Improving by playing with better players?

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richmarsh
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Improving by playing with better players?

Post by richmarsh » Wed Jun 15, 2011 4:25 pm

It seems to be somewhat common knowledge within table football (and indeed many other games/sports) that real improvement only comes from playing with better players.

I've experienced this myself several times, both in the long and short term. Playing regularly at Warwick resulted in constant improvement, which was faster during my first and second years due to there being pros/pro masters around whenever I was near a table.

On a lesser scale, after getting demolished by Jamal in a few games during the Lithuania tournament I found myself playing at a significantly higher level. This caused an almost immediate elevation in gameplay and I have no idea why. I was going to write at this point that I hadn't improved in a technical sense, but actually, I think I had - my 5 bar passing became faster, catching more consistent and snaking longer and faster. The real difference though came in the form of picking gaps, defending 5 bars, game agression etc ...

Now obviously the technical execution is something that I'm struggling to explain, but at least it can be worked on at the practice table. My question is in regards to the more mental side of the game...

Why does playing with better players improve your game?

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cmau
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by cmau » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:19 pm

You step it up and try not to disappoint.
That's what I felt like when I was playing Pro-Am with Jon May and Dave Z.

Similarly... it's like whenever I play Liquid Snake in a pick up game and he has over 9000 shots and tricks in his arsenal and you've only got a boring snake/pull you try and learn something to impress.

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leaks
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by leaks » Wed Jun 15, 2011 5:26 pm

I've had the same thing over the years. I always think it comes down to the purely psychological side of the game. You have a certain level of skill which is your maximum, and this has been honed through practice and experience. However, accessing this maximum is all about focus, and this can come in many different degrees.

One major factor is pressure and adrenaline - in big matches against tough opponents you often see the underdog raise their game to levels you haven't seen before, but equally they can crumble. Different players are able to focus better than others under pressure, and a lot of this comes down to experience on the table in pressure situations rather than hours spent practising technique alone.

In short, you've always been able to play that well from the hours you've put in on the table, you've perhaps just never had to before. Playing against the big names the win will always be much sweeter than just down the local against your mates, and this will have some psychological impact. Learning to focus in that way against any opponent can take your game up a notch in a big way.

This applies to most sports, and I'm sure there's better qualified people on here who can talk about it. That's my 2c.

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davez
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by davez » Wed Jun 15, 2011 6:01 pm

richmarsh wrote:Why does playing with better players improve your game?
I think it's because you directly apprehend that what you see is possible and you realise subconsciously that you can do it too. And then also you try harder. It's surprising how much difference (the right kind of) trying harder can make.
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Mike A
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Mike A » Wed Jun 15, 2011 11:39 pm

Better Players....

Open your eyes: Playing better players opens your eyes to the way better players play, you can then see what you should be aiming for and try to immitate it.

Make you focus more: Better players put your entire game under greater scrutiny. A lesser player may allow you 12-14 shots on your three in a race to five, so you get used to having this much opportunity to win, and it makes you lazy and unfocussed. Better players may only give you 4-6 shots and allow you a scoring percentage around 40%, so you learn to make the most of your opportunities, you improve your focus in order to be competitive. You then realise how much easier the game is against weaker opponents who give you those 12-14 chances.

Make you self critical: Better players force you to think about your own game more. When you try harder to beat someone better than you, you start to question why you are being less successful and this provides you with the information you need to identify areas of your game that need to improve. Without coaches or trainers, we have to be very self critical to consider what is good and bad about our own performances. It is harder to be self critical when you are top dog in your area.

Motivate you: Like Dave says, better players make you try harder. The desire to improve is essential to improving, you need motivation.

I'm sure there are many more...

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cbalife
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by cbalife » Thu Jun 16, 2011 12:07 am

Maybe adrenaline kicks in more and you are absolutely focussed because you know how good the other person is. It makes you play less conservatively and forces you to think about what you're doing rather than just going through the motions. I know you could say this is what you should do every game, but I think everyone gets lazy every now and they stick to stuff that they generally have a high level of success with against other players (high brush lane, pull snake :D).

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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Happyham » Thu Jun 16, 2011 2:38 am

My thoughts on the subject:

Warning... Long, potentially boring post.

Playing at major/international tournaments:

I would relate this to foosball, like I would relate steroids to bodybuilders. Its amazing how quickly your offensive game can increase immediately to a level way above normal. Its down to a number of things -

1). This is a new experience so your interest level is high. When your interest level is high, your drive, enthusiasm and most importantly, your focus is high. Like DZ said, this game can be so easy when you channel your focus correctly.

2). You are not playing lesser players. You give almost every player a ton of respect (perhaps too much in some cases), and as a result you have to THINK about what you're doing. You appreciate these players will adjust, and that you can't do the same thing over and over again. It gives you no choice but to mix it up, which gives defences more problems (which means more success for you!). You are often the underdog in matches (or at least thats what you believe) so you have more drive to win (and less pressure) as you have something to gain. This again channels your focus correctly. Its tough being a pro master where you gain nothing out of beating a semi pro. The motivation to win isn't as easy to find.

3). You have no worries of all the meta game bollox that comes with playing with your mates/arch rivals in your local scene. UK tournaments are included in local scene. Alex Shovelton is a good example of this. When hes playing against top players as a relative unknown, he has the freedom to do what he wants when he wants, and can raise his game to beat some of the best pro masters in the world. However, when hes playing Mike Amsden in a winners semi-final of OS (random example), he might double guess himself because he knows that Mike knows that he knows that Mike knows etc.. It can become all too easy to get wrapped up in your head, and then not only do you make bad decisions, but you excecute badly too.. Obviously vice versa also, in that Mike will have those thoughts in his head when he is passing/shooting on Alex. Its only natural due to huge database of history you have with an opponent in your mind.

The inevitable result? You eventually lose that ability to play a higher level than normal during major tournaments.

This is due to -

A). The experience not being as new and exciting, so lack of motivation.
B). You become more known at these tournaments with time, and the meta game starts to creep in.
C). You become overall more consistent with time, so your basic level is higher than it was before. This means that often you are no longer the underdog, but instead you are expected to win. A lot more pressure and less reward for winning. Thats mentally unappealing, and can make you quite conservative and timid in your play.

When I went in 07 to Kentucky State where there was 300+ players, I had the weekend of my life. I went back a year later to the same tournament and still played to a higher level than back in the UK, but didnt get even close to the same results as the year before. I think a lot of it was down to the pressure and expectation I/other people had put on myself.

Now I don't feel I raise my game at any tournament (at least not as extreme as 06-09 time frame), because I have a much stronger level of consistency which comes from experience at these tournaments.

Improving through 'sparring' with better players:


Its all about experience. Most players who are better than you have been playing the game longer than you. Those that are better than you, but have less experience, have had quality foosball experience with great players. This especially applies defensively. The reason you get better by playing these players is because your mental side of the game improves considerably. Its a direct result of having to THINK more, and not just auto pioloting your way to victory against rookies.

Think of your foosball brain as your body and your trying to build it up. If you lift comfortable weights and don't push yourself, then your body just stays comfortable at its level, and never gets bigger. If you lift weights that take your body to complete failure, then your body rebuilds and equips itself to face more weight. If you dont need to read a defence and u just KNOW that you can do the same 2 or 3 passes/shots then you really aren't using your brain. If you are constantly using your brain, then your mental side of the game gets stronger and stronger. That is the key to success at the pro master level. Obviously over time, you know that some plays will work almost everytime without needing to read the D, but 90% of the time the best players are constantly using their brains.

By playing stronger players, they are going to make you do things that you are not comfortable doing. Not giving you your favourite pass/shot etc. So by forcing you into making passes/shots you aren't neccessarily comfortable with, they refine your confidence and excecution in these particular parts of your game.

Obviously better players who are willing to teach you things is the best way to improve. I have learnt a lot in the last year from 3 or 4 pro/pro master players who were willing to take time and run me through a few of my questions/weak parts of my game.

Thats my view on the subject anyways.
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Happyham
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Happyham » Thu Jun 16, 2011 2:42 am

Mike A wrote:
Better players put your entire game under greater scrutiny. A lesser player may allow you 12-14 shots on your three in a race to five, so you get used to having this much opportunity to win, and it makes you lazy and unfocussed. Better players may only give you 4-6 shots and allow you a scoring percentage around 40%, so you learn to make the most of your opportunities, you improve your focus in order to be competitive. You then realise how much easier the game is against weaker opponents who give you those 12-14 chances.
That is pure truth.
I hated every minute of training, but I said "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."

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shovie
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by shovie » Thu Jun 16, 2011 7:39 am

I agree with Joe.




That was boring.

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Happyham
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Happyham » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:20 pm

:lol:
I hated every minute of training, but I said "Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion."

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Alex MM
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Alex MM » Mon Jun 20, 2011 12:41 am

Well thats simple! Getting fisted hurts, (Tom and Chris taught me this) and the only thing which can motivate a man more than pain is the fear of MORE PAIN!!!!

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Christopher Lyall
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Re: Improving by playing with better players?

Post by Christopher Lyall » Mon Jun 20, 2011 2:16 pm

Alex MM wrote:Well thats simple! Getting fisted hurts, (Tom and Chris taught me this) and the only thing which can motivate a man more than pain is the fear of MORE PAIN!!!!
I'd like to make it clear that the word "fisted" should not be taken literally in this post.
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