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From the Publisher
By Mike Panozzo
Mike became editor of Billiards Digest in 1980 and liked it so much that he bought the company. He has served on the Billiard Congress of America board of directors and as president of the Billiard & Bowling Institute of America.


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August: Pool School
August 2023

Anyone clinging to the old adage that “youth is wasted on the young” clearly hasn’t met the current group of aspiring junior pool players.

Over the past two or three years, the efforts to develop better programs and opportunities for junior players have dramatically improved, from scholarships to more and better tournaments, to more opportunities to compete around the globe, both with other juniors and in pro caliber events.

And the results are hard to deny. Globally, the rise in competitive junior pool is hard to ignore. The European Pocket Billiard Federation recently completed it junior championships, with full and stacked fields of boys and girls competing in a variety of disciplines, including straight pool. In the U.S., the Junior International Championships (JIC) series, produced and promoted by On The Wire Creative Media, is sprinkling the country with opportunities for young American players, and the Billiard Congress of America-supported Billiard Education Foundation continues to offer educational scholarships to juniors in addition to its annual BEF Junior Nationals, which just took place in Quincy, Ill., including not only 9-ball, 10-ball and 8-ball, but also 14.1 and trick shots competitions.

Top promoters like Predator continue to produce world championships for junior players, and even British promoter Matchroom is providing opportunities for juniors through pro player-branded events in conjunction with a number of its biggest pro ranking events.

And the kids are coming out in droves, buoyed by the opportunity to develop their games in pro-type settings after years of being largely limited to bar table junior leagues held in conjunction with the nation’s large amateur league systems.

Additionally, America’s concern over its lagging standard in world play seems to be being addressed. Junior players, now honing their skills in increasingly tougher conditions and competition, are quickly gaining the experience required to compete on the world level, particularly in women’s fields.

Teenage players like Savannah Easton, Sofia Mast, Kennedy Meyman, Pricilia Kinsley, Haleigh Marion and more are routinely throwing themselves into pro events on the refreshingly active Women’s Professional Billiards Association tour, crossing cues on a regular basis with the likes of Kelly and Allison Fisher, Jasmin Ouschan, Tzu-Chien Wei and world champion Chieh-Yu Chou. Several have posted top-10 finishes, and the seasoning that comes with that experience is sure to pay dividends going forward.

Likewise, top American junior boys are pushing themselves into the conversation in top open tournaments. Sixteen-year-old Sam Ryne Henderson recently posted a fifth-place finish at the Predator Pro Billiard Series in Wisconsin, an event with a stellar pro field and won by all-world Joshua Filler. Seventeen-year-old multiple junior champion Landon Hollingsworth is another young talent worth keeping an eye on.

But while the advancement in caliber of play has been impressive and encouraging, the most encouraging and refreshing aspect of this surge is the passion and commitment the junior players — and their parents — are putting into the game. The junior programs in place today, with their professionalism and organization, are helping to produce fine, young adults and ambassadors of the game.

In this issue, one of those young players — the aforementioned Kennedy Meyman — penned a synopsis of sorts of her personal journey through the junior programs and her aspirations for following her love of pool to the next level.

What is noteworthy to me is not her list of successes along the way, impressive as they are. No, it’s the passion and maturity she displays in telling her story.

Fellow junior Savannah Easton has referred to Meyman as “the voice of the junior players,” and it isn’t hard to understand why she says that. From sharing the challenges of self-doubt and defeat to the euphoria that comes with progress, from hanging with her besties in hotel lobbies to dealing with adults insistent upon treating her like a child, the 17-year-old offers a thoughtful, measured look into the world of pool’s next generation.

Not to be ignored in the encouraging growth in junior pool, of course, are the parents. Pool parents make “soccer moms” look like couch potatoes! The number of families crisscrossing the country to support kids following a dream is astonishing, and the lessons in accountability and responsibility that they are instilling in these kids is inspiring.

I’ve met many of these junior players in recent years and the one thing that is clear to me is that regardless of whether or not they are still playing pool competitively in five or 10 years isn’t important. What is important is that this journey has allowed them to grow into responsible, worldly and well-balanced young adults at a far faster pace than most kids.

And that will give them a head start in whatever path they chose to take next.

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