A Woman’s Guide to Playing with Your Significant Other.
We have all been there — the silent ride home after a terrible practice session. Each of you looking in different directions, one with eyes forward, hands white knuckled upon the steering wheel, the other staring through the passenger window silently fuming.
Sharing a passion is one key to a happy partnership, but the game of pool is fickle and demands nothing less than perfection. Achieving that level of play requires practice, and there are some easy ways to make your post-practice ride home less painful, and more pleasant.
Rule One: More often than not, men and women play the game differently.
There are practiced veterans of the game that would not run a set the same way, so accepting that you and your partner may not is the first step to harmony. Men tend to dive in, learn as much as they can, and try to apply everything knocking around in their head as quickly as possible.
Women are more inclined to approach the game with pragmatism and single-minded focus. Make the ball. Make the ball. Make the ball. It may take a while for her to work on shape and position.
Each approach has its own merits, so work within the comfort zone of your partner.
Rule two: Women are sensitive.
Sorry, but it’s the hard truth. Men can practice with other men, point out faults, give the honest truth about bad shots, and provide brusque tips for improvement, without offense.
That business won’t fly with women. I can’t stress the words “positive reinforcement” enough.
Example: “You’re stroke was great, nice and smooth. This time, try putting just a little english on the ball, and see if you can get closer for your next shot.”
I don’t care if your back teeth are grinding, and your brain is screaming “what are you doing, woman?” you must sugar coat.
Rule three: Everyone learns differently.
There are three types of learners in this world: Audio, Visual, and Kinesthetic.
Audio learners are those who can listen to an explanation of a shot, or run, and apply the knowledge without a visual tutorial. This does not mean that you can expect great things from a complex spoken example, but it will allow you to convey details without setting up shots each and every time.
Visual learners retain knowledge better through diagrams, charts, and in the case of billiards, “show me and I’ll understand.” Visual learners will benefit from you making the shot yourself first. Explain what you are doing, and make sure that you keep the visual clear and precise so they can take in every detail and work to apply the knowledge.
Kinesthetic learners are those who excel when they are involved in the lesson. These learners need to touch, feel, and do. You can help by letting them place the balls, positioning their hands, and allowing them to take the shot first. Most adults have progressed beyond kinesthetic learning, but for some, affording them the freedom to try first will allow you to then move on to audio and visual examples.
Pay attention to what type of learning works best for your partner. This may take some investigative work, as they won’t be wearing signs with the words “visual learner.” But, if you try different methods and watch their progression with each, you can begin to understand what will help them the most.
Rule four: Never, and I mean never, criticize during a match.
Somewhere, lurking in the far corners of the world, there may be the one sole woman who can take mid-game criticism, but she is the unicorn of female players. Thick skin is not part of female DNA, and when it comes to a match, that skin gets thinner.
Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you know it was a bad shot, she knows it was a bad shot. Telling her as she walks back to the seat is the worst possible mistake. If the tables were turned, you may be able to collect, recalibrate, and resume, but she will not. Any criticism will be carried throughout the match and negatively affect her game.
Instead, try your hardest to catalogue the mistake so it can be revisited during practice.
Rule five: It really is just a game.
If you are not at a professional level or a hustler, you are playing a game. Of course winning is the ultimate goal, but the ability to have fun shooting with your partner is paramount.
Competitiveness during practice matches is inevitable, but you can control its level. Master your frustration with your own game or your partner’s, and this will not only help your relationship, it will translate into better self-control during real play.
Ultimately we all want to win, but remembering that the person on the other side of the table is not just some joe-schmo roaming the bar is important. You are playing a game that you love, with the person you love, and if you learn how to connect and work together your pool life, and your home life, will be all the better.