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Dear Jeanette
By Jeanette Lee
International billiard icon "The Black Widow" answers your questions about life, love, and everything else that happens in the poolhall.

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2005 - Archive
December 2005

Q. I always have trouble playing my best friend in our local tournaments. Somehow, it's tough to really get in my best competitive mindset. How do I forget he's a friend and get the "Eye of the Tiger"? - Jon Ryker; Chicago, Ill.

A. I don't understand this, because, friend or not, I tend to want to rip all of my opponents' throats out on the table. I supposed the solution for you lies in what you choose to focus on. If playing in tournaments were about your friendship with your opponent, I'd lose every time I played against my close friend Helena Thornfeldt on tour. This is about the fact that you have worked hard on your game and deserve to reap the rewards. And understand that this friend of yours probably would just as soon take you out faster than you could blink, because tournaments are not about friendship. I used to play in a lot of tournaments and I had no problem beating my friends, because I'd much rather have them watching me play than the other way around. But I did feel bad to be the one to knock them to the losers' bracket or out of the tournament. To remedy this, my friend and I had a rule that if we knocked each other out and got in the money, we would cover the other's entry fee. That made us much happier than simply giving a "Hey, sorry, man!" Focus on the positive of your win - like, if you beat his butt, it will inspire him to improve, making you a very positive influence on him. At least I choose to think of it that way! Good luck.

November 2005

Q. My husband knew when we met that I absolutely loved pool. I was playing six days a week and shooting in tournaments whenever possible. I still love to play, whether it be 8-, 9- or 3-ball. My husband and I now sell billiard supplies and put equipment in bars, etc. This is where the problem comes in. My husband no longer wants to play the game; he's just interested in the business side of it. I have no problem with the business side but I still want to play! I'm getting to where I feel guilty if I take time from the business to enjoy the game. Could you offer any advice? - Lisa Kamler; Saint Joseph, Mo.

A. To me, success in life is about happiness. I find happiness through balance in my life. It has to do with you and your husband agreeing that there is a time for business and a time for leisure; a time for work, a time for family, a time for friends. If your husband enjoys working, by all means, support him with what he wants to do as long as he still makes time for you as a couple. Likewise, as long as you still make time for him as wife and friend, you should be allowed to have your own time to do what you enjoy. This is better for your husband, because he will have a happier, less-stressed wife. The alternative is that you may have a little more money with you both working, but you'll feel sad and frustrated. Write your goals down and decide what's really important to you. Prioritize these and share your findings with him. Explain to him that although he chooses to spend all his time working, he needs to support your wishes as well!

October 2005

Q. I am the captain of a local APA team. I and other team captains have noticed that it's often very difficult to coach our wives/girlfriends. Quite often, a call of "time out" generates hostility from our significant others, rather than acceptance of needed advice. However, the same hostility is not present when anyone else on the team is coaching. Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated. - Michael Leech; Newport News, Va.

A. It seems to me that most of the time, hostility comes from feeling lack of respect. Is it possible that the other people talk to your wives more respectfully than you do? Does your wife feel that you respect her pool game and feel she's an important part of your team? I suggest finding a private time to speak to her. Address your concerns and ask her for some suggestions on what you can do to make her feel more comfortable with your calling her on a time out. She might feel you're picking on her, and it humiliates her. Perhaps this isn't your fault, but it would make things better if you made a lot more effort to spend time focusing on the positives in her game, so that when you do coach her, it's not just criticism. Just imagine bowling with a group of friends and your wife picking you out and coaching you on what you think is a simple decision. Even if she knows more than you, wouldn't you find it humiliating? It shouldn't be, but it is for some. Try to understand that it's tough for the pride to take and enjoy the fact that you as a couple can share a sport that most can't.

September 2005

Q. My girlfriend works as a bartender at a poolhall, and is always getting hit on by guys there. She doesn't take them seriously, but I just about lose my mind when I see it happening. I don't really enjoy playing at the room anymore because of it. How do I get over it? - Andy; New York, N.Y.

A. This is like actors who have actress girlfriends and can't stand to watch them kiss another guy on stage. Some can stand to watch it because they understand it's just business. Some say business or not, that's a very private thing. If you can't look the other way, and it drives you up the wall, you will have to stop playing there when she's working, or she will have to find another job. It's just how it goes. Sometimes guys get jealous because they are insecure, but there are differences. If my George just talks to a woman, I may not get jealous. But if woman after woman actually flirts with him, and part of his job is to stay there and listen rather than walk away, someone's going to get bitten by the Black Widow. I don't know if you'll get over it, or if you should have to. You might need to talk to her about this and find out who is doing what, but the immediate thing for now is not to stop playing there altogether but to stop playing there when she's working. And she should be sensitive to your feelings by focusing harder on making you feel secure and special, particularly when you are at the club. Just remember, of all the guys that go talk to her at the bar, you're the one she chose.

August 2005

Q. How important is formal, one-on-one training? Is it more difficult to reach the top of one's game without stroke-mechanics analysis (video or other), position play and strategy advice from a qualified professional? Are pool schools a worthwhile investment (yours included, of course)?

- Ethan Weikleenget; Buffalo, N.Y.

A. Of course, getting formal coaching is helpful to anyone's game assuming that you take time to find a good instructor. I've heard there are no short- cuts to becoming a champion. Well, I disagree. Getting qualified help is the best shortcut you can take. You can make the same mistakes over and over and not even realize it, and in one lesson have the instructor pinpoint and correct something that's really been slowing you down. I had Jerry Briesath videotape my game after 15 years of playing great pool and winning tournaments, and, wow, was it humbling. I found that I slightly turn my wrist on particular shots - shots that I didn't feel were up to par with the rest of my game, and I never knew why. The tape doesn't lie. I feel it really helped the consistency of my stroke and my confidence to shoot the shots properly. And yes, pool schools in general are a very worthwhile investment. You gain a lot of knowledge in a short period of time, and you get to know champions and their different points of view on the physical and mental aspects of the game. The personal attention will remain with you a lifetime. Jerry Briesath, Mark Wilson, Allison Fisher, and Mike Massey are among the top players and coaches who teach at pool schools.

July 2005

Q. What advice do you have for beginning players in general?

- Jordan; Palo Alto, Calif.

A. Develop a preshot routine, practice your butt off, and enjoy giving your best effort on every shot without goofing around. Play competitively and practice with the same mindset.

Q. How do you balance family life with pool?

- Brian Murphy; San Antonio

A. This is my life journey - to learn how to do this. I'm very hardworking, competitive and ambitious, so it's easy to let my business take over my life, even though that's not what's most important to me. You have to know what your priorities are. For me, it's God, family, friends, and continuing to develop myself as a person as well as a player. Oh, and I can't forget being a wonderful mother to my new daughter, Cheyenne. So with these things in mind, I make time by putting them into my schedule first, before committing to anything else, and then fill my schedule from there. I can't tell you how many times an entire day went by and I felt like I had accomplished nothing. That's because what I was doing was not directly in line with my goals, so it wasn't satisfying. I want to be happy and satisfied, and that comes by achieving my goals. It's great to spend time with friends or get involved with charities, but balance is more important than we want to admit. And having a great husband who will put up with your nonsense also really helps!

June 2005

Q. Consistency is one of my biggest problems. In league play, I tend to play better against higher-ranked players, and not so good against those ranked lower than me. I feel that I'm not doing anything differently. What's your advice? - Dave Hernandez; Colorado Springs

A. I absolutely understand. It's my curse also. Maybe it's because I don't show my opponent enough respect. Or is it that I don't show the game itself enough respect? If our stroke fundamentals and our preshot routines are solid, we should be more consistent. But there's still the psychological side of the game. The problem is that when we play weak players, we take them for granted. And by the time we finally play our game, it may be too late. I have decided to deal with this problem by deciding beforehand what my final score will be with this person. It's embarrassing to admit, but very effective. I think about what I look like when I play my best pool. I want to give this person an education on what a professional really is. I wanna crush her, 9-0! I want her to walk away with the new goal of wanting to be the next , or to never run up against me again! Ha ha! Sick, huh? But effective. When I put myself through this kind of exercise, I really come out of it as a killer. I decide who needs to show up at the table that day - not the nicey-nice Jeanette, but instead the true Black Widow, who devours her victims, big and small. Hey, I never said I wasn't crazy, just smart. Take my advice, just think about crushing them.

May 2005

Q. I have been playing pool seriously for about eight months, and have been improving rapidly, but I've been told that I'm getting too cocky about my abilities and pissing other players off. I know that I still have a ton to learn about the game, but how do I show other players that I am confident without alienating them? - Conner Ogden, Chandler, Ariz.

A. I think it's great that you want to try to be more congenial or at least be respected by your peers. If your main focus is showing confidence, then you should look at what traits you see in others who exude confidence. I find that the more people talk about themselves, the more they show their insecurity. Efren Reyes, on the other hand, has a very confident game, as do Johnny Archer, Allison Fisher, myself and others. Confidence shows through solid fundamentals. Making clear decisions allows you to stay down on the shot rather than jumping up to see if the ball is going in. Let your game do the talking. People ask me what I do to intimidate my opponents. I don't waste my energy off the table. I just focus on keeping my opponent sitting in the chair while I run out. There's nothing more intimidating than that. Also, remember that if you want to improve, it's great to maintain the respect of your peers, so they can help you when you need it. Encouragement and support from others will result in faster progress. In fact, the harder someone works, the more people notice, because everyone can talk the talk, but it's hard to walk the walk and put in the work that makes a champion.

April 2005

Q. I ran into a nice gentleman at the local poolhall who is a very good pool player. To my surprise, I saw this man in the pulpit one Sunday. I am confused, but don't know if I should approach him about it. Is it wrong for preachers to be pool players?

- Michael, New Orleans, La.

A. Oh my goodness! I'm not sure what your impression of our sport is, but why would you imply that a man of God might be too good for our sport? Billiards was originally considered the Sport of Kings. It is a way to express yourself artistically and an opportunity for social gatherings. What I've always considered great about this sport is that you can be any age, sex, size, race, and religion and still enjoy it. I, myself, am a Christian. And although that doesn't make me nearly perfect, I'm proud to say that it is my belief that God has a plan for me, which includes billiards, and that if I can get out of God's way, I might find out sooner what that purpose is. Certainly, this sport is for preachers as much as anyone to enjoy. There is nothing "evil" or "bad" about playing pool. On a separate note, even if pool was "bad," preachers and other Christians never profess to be perfect. They strive to live God's purpose. I'm as selfish and stubborn and flaky as the next person. It doesn't make me, or not make me, a Christian. FYI: "Gospel Trick Shot Ministries," a group of Christian players, has a Web site if you'd like to check it out. There are many Christian pool players. Sorry if I sound harsh. I do appreciate that you asked instead of just sitting in judgement.

March 2005

Q: When I go to local tournaments, I can't keep my mind on playing. I get too many thoughts in my head about what's going on at home and what I need to do. I guess I need to get more focus. Any ideas? - Jamie; Versailles, Ky.

A. I guarantee that if you quit your job and start trying to make your living by winning local tournaments, you'll find that your focus will suddenly get much keener! Hee hee! Seriously, though, I understand you love the game. Unfortunately, love is not what makes the 9-ball go down. Love is what keeps you getting up after you fall. Sharpening your pre-match preparation is essential for focus. Why are you there? What did you go there to do? And do you really want it? If you are hungry enough, focus will not be your problem. I have great focus. But this is because I can't stand to lose. I want to win so badly that thoughts outside the table just don't enter my mind. Sometimes that hunger just isn't there when you start a tournament match. That's why I always separate myself from the crowd before a match and make time to prepare myself. How do I want to play? What am I like when I play my best pool? How will I react if my opponent gets lucky or if I find myself down in a match? If I get ahead, will I be steady and finish strongly? I want to be prepared for all circumstances and know in advance how I will choose to respond. Then, once I get to the match, I can focus on playing my best pool.

February 2005

Q. When you practice, what do you work on the most?

- Chuck Courtney; Lombard, Ill.

A. As my game continues to develop, so does my practice regimen. Right now, my focus is on my pre-shot routine and the perfection of my stroke. These things seem basic, but they never can be solid enough. I already know how to aim, I already know where to shoot the ball, and I have enough knowledge about the game. That's not to say I can't get better in those areas, but it's not what hurts me the most. I can know all I want, but if I can't get my cue ball where I want it to go consistently, then where I'm aiming doesn't matter. This goes back to the perfect swing. I strive for a slow backswing and pendulum follow-through. I practice them over and over again. In my pre-shot routine, I want to make my decision standing up by picturing the whole shot, direction and speed. I want to find my point of aim while standing and then approach the shot with that target in mind. I want to focus tighter on the ball as I get down lower on the shot. Once I'm down and I'm ready to let go, I will trust myself and give it a pure swing and not get up until I see true contact from my cue ball to the object ball. These things will not make you a champion in and of themselves, but, with hard work, they will get you there quicker and steadier than anything else.

January 2005

Q: I can't seem to find many people who can keep their head on during a match of pool. I concentrate very hard on not blowing up at a shot that is missed in pure stupidity. However, I get frustrated that my friends are frustrated. Is there anything that I can do to help create a less hostile environment?

- Adam, Las Vegas, NV

A. The best way to teach anything is by example. This means keeping your composure at all times. This is very hard to do because we are so passionate about the game and about winning. I myself can get frustrated, but I need to get over it quickly in order to allow my best pool to come out. You have a few options. If you are around a lot of people who are rude and hostile when they play, you may consider finding new friends who can be more positive for you. If you choose to tough it out, then disengage. Separate yourself completely from how they act and focus on yourself. Don't react to anything they say or do negatively. Just be the gentleman you are, and they will see it. They will have to deal with their own demons on their own. Be careful trying to give advice to those people whose trust and respect you haven't yet earned. They may not understand your intent. If you must say anything, then go positive. Compliment them when they make a good shot, when you notice them focus on a particular rack more than usual. Help them see their own positive actions.