Paul Hawkins Speaks: The difference between tournament success and failure can often be an awareness of details that most would consider inconsequential. Perhaps you have a routine that you follow religiously in your preparation?
Personally, I eat the same breakfast before each tournament. Starting last season I also wear the same clothes every time I play. Not literally as I have copies of each item (3x caps, 16x shirts & 8x shorts). When I take a shot I want to be as fluid as possible as there is a risk that a different item of clothing may restrict my movement and distract me. Serena Williams is documented to wear the same socks (unwashed) throughout a tournament. Michael Jordan wore his North Carolina University shorts under his team uniform every match he played.
At draw tournaments I often joke that the most important decision I make all day is the picking of the slip of paper that tells me which court to go to and more importantly determines who my partner will be. If only I had taken the piece of paper a fraction closer to me…..
At the court there is the decision of going to the head or the foot. Every player I’ve spoken to who has an opinion repeats the same mantra that the strongest player should be at the foot. The reason being that the stronger player should be more capable of handling the pressure and make better decisions on the correct shots to take based upon the game’s development. This is a reasonable and rational argument; yet I disagree. The strongest player should be at the head. Most games finish at 75 points and this eliminates any foreknowledge as to how many frames will take place. The only thing you know for sure is that the player at the head will play an equal or greater number of frames than the player at the foot. It just makes sense that your strongest player would play the most frames. I love drawing black as it gives me the added advantage of choosing who I play against. Pick the right opponent and you could potentially have won the match before a disc is pushed.
You then have the process of shooting discs for speed and practice. At this stage the game hasn’t started so you’re free to communicate with your partner. I rarely see partners make suggestions or observations here to help each other out. When I’ve drawn a weaker partner I’ll often use this moment to confirm a game plan with them if the court leans towards a specific strategy. The key to these shots is to prepare yourself with a little foresight when you’re shooting for real. The shots I take are right for me, but could be wrong fo you. The court, club and opponent will all factor into what kind of game I’ll hope to play. I want to play my game and break my opponent’s rhythm so every shot I take before the match is one I hope to replicate. I’ll also watch my opponents practice shots like a hawk – if I can understand a courts drift through their shots, then I don’t need to replicate them myself.
My goal is to start each match relaxed and confident.