In 2014, I was playing in a preliminary round for the US Amateur Championships. I’m not afraid to say that it was not one of my best showings on a pool table. Yes, I played just fine, but my attitude and the stress got the best of me in my last match.
My opponent and myself were both making comments after missed shots or getting bad rolls. To say the least, it just was not working out for either of us.
Everything was fine in my head, until one of the spectators decided to chime in, and started complaining about me “sharking” my opponent. A few choice words were exchanged back and forth, and even the guy I was playing told the gentleman to leave so we could finish our match.
I lost that game, we shook hands, laughed about the situation, and wished each other luck in our next matches. I caught my opponent later on in the day, and we both agreed we lost our heads during the match, and we took the time to sit down and chat in more detail about why players do those type of things.
We agreed on two things: the spectator was out of line, and if either one of us would have told the other that we were being disruptive to our game, we would have stopped.
Pool is a stressful and humbling sport—not sometimes, but every single day. It can take even the greatest of attitudes and turn it into torture with one shot.
The mental aspect of the game is so tough at times that we forget, as players, who we are. I have such a passion for the game that I get mad at myself for stupid mistakes. I forget that I am playing someone, or who else may be within earshot of the table.
Intentional sharking—causing a disruption to your opponent so is to cause him or her to miss a shot—is a no go, at any level of play. I agree with this one hundred percent, and I’m betting 99.9% of the players reading this will also agree. What about unintentional sharks?
At some point in our careers as pool players, I think we all forget that we are sportsmen during the stress of a match.
You get fired up, and it’s over. You rant and complain about anything around you. Here is the problem: you’re probably not the only two pool players using that room. Its hard to think about that statement when you are in battle with the other guy or gal at your table.
I have comprised a list of points to remember the next time you’re at a tournament—and don’t worry when you read this, I’m guilty, like I said above. It’s just another mental part of the game that we, as players, have to learn to control.
1. As a spectator, do not speak to the players; you will just push them the wrong way. If you do, cheer them on by telling them to relax and how they are going to win the next rack—it can go a long way. I would just sit and watch though. 2. If your opponent is bothering you, calmly talk to them about it, don’t put him on the spot to the rest of the room. Most will calm down at that point, trust me. Especially if you are supportive at the same time. If that does not work, call the tournament director over. 3. Keep in mind that, while you may not be bothering the person you are playing, you may disrupt a match going on at another table. Be mindful of your surroundings. 4. No matter what, smile and shake hands at the end of the match. You won or lost because you won or lost. 5. Remember the balls roll funny at times, so don’t think you won because you are better. I have seen better players get demolished in a set over one bad roll. What happens to him or her can happen to you. Stay humble.
Hard times come to everyone, and the stress of everyday life will effect every pool player at some point. At the end of the day, we have to remember to be sportsman. Intentional sharking of a player can cause some heated outcomes, but unintentional sharking can be even worse.
As a spectator, you have to remember one thing: stay out of it. There is enough going on without you acting like you own a match you are not playing. As a player, you have to remember to keep your head in the game and do all you can to stay focused on your match.
Keep your head up and act professional. If you lose, come back and beat them worse the next time around. We don’t call that sharking, we call that sportsmanship.