joined in alongside me all those years. I love pool players!  Funny how God would give me a talent for a sport and a love for those who loved it too (very cool)!

Age 12 (probably the most relevant year of my life); here is my story.

Not sure about you, but when I was incredibly young, for whatever reason, I used to think about dying. Not so much about the pain of it, but more so the never-ever-be-again part. I used to think, NEVER EVER BE AGAIN? I thought that was sad to say the least. So, when I heard the Gospel for the first time at age twelve – that Jesus came to earth to invite us to spend all of Eternity with Him in Heaven – you can bet I was ALL OVER IT! 

I had never heard of Jesus, I had never heard HIS STORY. I was so in awe (then, hearing about Eternal Life was awesome icing on the cake)! 

I would like to say I was a sweet little Christian girl from that moment on, but not having any other info or mentor, I soon went on my merry way. And, being a teenager by then, I was a train wreck ready to happen.

My teen age years were rough. I skated through some drama, and got burned to a crisp by others. 

But through it all, I never forgot Jesus; rather, He never forgot me! 

Back in the day, I had never played in a tournament. It was just matching up one-on-one. I was a kid and did not have any cash to play unless someone staked me. And I for sure was no big-time gambler. I Loved to win – and then go shopping! 

I used to clean the tables and ashtrays for my free pool. I made all the rounds for the guy who worked in the pool room. We both got a great deal. I sure did anyway, because I LOVED playing pool! 

My nights of sleeping under the pool tables came a few years later (I was one of the boys/players by this time).  We’d take naps hoping not to miss the soon coming action at the Billiard Palace (going home took way too long, and who knew if I would be grounded)! Of course, being grounded should have been an understatement, because I would sneak out my bedroom window and be gone by the time my mom would check in on me in the morning. 

Pool had my undivided attention, and whatever the consequences were, nothing compared to the “school of hard knocks” I would soon be taught. 

I still love remembering those long nights watching all the Champions coming into the Billiard Palace to match up. I loved sitting and watching ball after ball going into the pockets. And the money flying around the pay-ball games – priceless! 

I’ll tell you a story: When I was 16, my idol was Ronnie Allen (Mind you I had never met him, but the stories about him captured my imagination. Aww, he was my idol!)

 One night I heard “Ronnie is coming.” It seemed like forever before the doors finally opened. And then it happened – Ronnie Allen walked in! And to my surprise, he turned and walked right in my direction. When he noticed me, he walked straight over to me and asked, “What are you doing in here?” I was devasted!  Then he said, “You should be home in bed!” Of course, my mouth dropped, and that was the end of the conversation. For the whole idol thing, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be… lol (I heard later that Ronnie had a bunch of kids at home. I guess the dad in him popped out.) 

Keith McCready was one of the hot shot kids who could hold his own with the champs. I was always pulling for Keith to win. I watched, and who knew I was being groomed even then to become a champ, too? That, however, did not come until many years later.

What happened next was, UGH, drugs, teenage pregnancy, then more drugs. My life slipped so far into the drug scene that pool took a serious back seat. 

I was a mess. I remember Robert (my son) in his play pen eating crackers (I will never forget that). I was so broken. I got down on my knees and prayed, “God if you are real, will you help me?” 

All I can say from that prayer is, WOW! It was like NIGHT AND DAY! Let me see if I can give you a little glimmer of what happened:

I went from an apartment with Robert to an outreach called the Harvest House. It was a home for mothers who had children and would like to learn how to raise them with the Bible being the teacher.

Robin’s three sons: Drake, Travis and Robert

I wanted that so much! I packed Robert and I up and moved into the Harvest House for 1 ½ years. Growing and Growing, and still Growing! I had no idea what the Bible said. I never went to church growing up. So, I became a sponge to say the least. Thankfully, we went to Bible Studies, prayer meetings, and also reached out to help others in need. 

It was during this time at the Harvest House (I had not played pool for a couple years) that I read some verses in the Bible about going back.  I mentioned to the ladies that I thought God was talking to me about playing pool again. They laughed and said, NO WAY! Of course, all they knew about me was being a heroin addict (that was our first introduction to each other). So, they figured going back was nowhere in God’s plan for me. 

So, I dismissed the idea, and continued – yes, continued Growing in my Faith, my knowledge of God’s Word, and my relationship. YUP, I was a full-blown Jesus-loving Freak!!! 

I have tons of stories, but to get to the punch line, five and a half years passed. The verses I thought about playing pool came back around in my Bible reading again. 

This time I went to my pastor and asked him if he thought I was nuts. I told him, I think I am supposed to play pool? His answer was much different (with the ladies, I was just not ready).

He said, “Robin, I cannot go to the places you will be going. You, however, have a reason with your talent. Just remember, don’t get your eyes solely on the game, remember the people; Jesus LOVES the people!” I never forgot that pastor’s wise advice. I LOVE pool players. There was never a dull moment; all the stories are tucked away in my treasured memories.

To say my game came back fast – not so quick. But the lesson I learned after day 3, I looked up and said, “God, I will never be like I used to be.”  My relationship with God has never been one-sided. He spoke right back to me in my Spirit and said, “I don’t want you like you used to be, but you are doing pretty good for 3 days”. 

My game did improve better than ever. In total it was 5 ½ years since I had got on my knees and prayed that prayer, “God if you are Real, will you help me”. 

Onto my first Pro Event. One of the first opponents I had was Lori Shampo. Trust me, I was blown away (I was looking in the mirror of my days past)! I could tell a story on that meeting, but moving right along, I will tell you about the match after ours, instead. 

I LOST that next match!  

The story I tell you may sound lame to you, but it happened just the same. I do not even remember who I played; all I remember is going up the elevator not too happy to say the least!

 I was alone so I felt free to speak out loud, “So, what was that all about!” Like I said, I know it is lame on my part, but for whatever reason, I was thinking, if I hit the ball close surely it would go in for me!

 I got into the room and laid on the bed in the hotel, and again not having a one-sided conversation, His still small voice spoke clearly in my Spirit, “I won’t cheat for you.” UGH! Trust me, that was painful to hear. Did I really act like that? I was so saddened, and so sorry. 

My next match, my “spoiled brat” lesson was learned: I was changed one more inch in character.

Pool became my passion again – just prioritized a bit differently. Colossians 3:23 says, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Let’s fast-forward before I lose your attention: To get my credits in, I read in Pool & Billiard magazine that I won over 28 titles (I was impressed).

 Over the years I have been asked, “Robin which were your most memorable tournaments?” I would have to say there were two: 1st was my first World Championship. My mom came with me.  It was in Germany. She was over-the-top the best fan I have ever had! 

And the 2nd favorite comes with another mom story: My mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer; I took 3 months off the WPBA to stay with her. She went to be with the Lord 100 days later. My next event was in San Diego shortly after. I made it to the finals playing LoreeJon. I remember after the match raising my trophy up and saying, this one is for you mom! I know my eyes were filled with tears, along with many of my friends who knew why I took a hiatus for those few months. Coming back to WIN was an all-time Blessing!

BCA Hall of Fame Induction in 2005

I played on the WPBA Pro Tour for 20 years. I retired in 2002. I was inducted into the Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame in 2005, and the WPBA Hall of Fame in 2009 (Talk about icing on the cake!). I had the words “Well Done” inscribed on my Hall of Fame ring. It was a Well-Done Career. My prayer is to hear those words again at the end of my life here on earth.  Matthew 25:23 says, “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”

Wondering what I was going to do next (I had no idea; pool was all I knew), I got a phone call and was asked if I would be interested in teaching students in a retirement community? I thought, “How Fun!” I accepted and found out I had a new love! I began teaching in three different communities over the years. Some of my students never picked up a pool cue their whole life! It was a challenge that I took on and I loved every minute of my time with them. They even became good enough to compete with each other. 

One of Robin’s instructional communities

I held monthly tournaments in-house and occasionally brought all three communities together to compete at Danny K’s. It was amazing seeing them all bused into Danny’s. I think it was as much a highlight for them as it was for me. Priceless!!! 

COVID-19 has stopped the lessons. Lord willing, one day they will return. My students are doing well, and I am grateful. For now, I am enjoying the retired life. 

Roy, on the other hand, works to take care of us (I have an amazing husband)!

Saying YES to God has given me Years and Years of an amazing life. 

The Two-Way Bank

Sometimes the easiest shot is not your best shot. In the shot shown below, the three ball is a fairly easy (although long) nearly straight-in shot into the corner. But the four ball is back down here on the head rail and the seven and eight prevent you from being able to draw back downtable for position on the four. While there are several options available to you in this situation, including a pure safety, there is a bank option that is worth considering.

If you bank the three cross-corner, you have the angle required to send the cueball to the headrail and back downtable for the four. The secret is speed. You want to hit the shot with just enough speed so that if you make it you get good position and if you miss it the three comes off the second rail to rest in the middle of the head rail. Either way the cueball is well back down towards the foot rail.

This shot only needs to be practiced a few times for you to develop the feel for the right speed. Plus, the bank is not particularly difficult and it can become a fairly high-percentage shot. This is not the only application of this principle. The next time you are faced with a long straight shot that limits your ability to gain position, consider a bank option that leaves you safe if you miss. To win you must have the vision to see the patterns and opportunities that your opponent does not see.

Alignment: The Most Important Part Of Your Pre-Shot Routine

It’s hard to say that any single pool fundamental is more important than another. All mechanics must be perfected, but if there’s one that causes more missed shots than anything else, then alignment stands out.

Once you’ve learned the correct grip, bridge, stance, and stroke it’s not that hard to execute them and during most shots they will fall into place. But alignment is one fundamental that has a tendency to waiver. This is precisely why you see the best players in the world reinforcing good alignment habits over and over again.

IMPORTANCE OF ALIGNMENT IN POOL
Without proper alignment, your body receives mixed signals from your brain, with regards to your body position and your intended target. If your eyes are looking towards the shot line but your body and cue stick are actually aligned slightly to the left or right, you’ll need to make adjustments in your stroke, which affects how straight you shoot and can also put unwanted spin on the cue ball. This could result in any number of problems: If your body is aimed to the left of your intended target, then without intentionally doing so you’ll stroke to the left of center resulting in unwanted deflection.

THE ONE DEGREE CAN MEAN A MISS
To put alignment in perspective, if the cue stick is even a degree off line it can cause a miss of a several inches or more!

ALIGNMENT REQUIRES PRACTICE JUST LIKE EVERYTHING ELSE
It’s important to realize that good alignment takes practice; the same way you practice your stroke. If you get to go to a big tournament, you’ll see most of the players emphasizing alignment to be sure they are spot on.

SO WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE ALIGNED?
It’s important to mention here that your body: right shoulder, right hip, right elbow, bridge hand, grip hand, right hip and right foot, all need to be aligned to the shot line if you are right handed and vice versa if you are left handed.

THE PROCESS:

Now work on this – make it a New Year’s resolution! Do it every time you practice! Get yourself ALIGNMENT PERFECT and make sure good alignment becomes a habit on every single shot you shoot. This will eliminate hundreds of missed shots throughout the upcoming year. When you are truly aligned the shot just has a way of working itself out.

Understand the Difference Between Good and Bad Stress

When it comes to stress, it’s often difficult to talk about since it isn’t something you can put under a microscope, or see on an x-ray. In fact, rarely do two people experience stress in the exact same way, further compounding the challenge around understanding stress.

The reality is that “stress” is a term we all use in very different ways to describe very different life experiences, yet we all know what it feels like to deal with stress – and the negative consequences that follow if we don’t cope with stress effectively.

Generally speaking, stress is based on our human perception of people, things, events, and expectations. When we perceive things as threatening, we respond accordingly with heightened anxiety. Take for an example your first thoughts when you look at a tournament bracket and see that you will be playing a strong player – do you feel the negative stress associated with worries around losing, or do you experience an excitement associated with a winning mindset eager to pull off an upset?

This decision regarding how you respond to potential stressors is the big point of today’s column – there are both good and bad stress that humans experience, and how we interpret the world around us dictates what we will experience. Psychologists have identified good stress as “eustress,” and examples include the stress associated with good things in your life – buying your first car, preparing for the holidays, or even going on vacation. In all of these examples we experience some stress, but the stress is associated with good life events.

On the other hand, “distress” is stress associated with negative life events, like falling on tough financial times, being ill, or losing a job. A few more thoughts on stress are below:

Interestingly, most of the stress pool players experience is eustress, or good stress. Playing pool is fun, and focusing on beating good players should be a positive stress.

By framing stress properly, it allows you to take control of situations with confidence, as opposed to feeling helpless to situations.

Good stress is healthy! When faced with good competition, try to think about how to overcome the challenge rather than running from the fear of failure.

Remember, stress is a part of life that cannot be avoided. The key to beating stress is to frame situations accurately, and then decide of healthy and effective means for coping. The better you manage life stress, the better pool you will play.

What To Look At

As I work with my students and give seminars and classes at the national level events that I have attended in the past, one of the commonly asked questions that I get from less experienced players is “What should I be looking at when I hit the cue ball – the ball that I’m trying to make, the cue ball or the pocket?”.

What the eyes are doing during the aiming process and the pre-shot routine is an important part of being consistent with your accuracy. We will pick up the shot process at the point where the shooter has lowered himself into his shooting position behind the cue ball and has brought the cue tip to a stop about a quarter inch away from Whitey. When you watch pro players play, one may look slightly different than the other in how they do it, but they will all use a system that is similar to each others if you know what to look for. Once they’re in their shooting position, they split their time doing a few warmup strokes then stopping and aiming – a few more warmup strokes then stopping and aiming. Each time, after taking a few warmup strokes, they stop the tip right at the cue ball and check the aim. This means that when the cue tip stops at the cue ball, the eyes shift back and forth between the object ball and cue ball checking the aim. If the pro likes what he sees, he looks at the object ball and then starts his backswing and shoots the shot. If he stops to aim and does not like what he sees, he will make a minor correction and then take a few more warmup strokes and stop and check the aim again. Every pro goes through a similar system to this every time he or she shoots. Some pros shift their eyes to the object ball during their backswing, while others look at the object ball before they start their backswing. Either way, their eyes are on the object ball as they strike the cue ball.

When you are in a stopped position at the ball checking the aim, your chin or head must not move as yours eyes go back and forth from cue ball to object ball. You must keep your chin in a high enough position so that only the eyes move when you are aiming. Many people make the mistake of moving their head up and down as their eyes go from the cue ball to the object ball.
Good luck, good shooting and remember, Whitey never lies.

Like Music to my Ears

As you read these words, think your favorite song. Now, close your eyes for a moment and relish that melody you love so much. Is it a love song or a rock or classical piece? It doesn’t matter. Just feel it and really listen to it in your mind. As it gets to your favorite part, think about all the individual pieces coming together to make this song so perfect.

Can you hear the steady drumbeat building up to a thrilling crescendo? Don’t forget the hot guitar lick that jumps in just at the right moment. Now, listen for the ominous strings creeping in for that haunting touch. Oh, and what about the vocals? Could you imagine a better person belting out such tender lyrics? All of these elements combined are what make your favorite song so brilliant. All those little touches together are what made you take the needle back over and over again until your parents eventually hid the record from you. 

Now, let’s dissect all these individual moving parts and relate them to our pool mechanics. The anatomy of a song consists of these main parts: verses, the refrain, and the chorus. 

The verses tell the story. They set the tone for the whole song and precede the refrain and chorus. Think of the verses as our bridge, stance, and warm-up strokes. Determine where you are aiming and check your tip position for the spin you’ll be applying. Each verse may vary slightly based on the situation. The verse is building up for the chorus to come by establishing our alignment and preparing to pull the trigger. 

Next is the refrain which is just a couple repeated lines at the end of each verse which lead up to the chorus. The refrain would be that final breath you take as you complete your warm-up strokes and refocus your eyes back to that spot on the object ball again. If you study the pros, their refrain is very distinct. You can always tell when they’re about to pull the trigger. They complete their warm-up strokes, everything comes together, they cue right up to the cue ball, and fire.

When you’re ready to pull the trigger, this is the chorus we’ve been waiting for. The chorus is where the main theme and often the title are expressed in a song. It’s the melody that we’re humming for days after we hear a song that we like. Typically, it completes the song. Your verses and refrain lead you to this moment. Make your chorus count. Bring that stroke back smoothly and with control. Sing a chorus that you will want to remember and repeat.

Though your verses may vary based on what the shot requires, your refrain and chorus come together to make the shot. Of course, there are extra parts to the anatomy of a song and to our pool game. However, just like a beautiful piece of music, your pool game can’t come together without each of these integral parts. Develop and strengthen all of them and play your favorite song at the table.

Keeping Your Composure

Webster’s Dictionary states that composure implies the controlling of emotional or mental agitation by an effort of will or as a matter of habit. Composure is the ability to remain calm and focused enough to perform up to your capabilities. To consistently respond to stressful situations with empowering thoughts, feelings and actions. To let go of past mistakes and breath out anxieties about the future. Laughing in the face of seemingly gargantuan pressure and concentrating on the task at hand.Why would you want to have composure? Maybe you want to make great comebacks, play your game against a top player, be a champion, or impress a potential significant other. Whatever the reason, composure is a good place to start when you are striving for positive results. It is similar to approaching life from a well balanced center. If you do your best to keep balanced, you will have a better chance at staying afloat if something racks your boat.

Gaining composure could mean changing the way you think about certain aspects of the game. I am sure you know a few players who go berserk every time their opponent gets a good roll. The more bad rolls they get, the more they freak out and start announcing to the world that you are lucky. Meanwhile, they are stuck in the past with a dark storm cloud growing over their head.
Granted, there is too much luck in nine ball, but until the rules are changed to call all shots, it is necessary to understand that ROLLS HAPPEN and you should be happy to BE AT THE TABLE. If you find yourself on the short end of the rolls during a match, just think to yourself “things will turn my way”, and do the best with what you have.

For example, what if you were on the hill with a seven game lead and your opponent came back to tie the match. You could be in shell shock and flub a possible chance at a win, or you could understand that many matches are close anyway and all you have to do is concentrate on each shot in this final game.

When you have a big lead it is especially important to bear down even more and realize that if you go to sleep you have no chance at winning, no lead is a safe lead. The same thing applies when you are coming from behind. No lead is insurmountable. Just think “I’ll hold him there and then pass him”.It is amazing to see what happens when you are unflappable. The more you understand match dynamics, the less likely you will be taken by surprise, and the more you will be giving the surprises.

Composure has a lot to do with knowing and remembering the truth about yourself and any given situation. Whether the heat is on or off, it is good to remember what you are capable of (physically, mentally, and spiritually) and let this give you confidence. Letting go of fears and doubts is one of the main challenges every pool player or any person in life for that matter, must face.

The illusions of fear and doubt have no power unless you have allowed it the power. Once you learn to recognize illusions, it will be easier to get rid of them, for they will disappear. If the truth is that you play at a certain level, then you want to do your best to remove any interference. Often blockages are very subtle and it would be wise to take a deep honest look into the causes. Once you have targeted any interference, it is necessary to actively and willfully diminish it by turning its positive counterpart into a habit. Some habits die hard, but in the business of uncovering the truth I think it is worth it. If you are often too tense, learn to relax. If you are doubtful, learn to generate feelings of courage and confidence. If you have trouble concentrating, turn pool into a study on concentrating. Whatever the malady, there is a remedy, and a little discipline goes a long way.

Not enough can be said about the benefits of preparation. Before a big match, tell yourself that this will take everything you have and that you must go deep to your basic core where your strength lies. If perhaps you have never beaten this player, tell yourself, that was then…this is NOW and I am due for a win. Michael Jordan says that before he shoots a big foul shot, instead of thinking about the millions of people watching and everything at stake, he puts himself in a familiar place like his old high school gym where he feels comfortable. Being physically and spiritually fit are also great bonuses. Also, the link between your body language and your mental/emotional states is amazingly close.

It is good to work just as hard on your composure (mental game) as you do on your physical skills. Talk to experienced players and champions about this and read plenty of books like The Inner Game of Tennis by Timothy Gallway, The New Toughness Training for Sports by James E. Loehn, Ed:D., or Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsh to name a few. Be well.