Today’s “On This Day” on Facebook reminded me of this post, which got me thinking about some things.  Mainly, why does it seem like I never shoot those amazing “escape” shots anymore?  I feel like I haven’t shot a really great like those outlined in that post in a long time.  Then, it dawned on me: Because I don’t have to.

What I mean is that I don’t put myself in positions that require those kinds of shots nearly as much anymore.  It means that, overall, I play smarter, have better cueball control, and make better decisions than I did 2 or 3 years ago.  Obviously, I still have to deal with an opponent missing a shot and leaving me bad – and sure I’ve shot masse shots that get me out of trouble, or 3 or 4 rail kick shots, but they come less often now.  Even though I have no bearing on what my opponent does, I want to think that I still make better decisions.

I have noticed in recent months that I do pay more attention to the whole table, rather than just “can I make the next ball”.  I am playing safeties more, and playing them more effectively.  

I am, however, still struggling with the different table formats, moving from barbox to big table, to another kind of table and back again.  It’s because of that, I’ve decided to withdraw from the APA Masters team I’ve been on for the last 5 years.  Going from Diamond barboxes, to ancient gold crowns, to entirely differently playing ancient brunswicks, has my “feel” for the game off.  And it’s costing me.  So, I decided to focus on just 2 leagues – both in-house out of Cue and Cushion.  My 9-ball league on Mondays and a new One Pocket league on Thursdays (in which I’ve only won a single match out of 6).  It’s been quite a learning experience, and while it can be frustrating, I’m definitely learning things that I could not learn any other way.

And for completeness, I did just get an OB Classic Pro – 30″ shaft a few weeks ago.  My Treadway shaft, as amazing as it was, got warped because of my own stupidity (I would sometimes lean on the shaft when frustrated after a shot, and it finally stuck).  I lost a lot of confidence trying to manage the bend. I even went back to an older 29″ shaft and it helped for a while, but it didn’t feel right in my stance, but I limped through decently enough.

The night I got the shaft, I played amazingly well. It was clearly an example of precisely two things: 1) Fallacy of Novelty and 2) Confidence.  What I mean by 1) is that whenever someone gets a new tool, they instantly feel like they use it better than they used the old tool – and they attribute that success with the new tool’s properties.  There was definitely some truth to that in my case, simply because I didn’t have to worry about which way I was holding the cue – and because it is a low-deflection shaft, I didn’t have to guess on how far the cueball would move off course.  Through the course of the evening, I gained confidence because what I saw in my head was actually translating to what I saw on the table – so positive reinforcement on every shot.  And that brews confidence easily.  It felt wonderful.  

“A feeling I’ve not felt since …” – Darth Vader