Tag Archives: U.S. Open

PoolSynergy: Practice What You Preach

Posted on 15. Sep, 2011 by .

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I think it was comedian Stephen Wright who said, “Somebody told me ‘Practice Makes Perfect.’ Then my Mother told me ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ so I quit practicing.”

John Biddle (The Godfather) this month’s host and founder of PoolSynergy chose the topic of Practice: What works for me? Read his introduction and summary article here along with all the links to the other writers.

 

Getting a cortisone injection this week for my thumb joint arthritis.

I’ve been a billiard instructor for 17 years. Hundreds of players have trusted me to tinker with their mechanics, coach them through passion to get excited to practice and improve. The part of teaching pool that comes difficult to me is assigning drills. It’s hard for me because I know every player is different. I predict in John Biddle’s topic this month, we’ll hear of many different ideas about productive practice routines. Believe me, what is right for one person might not be right for you.

I am terrible at conventional practices. My serious pool playing friends quit asking me to practice years ago. I’d rather spend time with them chatting over a cup of coffee or playing boot hockey. For me, having a good time hanging out with a friend always seems to get in the way of a serious practice session. Shooting drills on my own is also a lost cause. I may try a drill once and a while, but it is usually in the context of learning how it works and the level of difficulty so I can relate this information to a student. Scoring drills or maintaining focus is tough for me on my practice table. The stereo, computer, or stack of reading material on my desk beckons me and my efforts wane midway through the drill.

Despite all this, I’ve reached a very high level of play. My story is probably as unique as everyone else’s. What has worked for me is the following routine: Learn, Teach, Compete and Repeat.

Step 1: Learn. I read. My billiard library has over 600 books plus huge catalog of my own teaching materials. I also watch high level pool tournaments live and on video whenever I can. I’m not a fan of streaming pool matches online, but am a complete sucker for watching live snooker matches from Europe and Asia via the internet. I’ve blogged ad nauseam about the quality of the BBC telecasts and the high standard of play. I also surround myself with great playing teammates and friends. Not a week goes by for me without learning something. I know a lot—in fact I’m an expert. I’m also wise enough to know there are countless things that I do not know. One of the reasons I love the game is that I can be a lifelong student of the game. This accumulation of knowledge and playing skills is so exciting to me, that I’ve got to share it. Being a professional billiard instructor (Billiard Coach) is the perfect vehicle for me to pay it forward.

Byrne's book on the right started my book collection in 1988.

Selection of rule books from my 600+ book collection

Step 2: Teach. Teaching students forces me to demonstrate perfect cueing techniques and verbalize complicated concepts. Performing and informing students helps me internalize the information so it comes out naturally under the pressures of tournament play. I love to share my enthusiasm and knowledge of the game. Like a musician on the concert stage, energy given to the audience is amplified and sent back. This give and take excites me and spurs me on to become a better instructor and a better player. This one thing has kept me from burning out and loving the sport more than ever, even after 23 years of obsessive play.

Teaching my nephew 11 years ago.

Step 3: Compete. Tournaments are the biggest motivator for me. They push me to perform at my best and motivate me to learn more and prepare for the next. Here are a couple of photos from my archives. Me playing with a couple of famous Pinoys in 1999 and one of my first big matches on the TV table. This is the me playing Charlie Williams in the 2007 US Open. I lost 11-9 but pushing myself and playing frequently in professional events is one of the best ways to improve. I regularly play in the Derby City Classic, US Open 9-Ball Championships, and recently several Seminole Pro 10-Ball Tour events.

Me vs. The Korean Dragon Charlie Williams on TV in the 2007 US Open 9-Ball Championships. (Charlie won 11-9)

Efren - me - Francisco circa 1999.

I should write a whole instructional column about the benefits of stepping up and playing above your head in a non-handicapped, one division tournament. In fact, I’ve started running those types of events in Twin Cities. Mark your calendar and get details of the event here – Next event is October 1, 2011 at Biff’s in Spring Lake Park, MN.

Step 4: Repeat. I know the improvements that I’ve made that I worked extremely hard for are my proudest achievements. Remember, if this game was easy we wouldn’t play it for our whole lives. Practice or more importantly, find your own unique methods to improve and you’ll enjoy this beautiful game for life.

Mike Fieldhammer

Professional Billiard Instructor

Samsara Cues Player and Dealer

Authorized Predator Products Distributor

The butt sleeve. For Sale!

My current playing cue. For Sale!

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Thirty-One Tips: 30. Pro Tournaments

Posted on 30. Jan, 2011 by .

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Go to see a professional event in person. If you can, compete in it too.

I think the first professional event I ever played in was the 2000 US Open 9-Ball Championships. Barry Behrman’s annual event is one of the holy grails of the pro circuit. That event was memorable for me because I played the great Ralf Souquet. I was even ahead 2-1 before I folded up like the cheap suit I was wearing. Final score was 11-2. It was early in the event and there weren’t many other big names playing in that round. Souquet and I weren’t on the TV table, but we were on table 2 which offered a decent amount of bleacher seating. It was a corner table with plenty of spectators flanking our battleground on two sides. I had never played against a world class player in such a high profile event in front of such a large crowd. The lessons I learned during that match and from watching the rest of the event were priceless.

  1. How a professional should behave
  2. What it feels like to play under the spotlight and pressures I’d never felt before
  3. How to quell the burning embarrassment of making a silly mistake in a crucial situation
  4. How to play in uncomfortable clothing and shoes
  5. Grasping the idea of intensity and focus pros exhibit every single shot
  6. Seeing firsthand how high these players skills rise to meet the occasion

Playing and watching pro events put smaller weekly or regional events in perspective. Getting used to tournament pressure is about becoming comfortable and confident in your game when it really matters. Butting heads with the best in the world can make a player not feel so overwhelmed in a smaller venue for smaller stakes against a regular player.

The entertainment and education one can get at an event like The Derby City Classic can be valuable. This year, I missed the 2011 DCC and am sick about it. It’s the first one I’ve missed in many years. I would have loved to see Alex Pagulayan win the Banks, Dennis Orcollo win the 9-Ball, and Shane Van Boening win the One-Pocket and All-Around title. I’ve told many friends and students that seeing this event in person is completely different than watching the Accu-Stats DVD’s and streams by TAR and Accu-Stats. They only capture a fraction of the pool played. Looking back, some of my favorite matches were not on the TV table.  Matlock vs. Reyes, Deuel vs. Daulton, Reyes vs. Putnum, and Parica vs. Frost were all amazing 1-Pocket matches that weren’t caught by any cameras. Seeing these types of clashes in person, I can hardly explain the stratospheric heights the execution and drama reach.

Please do yourself a favor, get to a pro event and play if you can.

Mike

Note:  In the ’90’s, I attended many of the of the WPBA, Camel Pro Billiards Tour, MPBA, PBT and PCA events around the Midwest to watch the pros play. The first really high profile event I went to was the WPA 9-Ball World Championships in Arlington Heights, IL in 1997 where Johnny Archer and Allison Fisher won.

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Updates from the U.S. Open

Posted on 02. May, 2008 by .

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I’m currently at the 2007 US Open 9 Ball Championships in Chesapeake, Virginia where the room is chilly but the pool is HOT!

Even though the tournament room is kept so cold you can almost see your breath, the weather outside has been in the gorgeous high 70s and the pool is smokin’!

It’s Day 5 at the event and the long hours have kept me from posting sooner.

I’ve been busy taking tons of photos for Inside Pool and helping out on the set of the Inside Pool Xtreme Press Box where they’re reporting live twice a day.

Here are some highlighted photos I’ve taken so far. The rest of my work can be found at the Inside Pool Magazine Photo Gallery.
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My own results were not as thrilling as I’d hoped. I lost hill-hill to a very solid Canadian player, Tyler Edey (who still happens to be on the winner’s side). I played steady and neither one of us made very many mistakes. When it was 9-9 we each missed the 9-ball. He gave me a shot after the break on the 1 ball and I ran the rack. In the last game of the match, I failed to make a ball on the break and Tyler maneuvered through nicely for the win.

My second match was against Charlie Williams on the TV Table. I’ve never experienced that kind of heat or pressure before. Due to the actual heat from all the lights, the table played extremely tough. The pressure of being on center court made the pockets play even tighter.

Even though the match was earlier in the day and the stands were fairly empty, it was still just as pressure packed.

The most memorable out of that match came when Charlie played a safety on the 8 ball while down 9-8. I shot a jump bank with my full cue leaving me a tough back cut on the 9 ball in side, which I made to tie it up 9-9.

I felt I could’ve won that match had it not been my first time playing on the TV Table. A couple mental errors and a few tight strokes due to the pressure were all that stood between me and winning that match.

Not that I’m done with the competing part of the tournament my main focus has been on taking tons of photographs as well as filming some instructional segments with Samm. These finished products will include a series of several two to three minute instructional snippets called Xtreme Instruction and can be found on InsidePoolMag.com.

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