Friday, 28 November 2014

How to Play on a Team

By: Erik Hjorleifson

Hello everybody hope this article finds you well.  One of the biggest events of the year is upon us, the Mosconi Cup, which is an action packed team event. In lieu of this I figured I would write an article about some of the do's and dont's of team play. Some of the "dont's" will be obvious but my goal here is to explain why and to add some suggestions for positive reinforcement during team play.

 I have had several occasions to play under highly competitive team circumstances. I have won the team division at the BCA and VNEA Championships in Las Vegas, played in the World Team Championships and was a member of the Toronto Blue Sharks Bonus Ball team. I would say the toughest of these experiences was Bonus Ball not only because the game was harder but also because the shot clock was so short. In this format players were allowed to coach other players at any time during a match, even during a singles match when they were sitting on the sidelines. If I had the choice I would want unlimited coaching because another player might see something that you don't but in this case with the short shot clock it made things quite interesting. 

I would like our readers to be careful when giving advice though, particularly to a lower level player. In the APA you are allowed one captain's timeout per game, one major mistake that I have seen in these spots is that the captain is giving advice that the other player cannot execute. For example, telling a player to draw a ball 9 feet when they can only draw a ball 3 feet. That is a bit of an extreme example but the idea is that your player must have confidence in the shot they will be shooting. If you see them hesitating on your suggestion, try offering another suggestion that they feel comfortable with.

Another obvious mistake that can be made in team play is making your opponent feel bad about making an error. I know the large majority of us are aware enough that this is a major mistake but we have to be careful even about implicit things like body language when one of our teammates make an error. One good strategy for this I think is to actually make an excuse for your player. 

For example saying something like "I know that shot was too straight to get the position you wanted and that's what made you miss", or "you got unlucky when you tried to break out that ball and it made things tough for you from there". The fact is that when your teammates make a mistake they feel bad not only for themselves but for you as well and when you show a bit of understanding to them it will help keep them in a positive mind frame.

Coming back to the Bonus Ball, different styles of team play were all on display throughout the first season. There was teams like the Phoenix Fire who had a dictator-like style with Scott Frost as the captain directing most of the shots. You had the New York Pride who were more of a team of individuals but at the same time were so talented that they were very successful. My team was interesting because we have all been friends off the table for over ten years so we felt very comfortable. But I believe some times that level of comfort gave us some problems on the coaching end of things because we felt like we could just say anything to each other.

 The team that ended up winning the first season was the Minnesota Outlaws with Ralf Soquet, Thorsten Hohmann and Jesse Engel and their professional, level headed, business like style carried these players through to the end. For those of you who missed some of the action you can view every regular season and playoff match at

One of the most powerful things in team play is to develop  good team unity and morale, something I feel the Europeans have  done better than the Americans in recent years at the Mosconi Cup. Don't be afraid to congratulate your teammates with a high five or a pat on the back when they win a game, with respect to your opponents of course. 

I have seen it written before that one of the greatest highs in life is winning or getting something accomplished as a team and it is something that we all seek out. Stay tuned to in the upcoming week for all the updates from the 2014 Mosconi Cup. It will be an interesting event this year, as the U.S. has brought in some new blood along with veterans Corey Deuel and Shane Vaa Boening in an attempt to switch the fortunes that they have had in recent years.

Friday, 14 November 2014

How to Deal With and Get Out of A Slump

By: Erik Hjorleifson

Hey everybody, I hope the beginning of the 2014 pool season has been treating you well. As all  pool players know, and as is similar with life in general, everything goes in cycles. In pool sometimes it feels like you can do no wrong and sometimes it feels like you are struggling to do anything right. Today we are going to look at some of the ways to develop consistency and learn how to try to better deal with the ups and downs in your game.

Personally I have been in a bit of a slump lately. After two close losses at the U.S. Open in mid October I have played a couple of tournaments in Ontario where I felt like I was a pretty big favourite and had some disappointing finishes, not finishing in the top 4 in either event. This had made me think a lot lately about numerous aspects that will help me get back on track. There are so many factors that go into winning or losing a tournament. It is almost without fail that when we do well or win a tournament  we can look back at one or two instances where we could have lost, and as fate would have it the pool gods were looking upon us. Not by any means taking away from what Shane Van Boening did to accomplish his 3 peat at the U.S. Open this year, but let's not forget that he won 3 matches hill-hill along his path to victory. 

That being said it is uncanny how often top players will come ahead with a hill hill victory, rather than be put to the sidelines with another story of a match that almost was. You can see the same thing happening in tennis when the best players go to a tiebreak, they just seem to have that x factor that brings them through in crucial times. So the question is how do we develop the traits of a consistent winner?

#1 - Developing a proper fundamental base that can be consistently repeated  

#2 - Making sure you are prepared; preparation includes proper sleeping patterns, proper eating habits and putting in an adequate amount of practice leading up to an event

#3 - Avoiding being in a negative mind frame and being unfocused

#4 - Developing a consistent level of confidence
       Things that can get in the way of confidence are:

         - Worrying about who your opponent is
         - Not having strategies to recover from easily missed opportunities
         - Worrying about the prize money

People will have many ways to deal with these factors but I can tell you that one foolproof way that will make you stronger in these areas is to put yourself in the mix of having to overcome them. The more often you play good players, the less intimidated you will be by them. The more times you play for big prize money, the less you will be affected by it.

People deal with losing in many ways and the fact is that no one likes to lose.  I think the most positive thing we can take from losing is that it gives us a chance to evaluate our weaknesses. On the day we unfortunately make these mistakes it causes us to have a negative result, but in the long run we can draw on them to make an overall improvement in our consistency. As long as you have prepared properly and have given 100 percent effort you should never feel bad about losing. At the same time try to be aware of the different factors that made that preparation break down. I hope this helps and hopefully you will be doing more winning than losing throughout the next year.