When I was learning the game, I would have dramatically increased my improvement rate if I had stayed at the venue until the end of the one day tournaments I entered, instead ‘throwing my toys out of the pram’ and just running away from the venue if I did not win it!
Why would this have helped? So that I could learn what it is like at the end of an event. This would have been invaluable to me in terms of preparation for future tournaments and learning:
Motivation and incentive.
Knowing I was going to stay until the end regardless of my result would hugely incentivise me to keep winning my matches, as to stay and watch others win would be mental agony.
The playing standard required to win.
On the occasions I did stay on to the end (perhaps due to travelling to the event with the eventual winner, or having only being able to travel the day after the event), I learned so much about the standard required to win. One of these events was when Chris Small beat Alan McManus 9.1 in a Benson & Hedges satellite event final in Glasgow. Chris won most frames in one or two visits in an awesome performance, and sitting in the front row of seats while it happened helped to recalibrate my mind to what is needed to win.
How the top two players of the tournament hold themselves.
At the business end of a tournament, there is a marked difference with the way the top players hold themselves – they almost prowl around the tournament venue like hungry panthers. Seeing this gave me an insight into what is takes to win psychologically. Ray Reardon (6 times world champion) once told me that staying away from players at venues and having different accommodation from everyone else was probably worth an extra 3 world titles to him. He felt that not becoming too friendly with his competitors prevented them getting comfortable with, and less fearful of, him.
How quiet the atmosphere in the venue is.
There is a huge difference in tournament atmosphere from the quarter finals onwards compared to the hubbub of the first two rounds of an event. For players who are not used to this, it can actually take them by surprise and be quite distracting.
Even for players who have won tournaments at lower standards, being at the business end of a higher standard event can be a very different experience to what they are used to. Perhaps there are also more, or publicly known, officials at the event which can serve to intimidate the unprepared.
How the event finishes and winds up.
Watching the sometimes very low key way that events finish and prizes get awarded can be a surprise to many. I remember one tournament with around 100 entries which I won at around 1am on a Sunday night where there was only me, the finalist, the barmaid and the tournament organiser in the club – and they could not wait to close and lock up the club after we had finished. From winning the tournament to being in the carpark was probably five minutes!
What to practice.
Watching the standard of players at the end of an event also gives you time to work out things to practice in your own schedule. I remember watching Martin Clarke win a pro am final in the Old Kent Road, London 3-0 in forty minutes once. That still remains one of the most impressive things I have seen in snooker as he was so relaxed and so far above any of his competitors that year. Being up close and seeing it live shifted my thinking toward practicing much more break building routines rather than just individual shots.
This approach is not negativity, but practicality.
Agreeing with yourself that ‘I will stay at this tournament until the end’ does NOT mean you think you will lose. The professional way of talking about your travel plans with family, friends, or other players is ‘When I FINISH in the event, I will drive down to see you/ call you/ let you know the result/ etc etc.’. Stating it in this way of course includes the possibility of winning, you get more motivation to get to the next round, and in the worst case scenario you will learn a huge amount by watching others win it.
While I did eventually win around 10 pro am competitions, I if I had stayed to the end of the first 30 one day tournaments I entered, I would have won my first a lot earlier as it would have forced me to face my weaknesses much more quickly than I was able to.
Have a think about committing to this idea for three tournaments, and see what you learn yourself…