There is nothing better than getting back into action after a layoff and playing really well. I recently finished tied for fifth at the Ginky Memorial, and the experience provided a good teaching moment: If you’ve been away from the table for a while, you need to learn how to regain trust in your game. This holds true for players who are in a slump as well.
I’ve seen many players, myself included, who forget what they did to get to the level at which they had been before the break or before their slump. We forget the things we did to get to our top level.
Before the Ginky event, I actually found some notes in my phone from a few years ago, when I finished tied for fifth at the World Tournament of 14.1. I rehearsed what I told myself before each match: Stay down on the shot; focus on fundamentals; don’t think about anything but the shot in front of you. These are all the little things that we tend to forget.
All it really takes is reminding yourself of who you are and what you are capable of as a player. That is why I am such a firm believer in keeping little notes from your matches. Revisit those notes before you play again. They will help you get back to a state of mind that is all positive. The things that get you to focus on the positive instead of the negative (“I can’t make a ball!”) are important. They should become your mantra. And always think back to when you were playing well. For one, I guarantee your thought process was much more positive then. I used to write down notes before, during and after matches. Every time my notes said that I was worried about my opponent or worried about the score, those notes were from matches I lost. In matches in which I focused on the positives, the score took care of itself.
I realize more players are not going to keep notes, so if you haven’t played in a while the number one thing to keep focusing on is your fundamentals. I’ve had top players come to me for help when they’d been away from the game or in a slump, and in almost every case the issue was with their fundamentals. They were not following through properly, or they were flinching before they struck the ball. Since they had not been playing on a daily basis, or were playing poorly for an extended time, they had lost trust in their ability to execute the fundamentals. Buddy Hall once said, “It takes several things to execute a shot correctly, but only one thing to miss a ball.” He’s so right. I think every player should have his or her own little list of reminders.
I was pleased with my fifth-place performance in the Ginky, but I do have one regret. Before that tournament, I reviewed my notes from the 14.1 tournament, where I’d also finished fifth. Next time, I will review notes from a tournament I won!
I guess I need to add that note to my list.