As in nature, the underlying natural operations of the human body go through a series of up and down cycles that look very similar to the patterns of a sine wave (see example).
This natural flow has major impacts on your life. It affects your feelings, your focus, your attitude, and your body’s physical responses – all of which affects your pool playing. Some days you feel enthusiastic, other days you feel depressed.
In the grand game of table billiards, these same cycles can be directly observed in the effectiveness of your playing ability. You can no more avoid experiencing these ups and down than you can stop from getting older.
If you don’t believe this, closely watch a competitive player throughout a long match. At times, consecutive game wins seem so effortless. Then, some kind of turn of luck occurs, and the other player takes over.
When playing on an up cycle, you are more accurate. The effort to pocket balls and move the cue ball around is seemingly effortless. Billiard god luck goes your way. Game wins occur with wonderful regularity. Even the rail birds express their positive admiration of you and your skills. It can get thrilling.
There is a dangerous side to this pool playing “high”. Because things seem so effortless, it is easy to assume this is way every match should go, forever and forever. These effortless wins will never stop. The problem occurs when coming down off the top of the cycle. First one shot seems to be a little more difficult, then a pocket is rattled, then the object ball is getting hit too full. Half a dozen innings later, your adoring crowd has moved to other tables for their entertainment.
When the down cycle begins, the difference is like night and day. Layouts that could be done with ease are harder. Routine patterns get tougher to play. The billiard gods seem to have it in for you personally. It can get downright unfair.
Frustration grows as you beat yourself up over how poorly your pool playing game is going. Even those with excellent control of their temper, have a hard time preventing themselves from being overcome with pool rage.
No one is exempt from these experiences. The seriously dedicated players, when they experience enough of these “episodes”, eventually figure out how to blunt the extreme tops and bottoms of the cycles.
Surprisingly, you don’t have to a total slave and victim of your up and down cycles. There is a solution to surviving and controlling the effects. This solution requires that you be continuously aware of your playing level over the previous several days and are able to self-monitor yourself.
This is how you can identify when the edges of your skills begin to fray and unravel. This is evident on missing a couple of shots that normally are well within your comfort zone. This slight degradation of skills becomes an advance warning to immediately reduce your expectations of success by half.
For example, routinely, your pool playing comfort zone (80% success) is good for most 4 diamond distance shots and at 6 diamond distances (chaos zone), defense play is seriously evaluated. On a down cycle, reduce all these factors by half. In addition, play each shot with exaggerated care and attention.
The same awareness that helped identify when to become cautious will also know when the upside begins. You will notice slight improvements in self-confidence and can justify expanding your comfort zone as reality matches your expectations. This is when you can start returning to normal game patterns and expectations.
It does take some time to train yourself to be self-aware during your pool playing. A big part of it is knowing that these cycles do affect your game. The simplest process is to detach a part of your attention and be aware of our competence. Simply tell yourself at the beginning of each game to watch out for skill degradation. When a key factor changes (missed shots or when reality does not match expected results), an alarm is passed to the conscious mind. Simply back-track on your confidence level and you can continue to be a serious competitor. Observers will only notice that you play a few more safeties than usual.
Cycles are real. Learn how to work with them and you will win more games.
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