: Samm Diep
When you watch young players fire balls into the center of the pocket at 100 miles per hour, there’s a quality so admirable about it. I’m envious of these kids because they’re fearless. They are not afraid of losing or missing because they have yet to experience it and all the baggage that goes along with it. All they know is the joy of pocketing balls and they do it with such freedom. They’re free of doubt and regret, and full of confidence and determination.
There comes a time in your game when all the learning begins to interfere with your enjoyment and you forget what it’s like to be a kid again. You forget that feeling you loved so much, back when pocketing the balls was all that mattered. Nowadays, it’s not enough to just make the ball. You’re thinking about playing position for the next shot or wining the game. Missing a ball now means not only the possibility of losing the match for yourself but maybe for your teammates too.
Once this happens, the game as you once knew it would never be the same again. You now experience something that you never did before, something that the young players you were watching have yet to encounter. You have learned how to be afraid. The game that you once loved so much has now caused you heartache and taught you how to fear missing and losing and all the consequences that go along with it.
It’s important through your development to be able to identify when this occurs. It’s not easy to recognize that pivotal moment when you suddenly fear losing, but if you start noticing a pattern in your practice and play, then perhaps it’s time to go back to basics and remember what it was like ‘to be young again.’
To play like the young players, you have to let go. You must be able to let go of all your fears and inhibitions when you’re at the table. No more worrying about what other people are saying about you or who you’re going to disappoint. Kids don’t think about that stuff. They’re just having fun. Letting go means enjoying the game again, and remembering why you started playing in the first place.
So, I challenge you this next month to be young again and play with freedom. Trust that whatever happens, life will go on. Practice letting go of all those inner-demons that are holding you back from winning. When you catch one of those negative thoughts entering your brain, imagine being that carefree young kid and just shoot the ball.
These reservations did not come from nowhere. They were learned and we as adults now have the ability to prevent our up and coming pool stars from having the same baggage that we have. Support the young beginner players when you see them taking interest in the game. Get junior leagues going in your area. Educate them on how to respect the equipment and show pool room owners that they can be trusted. Help get the juniors involved.
September is National Juniors Pool Month. As the new Executive Director for the Billiard Education Foundation (billiardeducation.org), we will have a booth at the APA National Team Championships where we’ll be raffling some valuable prizes, including a Frank T. Dawg signed by both the US and European Mosconi Cup teams. All the raffle sales and money raised go to support junior pool programs, academic scholarships, and Pool in School. If you’ll be in Vegas for the APA NTC, please swing by the booth and show your support for the kids. They are the future of our sport.