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ChrisinNC
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Solo Practice vs Match / Tournament Play to Maximize Performance - 12-18-2018, 08:54 PM

I realize not eveyone that plays pool is driven to improve their games and play the best they possibly can when it means the most, but I'm guessing most of the readers of this forum likely have that goal. Solo practice sessions as well as playing matches against quality opponents and tournament competition are all necessary for players looking to improve / maximize their complete game, in my opinion.

Much like in golf, where there are players who look awesome at the driving range where they can much more easily get their swing/stroke in the groove by constant repetition, but can't carry that performance over to a competitive round on the golf course when it counts, the same applies in pool.

Practicing for hours by yourself can't fully prepare you for a match where you may likely be spending at least half of the time in your chair and additional time dealing with very tough / no shot. Conquering the ghost in practice is one thing, but can you consistently run out or play a successful safety when given an opportunity in a match or tournament situation, where the pressure and consequences for missing are completely different?

Practicing a minimum of 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours per session is great, but I would say at least once a week you need to challenge your skills under the gun of a serious match-up against another player of a similar level or preferably even better than yourself, or in some type of tournament format to see how your game holds up in meaningful play as opposed to how you may perform in your practice sessions. The goal is to get to where you can play as well or maybe even better in your meaningful pool match-ups / tournaments as you can in your solo practice sessions, where it's real easy to get in your comfort zone.
  
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12-19-2018, 07:08 AM

You can practice the art of competing, too, not just fundamentals.

When you miss during practice, pretend you're in a, say, league match. You have to go back to your teammates area, listen to their advice and criticism, and wait right there for your opponent to run out while you watch and suffer. Try this during practice. Miss, then go back to wherever and wait and "watch" the run out that you should have been doing. Stand there for whatever time it would take for a real opponent to run out. Don't rush ahead and just start shooting again, treat like it would happen in the pool hall. You might even say, "good out" after he's done. Practice thinking better, feeling emotions in a better fashion, analyzing the layout, getting self ready to shoot when he misses, etc. Practice those things, too, not just shooting fundamentals.

It works for me; it might work for you, too. It's cheaper than the pool hall, if nothing else.


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12-19-2018, 07:33 AM

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Originally Posted by chefjeff View Post
You can practice the art of competing, too, not just fundamentals.

When you miss during practice, pretend you're in a, say, league match. You have to go back to your teammates area, listen to their advice and criticism, and wait right there for your opponent to run out while you watch and suffer. Try this during practice. Miss, then go back to wherever and wait and "watch" the run out that you should have been doing. Stand there for whatever time it would take for a real opponent to run out. Don't rush ahead and just start shooting again, treat like it would happen in the pool hall. You might even say, "good out" after he's done. Practice thinking better, feeling emotions in a better fashion, analyzing the layout, getting self ready to shoot when he misses, etc. Practice those things, too, not just shooting fundamentals.

It works for me; it might work for you, too. It's cheaper than the pool hall, if nothing else.


Jeff Livingston
Great for home, but table time can be expensive. The hell if I'm just gonna sit there and make-believe.


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12-19-2018, 07:41 AM

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Great for home, but table time can be expensive. The hell if I'm just gonna sit there and make-believe.
If there's no competition, it's worth the money, I'd say. It's no different than if you had a real opponent and he was running out everytime you missed, as far as paying for actual playing time, that is. Then, add in betting losses....etc.

I posted about this years ago and someone here ( a women pro?) told me they'd done it and it helped them a lot. Maybe it will work for others, too, I dunno.

It's just another practice technique, take it as you will.



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12-19-2018, 08:22 AM

Agree w the OP, good competition forces more intense higher level of focus. It's extremely hard to get to that point playing against yourself.

When I play against myself I will play safes. Got to practice those as well.

I try to put pressure on myself when practicing by keeping track of what I'm trying to accomplish. Like trying to run as many open balls as I can in a row. I have the number to beat on my chalkboard, each shot means something this way.

Reminds me of Harvey Penick's book on golf, in it he stresses, always put some money on the game if your just out w friends, even if it's just 50 cents a hole, it makes it mean something and the player will concentrate more.


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12-19-2018, 08:22 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisinNC View Post
I realize not eveyone that plays pool is driven to improve their games and play the best they possibly can when it means the most, but I'm guessing most of the readers of this forum likely have that goal. Solo practice sessions as well as playing matches against quality opponents and tournament competition are all necessary for players looking to improve / maximize their complete game, in my opinion.

Much like in golf, where there are players who look awesome at the driving range where they can much more easily get their swing/stroke in the groove by constant repetition, but can't carry that performance over to a competitive round on the golf course when it counts, the same applies in pool.

Practicing for hours by yourself can't fully prepare you for a match where you may likely be spending at least half of the time in your chair and additional time dealing with very tough / no shot. Conquering the ghost in practice is one thing, but can you consistently run out or play a successful safety when given an opportunity in a match or tournament situation, where the pressure and consequences for missing are completely different?

Practicing a minimum of 2-3 times a week for 2-3 hours per session is great, but I would say at least once a week you need to challenge your skills under the gun of a serious match-up against another player of a similar level or preferably even better than yourself, or in some type of tournament format to see how your game holds up in meaningful play as opposed to how you may perform in your practice sessions. The goal is to get to where you can play as well or maybe even better in your meaningful pool match-ups / tournaments as you can in your solo practice sessions, where it's real easy to get in your comfort zone.
I think that you have to do both. After playing in competition, do some reflection about the match. What area's do you need to work on? Certain shots that you missed under pressure, position errors, etc. Then use some of your practice time to address those issues. You will find out that the same issues seem to crop up during competition. Over time, you will improve on these areas as you are spending time practicing on your weaker areas that show up under stress.


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12-19-2018, 08:35 AM

I had an experience I feel kinda speaks to the matter.

I decided to play a medium sized event in the not too distant past and hadn't played any real pool for a while. I practiced up at home until I had the eye of the tiger (fine, it is a kitten).

Tourney day comes and I draw an ez opponent first round...I hung so many 8s and 9s, I thought I was gonna flip my wig.

Point made, but I will finish the tale...set was to 7 or 9, opponent is on the hill and I am at 2. 2!

Unfortunately for opponent, I know more about the stupid game and opponent had a lotta shortcomings I could exploit.

I ended up winning that set.

No substitute for the real deal. Gotta practice like you'll play.
  
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12-19-2018, 08:36 AM

Oh, and about game time simulation? If I have never been to the place before, I will mak a point to go there and hit balls before the day of the event, if possible.
  
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12-19-2018, 10:19 AM

IMO they are two different skill sets and you need both. You won't get the feel and pressure of competition without playing competitive pool in some form to build that mental toughness. At the same time you can't and shouldn't be working on your mechanics, stroke, and techniques, and new shots while you're playing a match.


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12-19-2018, 10:26 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by StraightPoolIU View Post
IMO they are two different skill sets and you need both. You won't get the feel and pressure of competition without playing competitive pool in some form to build that mental toughness. At the same time you can't and shouldn't be working on your mechanics, stroke, and techniques, and new shots while you're playing a match.
So true. I played a lot of golf, worked at a course, and bet on golf a lot. I experimented to improve my game, but when it came to money games it all stopped. Run with what you brung was my motto, play within your game.


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12-19-2018, 10:53 AM

Totally agree with the OP. It was always the one area that I never got any chances for the most part. Recently I did finally play in a tournament and will again starting next spring/summer once high school basketball season is over with.

Unfortunately, there just wasn't a lot of pool action here in SW Indiana over the years.

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12-19-2018, 11:18 AM

Personally, I believe that you need both solo practice and stiff competition to stay sharp as possible. This does have many variances, though; If you are an infrequent competitor (less than once every week or so)- much harder to stay sharp by just practicing solo.
  
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12-19-2018, 12:45 PM

I think the key is finding the right ratio for your skill level.

As a side note, I've come to the conclusion that the single worst thing a person can do for their game is shooting shots without trying to do something very specific with the cueball every time.
  
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12-19-2018, 02:09 PM

Everyone benefits from practice and everyone can benefit from competition.

Practice is where you work on your technique and develop your knowledge of the game. Every bullseye is the result of 100 misses and all that. But at its core pool is a competitive game and while you can convince yourself of some pretty crazy progress and capabilities during your practice sessions, the true proof of that lies in repeated situations of competition.

There's no shortcut, no other path, nothing you can take -- you just have to keep putting yourself in competition over and over again to develop your confidence, if you're willing to believe that confidence is something you develop based upon your past performance. If you walk into the center of the ring and give as good as you take, you'll carry that confidence out of the ring with you and it'll be part of you in future endeavors. But obviously, this doesn't happen right off. 

Confidence starts to develop with the spark that propels you to compete in the first place. Truth be told, some don't have the spark at all and just spend endless hours practicing by themselves, playing for fun, never entering a tournament, never playing a money match, and staying on their porch.

If you have the spark, the first few times in the ring you're likely to go out on a stretcher (figuratively speaking) having taken the worst of it. This happens to everyone the first few times and it's during this period one of two things can happen: the spark dies out and you convince yourself you have no talent for the game -- basically, the experience is not worth the damage it does to your ego --- or you say to yourself, "I can do better."



You go over the experience in your mind's eye and examine not only what you did or didn't do, but also your opponent's performance. You go back to the practice table and work on your skills and eventually enter the ring again. I think this is the essence of developing confidence and a winning attitude: the willingness to take your lumps, do the work, and try again and again until you succeed. But, regrettably, many people want a magic bullet, a secret technique or system, and are not willing to do the road work that leads to the winner's circle. If you do compete you'll *earn* the confidence that comes from having the will to fight and lose, until you have fought and won.



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12-20-2018, 04:06 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by lfigueroa View Post
Everyone benefits from practice and everyone can benefit from competition.

Practice is where you work on your technique and develop your knowledge of the game. Every bullseye is the result of 100 misses and all that. But at its core pool is a competitive game and while you can convince yourself of some pretty crazy progress and capabilities during your practice sessions, the true proof of that lies in repeated situations of competition.

There's no shortcut, no other path, nothing you can take -- you just have to keep putting yourself in competition over and over again to develop your confidence, if you're willing to believe that confidence is something you develop based upon your past performance. If you walk into the center of the ring and give as good as you've take, you'll carry that confidence out of the ring with you and it'll be part of you in future endeavors. But obviously, this doesn't happen right off. 

Confidence starts to develop with the spark that propels you to compete in the first place. Truth be told, some don't have the spark at all and just spend endless hours practicing by themselves, playing for fun, never entering a tournament, never playing a money match, and staying on their porch.

If you have the spark, the first few times in the ring you're likely to go out on a stretcher (figuratively speaking) having taken the worst of it. This happens to everyone the first few times and it's during this period one of two things can happen: the spark dies out and you convince yourself you have no talent for the game -- basically, the experience is not worth the damage it does to your ego --- or you say to yourself, "I can do better."



You go over the experience in your mind's eye and examine not only what you did or didn't do, but also your opponent's performance. You go back to the practice table and work on your skills and eventually enter the ring again. I think this is the essence of developing confidence and a winning attitude: the willingness to take your lumps, do the work, and try again and again until you succeed. But, regrettably, many people want a magic bullet, a secret technique or system, and are not willing to do the road work that leads to the winner's circle. If you do compete you'll *earn* the confidence that comes from having the will to fight and lose, until you have fought and won.



Lou Figueroa
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