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Final Days - North Pole Shoot Out Part 3

News of the largest North Pole Shoot Out has leaked out and reached the four corners of the globe. Reporters from around the world begin to arrive.We've whittled the field down from thirty-two to the final four contestants. While there may have been some minor upsets throughout the earlier rounds, our top four seeds fought their way through to the semi-finals.A big North Pole shout goes out to our outstanding and beloved Tournament Director,Bob Cratchet.

A three to four day tournament takes its toll onthe players.It's not always the player with the best skills that make it through a long event. Don't get me wrong, skills help but planning can be almost as important. Many of you reading this have never played a tournamentand that's fine but many of you play back-to-back-to-back-to-backdays so this can be relevant to you also.

One common denominator among our four finalists is that they all carry and use a water bottle to keep hydrated. They eat healthy snacks between games if they feel run down. That means they actually thought ahead and packed snacks. They scout their opponents. They don't waste their time scouting the "elves" and "reindeer". They scout the other seeded players. They go home and think about the future game style match ups. All in all a long event really comes down to managing your time and energy.

Top seeded players have very good skill sets by definition. But if they don't have the energy to power those skills they don't get very far. In the early rounds, players talk about "coasting" through matches. What this really means is that the players get to play "their game." They are in control of the court and while they may be running and putting out physical energy, they are conserving their mental energy.They don'thave to think strategy while they play "their game" on autopilot. A player playing the game and shots he has specifically trained his muscles for is far more energy efficient and experiences less wear and tear.

Lets see how some planning or lack of planning affects our finalists.

First up is Santa vs The Heat Mizer.

Taking a page out of the US Open Racquetball event, the lights are dimmed and the music is turned up for our player introductions. The number four seed enters to his own title song, "Mr. Heat Mizer". He takes center stage, blows a couple fireballs (literally) into the air and turns to wave to the crowd. Like a challenger in a title fight, he awaits the number one seed. Then suddenly the lights go out and the room falls silent. A nervous energy permeates the darkness. In the distance can be seen a small red glow. The glow starts to grow brighter as "Here Comes Santa Clause" booms from the loud speakers. Cheers for Rudolf erupt as he escorts the man in red to the court. Santa enters, gives a nod to the crowd and immediately starts his warm up routine. Santa's dominating presence on the court is apparent to all the spectators. The Heat Mizer is off to one corner as Santa rules center court and continues his drilling. This is sending a clear, strong, imposing message as to whose house we’re in!

Santa knows Heat Mizer will only play with red Fireballs. (Sponsors and being predictable has cost many players a match) Thus he wore his new bright red outfit. (He planned ahead with a little help from Mrs. Clause) Heat Mizer looks a little nervous out there and with his temperature rising it's very tough to stay hydrated.

In sports, most announcers look back at the experiences the players had to survive to get to this point. With only 18 hours from the previous round, many of the earlier round wear and tear effects linger on. Looking back at our combatants, The Grinch challenged Heat Mizer by arguing every call and taking him out of his normal mental game. The match lasted over 2 hours. Santa played a slightly slower player and stuck to his game plan. Any announcer would tell you the odds don't look good for the Heat Mizer. Santa's new red suit is heat retardant too...again he planned ahead and the result was he took this match in two games.

Our second match-up features Mrs. Clause vs the Jolly Green Giant (JGG).

Both players had relatively easy matches coming into the semi-finals. The JGG was out there less than three minutes last round and that could actually have a negative affect on his performance. Mrs. Clause looked like she had a light training run her previous round. She looks raring to go.

The lights go down and our three seed enters to Jingle Bell Rock. Mrs. Clause really knows how to get the crowd up and dancing.

We know our two seed was the first to see the draw and has been meticulously planning each and every round. His music selection would be no exception. While Mrs. Clause is winding down her warm up routine, a hush goes over the crowd...could it really be...the JGG enter to "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause". The crowd is in disbelief. Santa is redder than red and Mrs. Clause looks like she is in shock. Some may see this as a cheap trick but I see a brilliantly planned strategy.

The JGG easily takes game one from a distraught Mrs. Clause. The two minutes between games gave Santa enough time to dispel any rumors and put Mrs. Clause mind at ease. The JGG feared he was in for a real match. However, Mrs. Clause spent all her time talking with Santaand didn't get a drink or eat her banana.

The second game started off even. Play was exceptional. Errors were minimal. Rallies were fierce. Both players were pushing hard. At 7-7, Mrs. Clause gave up three straight points. She took a time out and grabbed some water and a bite of that banana but it was too late. It would take a little time for the energy to reach her muscles and she only had two 30 second time outs left.

JGG wins! It's scary that something as simple as not eating at the right time or a disturbing comment (or song) can alter your whole mental game. But at this level, when players are evenand a single point can determine the match, all these little things become significant.

You'll notice we didn't talk about shots or court strategies. Great players win off the court before they ever get out there

Christmas 2010 Finals -Santa vs The Jolly Green Giant - Christmas Eve on North Pole Pay Per View

Questions or comment…Pat@Racquetworld.com

You can forward any rules questions to me at Pat@Racquetworld.com