Pool as Sport
A contest or game in which people do certain activities according to a specific set of rules and compete against each other.
A person who is trained in or good at sports games or exercise that require physical skill and or strength.
The age old question “Is pool a sport?” has always fascinated me. As a result, I recently took an on line survey using Facebook to see what pool players thought about the subject. I was moderately surprised to see that those who participate overwhelmingly view it as a sport.
If we agree that pool and billiards are sports, then it stands to reason, that it is competed at among athletes. While it’s true, your next tournament is not likely to require you to sprint the length of the pool room or jump over a table to see who breaks first, you will still have to display a certain amount of acquired skill to succeed.
I confess to some discomfort discussing this subject because of pools long and storied reputation as being competed at by ne’er do wells. After all, one of the most recognizable names in the history of pool is “Minnesota Fats”. Lets agree that while Babe Ruth and George Foreman were not the model of the athletic form, they were still fine athletes, so let’s get to the point.
Modern athletes, and in particular professional modern athletes, train for their prospective sport. Athletic training takes many forms, but most can be grouped into three primary forms. Skill work and drills, which are very specific practice routines designed to increase ones performance through repetition, game situation training, which is designed to approximate the actual sport as it is played during competition, and physical training, which is designed to make a player faster or stronger or more able to deal with the endurance requirements of competition.
I know many pool players, who regularly do the first, and almost by definition, we all do the second, but it’s the third one I am most concerned with here.
Is it possible to perform at a very high level in pool while out of shape and perhaps while intoxicated? Sadly, I guess we all know that it is. This is mostly due to the fact that some players have started life with more eye hand coordination than others, and have honed their skill through hours of play. It does not however mean that they couldn’t improve their game through regular training and exercise. Anyone who has ever fought back from the one loss side of a tournament by playing seven or eight straight matches or played a one pocket match of seven ahead that went on for a couple of days knows that fatigue becomes a significant factor at some point. We’ve all lost matches we should have won because we just got tired. Some have overcome the mental and physical fatigue through chemical enhancement, and I’m not going to preach about it here, but I think we all know that at best, it shortens careers, and at worst it shortens lives.
So, does it seem ridiculous that a pool player should spend some time at the gym or on the road to improve on his (or her) pool game? Boxers spend almost every morning doing road work. They run several miles to start each day, preparing for a sport that takes place in three minute rounds in a ring no more than twenty five feet across. It is not uncommon for Major league pitchers to run five to ten miles within forty eight hours of a game where they throw a five ounce ball about a hundred times and rarely leave a mound that is fifteen feet in diameter. I could go on, but you get the point. The deciding factor late on Sunday at your next tournament might be who is the better player, but if the skill levels are close between you and your opponent, it could come down to who deals best with the fatigue of a long competition. If given the choice, wouldn’t you rather have the edge of being the better conditioned player?
As a follow up to this, I will be producing another feature on pool specific exercise. I sincerely hope this has given some food for thought.