This is Volume 26 of PoolSynergy, a monthly collection of the best writing on pool. Make sure to check out all the other articles in this month’s issue over at Michael Reddick’s wonderful blog, Angle of Reflection.

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I probably have a very different take of this month’s topic of “Recharging Your Batteries”. Rather than have other activities in my life that I use to get away from pool for awhile, I actually use pool to recharge me for the rest of my life.

When I am playing I try to be as totally focused on the game as I can, and everything else melts away. I’m not worried about my finances or those of the country. I’m not thinking about my 2 one year old great grandchildren who live with me and have boundless energy and are constantly into everything. I’m not worried about my grandchildren and how they are going to make it in a world with fewer job opportunities.

I’m focused on things like what pattern to play, how hard and with what cuing to hit the cue ball, and on making the ball. I try to blot out the football game on the pool hall TVs, and I try to keep conversation to a minimum. I’m normally a very talkative person so this is tough for me, but the more I talk (or listen) the worse I play. I’m talking about friendly games here, not tournament matches or league play.

I guess this is what I love so much about the straight pool league I play in on Monday nights. The matches last a couple hours, and once we start there’s nothing at all but pool until the end. Even if I lose the match, I come away feeling mentally rested, ready to take on the important tasks of life. Pool is what I use to get away for a little respite, and it works better than anything else I’ve tried. The complexity of playing the game well requires concentration and significant mental effort.

In thinking about this topic, though, I’ve realized I’ve been making a mistake during my practice sessions that I’m going to correct from this point forward. I have a table in my garage and I put in some practice time whenever I get the chance, probably averaging an hour a day. I also like to listen to books on tape and a favorite podcast, which I don’t otherwise have enough time for. So, I’ve gotten in the habit of listening to them while I practice. Not only that, but I also use the time to convert CD based audio books I’ve borrowed from the library to MP3 so I can listen to them later on my portable player.

I understand now that all this is taking away from my concentration at the table. Listening to a book requires so much more conscious involvement than listening to music, I’m not fully giving my attention to the practice. And stopping every 10 minutes to put in another CD for conversion is disrupting my flow and further destroying my focus. By trying to do two things at once, and save time, I’m actually greatly diminishing the value of my practice. I realize now why my practice sessions don’t give me the recharged feeling that I have after a day at the pool hall, and that I might be able to fix that and improve the value of my practice at the same time. By trying to concentrate on too many things, I wind up concentrating on none, and miss out. I’m probably not fully appreciating the books I’m listening to either.

So, from now on, the book listening and CD conversions are banished from my pool room while I practice. I’m going back to music, which soothes me without requiring any apparent conscious attention. I’m also going to try some days of no music for comparison, to see if that’s even better, but I think the music will win out since I think I play better when the song on the jukebox at the pool hall is something I like. It helps me tune out all the other noise.

I wasn’t sure what I could contribute this month, since pool plays such a different role for me than for our host who suggested the topic. I’m not as committed to improving my game which is one reason he’s getting better faster than I am. I’m so glad he picked it, though, because I found an opportunity to recharge daily, now, as well as improve my practice and thus my game. What a bargain. Thanks Michael.