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Training Days

Jasmin Ouschan opens a ground-breaking pool school in Austria.

Story by Keith Loria

The training center focuses on developing all areas of one's game.

GROWING UP in Klagenfurt, a city in southern Austria near the Slovenian border, Jasmin Ouschan began learning the game of pool early in life, as her parents owned a local poolhall. But she wasn't just playing around; by the time she was 6, Ouschan had a coach, Michael Neumann, who remains her instructor to this day.

Since turning pro in 2005, the 27-year-old has had an incredible run, taking 26 gold medals at European Championships, winning the 2010 Women's World 10-Ball Championship and even topping the WPBA as the No. 1 player in the world. Never forgetting where she came from, Ouschan and her long-time coach have teamed up to open the Billiard Sport Academy, a training center located in her hometown, attached to Sportpark Klagenfurt, a soccer stadium that was built for the 2008 European Soccer Championships.

"Our first goal was always to create a perfect atmosphere to prepare for international events and bring training [to] the next level," Ouschan says. "We also have training sessions with the top men and women from Austria, and we work with the youth national team to prepare them for the European Championships as well. Another important goal is to work on a scientific level with sports scientists to find out more about billiard [biomechanics tests]."

Getting the academy up and running was no easy task. Neumann says that once they decided on thelocation, it took a tremendous amount of work to get support from the county and the Austrian government, because billiards is such a small sport compared to soccer or skiing in the country.

"We had to meet with politicians to figure out a plan and convince them that this is a good project for the country as well," he says. "At the end of the day we managed it to get the [World Pool-Billiard Association's] and the [European Pocket Billiard Federation's] support because this project is, worldwide, the first of its kind. It took us one-and-a-half years from the first meeting until the final decision, and then another year to get the equipment and set it up the way we wanted it."

Ouschan admits that working on the academy monopolized a lot of her time and energy over the past two years, but she also insists Neumann made sure that it didn't let her game suffer. "I would be lying if I said it did not affect me or take a lot of energy away from me," Ouschan says. "Working with policy-makers and [government] ministers is quite a different field than to be responsible for making decisions on a pool table. At the end, I think we handled it well, and now we know that all that work was totally worth it."

Inside the academy are the tools and equipment necessary for a pool player to succeed in tournaments all around the globe. It has three tables, with one fitted with special lighting and three cameras so a player's game can be analyzed afterward. In addition to tables, it includes a kitchen and a separate fitness area. It's also the only training center in the world that is fully equipped for wheelchair athletes.

"As we know, the equipment changes from continent to continent, and it is a little bit of a disadvantage when you can't practice on a similar table. So we made sure that we got different tables, with new and different types of cloth," Neumann says. "We always use a new set of balls, and we have the same lighting that they use on TV. So now all the athletes can prepare better."

For training, players can also utilize different gadgets such as laser technology for analyzing angles, target pool patterns and much more. "This academy is focusing on the professional side of the sport. National teams are preparing here, and we want to give players a chance to prepare for international events and use the special equipment for high-quality training," Ouschan says. "But if anybody is interested and wants to follow our philosophy, we offer training sessions for everyone. Our goal is to be one of the world's leading academies in our sport, to work with top billiard players and to present our beautiful sport the way it is supposed to be."