Pool is Child’s Play

You can read this article on page 15 of The Break Magazine, available now.


I created this column to bring you, the reader, a fresh perspective on some professional and semi-professional matches.  The goal is to share a video with you, and direct you to some highlights to illustrate my points.  You enjoy a wonderful video of two great players, and get to bask in my immense wisdom.  Ahem… or something like that.

This month, I attended the 2013 BCAPL National Championships at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada — both as a participant in the Mixed Open Team Tournament, and as a spectator for the Pro events.  I thought it would be great to share a video with you that was fresh and new, and was from an event I was fortunate enough to witness first-hand.

However, that is not going to happen.  I have three reasons for that:

  1. I could not record my own video. Video recording was strictly prohibited.
  2. The authorized recording, done by The Action Report, is not yet published.
  3. Something else happened during my stay there that I really want to talk about.

Ok, so the biggest reason is #3.  I promise next month’s article will be all about the video, and I hope to use a match from the event.

I love to teach, and I love kids. So when I heard about the Billiard Education Foundation, I knew right away that I wanted to get involved. I spoke to their representatives, and I’m well on my way!

I also had the privilege of sitting next to the parents of two of the girls involved in the event.  As we were waiting for the semifinal match between Carlo Biado and Walter Cheng, they told me how their daughters were doing (Amy, 10 and Karen, 13 — not their real names). Both were still in the winners’ bracket! They told us how they placed 3rd and 4th in the Internationals, and how they owned six (six!!!) pool tables back home. They were obviously quite proud.

Or so I thought.  Then the father kept talking.  Here’s how our conversation went (slightly paraphrased, I am going from memory):

Me: “Wow, you must be very proud of your daughters. Which one is Karen?”

Dad: “That’s her over there, in the light blue.”

Me: “Ah, I see. Is she winning?”

Dad: “Yes, but she’s making mistakes. She keeps leaving the 9-ball in the pocket.”

Me: “Aw, that’s too bad. Must be tough pressure here for these girls.”

Dad: “Yeah, they’ve been through it before.  Aw, she just missed again.”


It happens in all sports, unfortunately

“Look at this.  She has a long 9-ball shot up the table.  She’s going to leave it in the jaws again.”

I stared at him for a moment in disbelief, then looked back at the table.  We were a long way from the table, so we couldn’t tell how difficult the shot really was.  Karen took aim, gave a few practice strokes, then neatly cut the 9-ball into the side to win the match!  We all cheered! All but one, that is…

Dad just shook his head.  I could understand the nervousness he must have felt, but wow, was he negative!  Surely he wouldn’t put that onto his daughter, though… right?

Karen walked up to her parents, and I congratulated her on her win.  She smiled warmly at me, and I saw that look in her eyes. She knew what was coming, because it probably happened all the time. She looked at her Dad… and he said to her “did you see how many times you left the 9-ball in the pocket for her? 4 times.”

I tried to give her a little support: “Aw, she was just trying to give her opponent a fighting chance,” and winked at Karen. She gave a wan smile as her parents herded her away.  He continued telling her everything she did wrong in that match as they disappeared into the crowd.

As we were watching the Cheng/Biado match, I watched Karen’s next match when I could (she was at the next table over). She got up 4-0 early. Then, she lost a few in a row.  I cringed to think what her father was going to say to her. Soon, the match was tied 6-6 in a race to 7.  Next time I looked, they were gone, and I didn’t know who had won.

I ran into her father a few minutes later while I took a quick refreshment break.

“Oh, hey there, how did your daughter do?”

“Which one?”

“The older one. Karen. I saw she was at 6-6.  Did she win?”

“Yeah.  Barely.  She made a few mistakes.  She was up 4-0 at one point.  She really needs to start focusing more.”

I still could not believe his negativity! “Well, these girls are under a lot of pressure. You should be proud she’s gone as far as she has.  Wish her luck for me!”

“Yeah, sure, I’ll do that.”

Something Karen and Amy’s mother said to me really stuck with me.  She told me that her youngest, Amy, was very aggressive, and outgoing. Karen, however, was more shy and reserved, and not very aggressive.  I sensed that she and her husband saw this as a weakness.

Every person is different. Each daughter must be approached differently, and coached in a way that gives them the best chance to succeed in future matches.  Browbeating them, and pointing out their mistakes (especially in the midst of a tournament) is not the way to do this.

Dad, I hope you get a chance to read this.  I hope and pray that you give your daughters lots of love, support, and positive reinforcement while they play.  Otherwise, all you are going to do is make them resent the sport, and they will quit. It’s a game. It’s supposed to be fun. Let them enjoy the sport, and please don’t turn it into a chore. Celebrate their successes, and console them when they lose.

Save the constructive criticism for the practice table.

Posted in Article, BCAPL, BEF, General, Table Talk, The Break / Rackem / Stroke Magazines
One comment on “Pool is Child’s Play
  1. Jon says:

    great advice. those kids are tough, and they really look like they give themselves enough grief when they miss, im sure they dont need to hear it from anyone else