Think you can’t play pool in a wheelchair? Think again. Like everything in life, there are a few obstacles to overcome, but with a little ingenuity, the right equipment and practising your technique, there’ll be no stopping you!
First things first, there’s the height issue. Which isn’t an issue at all, it’s actually a benefit. Standing players have to double over and get their chin on the cue in order to line up shots, whereas wheelchair players are already there. This sport actually levels the playing field for all kinds of players. Pool is, according to the National Wheelchair Poolplayers Association of America, “the only sport that almost everyone can play, regardless of one’s physical ability”.
The biggest type of wheelchair pool played in Britain is the American style 9-ball. There are a couple of slightly different rules – whereas standing players must keep one foot on the floor when lining up and making a shot, wheelchair users must keep one ‘cheek’ on their seat cushion when making a shot. You also need to have both your feet, and footrests, off the ground. Other than that you have exactly the same rules. If playing competitively, you also have to have a seat height of no more than 27” (65.5cm) and that includes cushions – so no bolstering up using telephone directories and extra pillows! You can learn more about the rules of competitive players at the British Wheelchair Pool Players Association [http://www.bwppa.com/Rules.html].
Get experience and ideas from other players. For instance, learn from Stan Snodgrass, quadriplegic wheelchair user and amazing pool player. In this video he clears the table with ease. His secret is some modifications to his cue that suit his exact needs. There is a handle on the shaft of the cue that he’s able to place his thumb inside of, rather than using a cue aid. The cue also has an extendable tripod in the end for those far reaching shots (the ones snooker players straddle the table to get to, for instance).
Other players have come up with ingenious adaptations to cues to overcome their particular difficulties. The Cannon Aid is specifically aimed at the wheelchair-using, pool-playing customer [http://www.cannonaid.com/] and can be used by those with one arm or who use their mouth to play too. Made from solid stainless steel, it’s a weighty item that will help you line up shots more steadily. Alternatively there is professional players’ favourite EasyCue [http://www.easycue.info/how-to-use-eas], with two components for shots from any angle.
Pool players have their own websites too, which you could use to glean some tips from. Tony “Robocop” Southern [http://www.tonysouthern.com/] is currently ranked the GB No. 2 player on the BWPPA tour. Matthew “The Doncaster Destroyer” Lester’s website [http://www.matthew-lester.com]could put other sporting heroes’ to shame! He keeps a great blog and his great claim to fame is beating childhood hero Jimmy White in an exhibition match in 2008.
To watch and learn, which is often a great way of getting into any sport, is by watching videos of professional players in tournament situations. When they’re feeling the pressure and have to pull something out of the bag. Here are some great videos on YouTube that you might find helpful:
- Jouni Tahti vs. Fred Dinsmore World Championship 2011. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lv9JCnH4ARk]
- Matthew Lester’s Wheelchair Pool Playlist [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mphuQJVILdw&list=PL69AE06EBA63A1026&index=23]
- European Championships 2008 [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS1wWx1A8dY]
For more information about getting into wheelchair pool, contact Roy “The Sandman” Kimberley who also soon hopes to offer newcomers to the sport coaching lessons. He is also the Secretary of the British Wheelchair Pool Players Association (Tel: 0121 258 1799 | email: email@example.com).
Nathan is a freelance writer and graphic designer based in London. Having graduated from the University of Kent in ’96 and after working for various agencies, he decided to go freelance in 2009.
Nathan is currently producing a series of articles in partnership with Home Leisure Direct.
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