Go Team? - Your Guide to Avoiding Pool Team Meltdown

Just recently, I ran my first APA League Team Championship here in Vermont. First prize was a trip for the whole team to attend the APA National Team Championships is Las Vegas (go Chalk is Cheap!) It got me thinking about the qualities and special chemistry that go into making a winning team. Well... actually... it got me thinking about all the ways a team could dismantle itself in competition. Whether you're the Dream Team or the Bad News Bears, here are ten team mistakes you'll want to avoid:

1. Bad attitudes are contagious.
In a team dynamic, if one or more people start complaining – about the tables, the opponents, even the weather – pretty soon you're going to have a bunch of cranky people who aren't having fun at all. It's easier to commit to maintaining a good attitude than to fix a bad one that's taken hold.

2. Infighting is out.
Teams that fight amongst themselves are rarely left standing at the end. Your opponents will view your bickering as weakness and even if you're able to right the ship, everyone will have expended too much of the vital energy required to endure long hours of competition.

3. Bad luck heartbreak.
Pool is a game of skill but there will always be unfortunate turns of fate that you can't control. Bad rolls, like your opponent lucking in a ball or the cue ball being kicked in off the break, are best left in the past. Dwelling on bad rolls as a team can distract from all the opportunities you have in the present moment.

4. The bad apple.
Often times, teams will keep a nasty member who ruins everyone else's fun because he or she plays well, owns the bar, dates the captain, etc. If at all possible, cut your losses and regroup with the players who you enjoy being around.

5. Team fall-apart.
Team momentum is a delicate thing. If one or two players lose, it can cast a pall on the rest of the matches. It might not be your team's day but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't fight to the bitter end to turn things around. You don't get to tell the great competition stories where you came back from certain defeat without putting your heart and soul on the line.

6. The disappearing act.
It's a major pain in the butt to have a teammate who has attendance problems or is otherwise unreliable. Anyone who destabilizes your team can cost you some of the confidence and security needed to compete at optimal levels.

7. Playing the blame game.
There's nothing worse for team spirit than harping on a teammate for mistakes made during play. If you want to help your teammate improve wait until a time when you're not in competition and everyone is emotionally calm.

8. Poor sportsmanship.
Sharking your opponents, cheating, and sandbagging will always rob your team of its dignity. Go take up dodge-ball or something.

9. Ready to fight.
It's great to have your team's back if you get in a disagreement with your opponents, but keep in mind that playing the peacemaker will likely be more productive. Smooth things over as quickly as possible to avoid the distraction that conflict can cause to your team's play.

10. The black hole.
Teams that exist in a world of disrespect darken the door of every place they go. Bad-mouthing your own teammates, other teams, the league or the tournament when you lose makes everyone respect you less. Make improvements from within if you want to see improvements in your play.