Lets help our Youth – Why more youth are playing billiards than ever before

Lets help our Youth – Why more youth are playing billiards than ever before

The phrase “to play billiards well is a sign of a misspent youth,” is often credited to the philosopher Herbert Spencer, who meant it as an insult upon losing a game of English Billiards at his Club to a young man who, indeed, had grown up in a pool hall. 


The phrase stuck, as did the connotation of pool parlours being dodgy dives where unsavoury characters with dirty denims and leather jackets lurked in dark corners, hustling for money. Many of our own experiences aren’t dissimilar, with our first games played on wonky tables, honing our skills by hitting chipped balls with tipless cues. 


When Craig Bouwer returned to SA after decades of social and professional billiards playing, touring five continents, he set out to change the offering, ditch the stereotype and open the sport to a new generation of athletes. 

Rack ‘Em Up

Hence Sessions Billiards Club in Tyger Valley, Cape Town was formed. An upmarket, internationally recognised, (the first in Africa), billiards club that provides a safe, clean, accessible and family friendly environment with pristine tables, where, yes, you can get a beer and a pizza and hang with your friends, but you can also take your game seriously. Where young players are encouraged and trained to the highest standards in a sport which has significant professional career opportunities. 

At this point it’s important to note that the reason Sessions is named a billiards and not a pool club is because it is fitted out with American-size tables, which are larger than the standard coin operated tables that we’re familiar with. In fact, everything is bigger – the tables, the balls, the pockets, and the cues – which are thicker and sturdier. This is so the public can learn and play formats of the game that can be found worldwide such as the popular “American 9ft” Billiard and Heyball (Chinese Pool). Imagine walking into any club, in any country and being able to play a game with any stranger, not just the hustlers at your local dive. 

Big Earning Potential

Bouwer praises billiards for not only helping with his confidence socially but also with developing his patience and analytical thinking, key skills that have helped him throughout his life and in his career. All the while, pursuing a sport socially that allowed him to travel and earn some prize money. 

He believes in the opportunities that the sport can provide so much that Sessions Billiards Club invests largely in their Junior Billiards Academy where bootcamps, training sessions and tournaments are open to kids over the age of 9 to 18 years. Younger than that they struggle to focus or reach the balls. 

With the aim of encouraging young players to take up pool as an after-school activity, Bouwer is working with his own 10 year old son on a structured curriculum that he can take to schools in the area. Sessions also sponsors eight players from Mitchells Plain, where there’s a thriving pool scene filled with talented young players, who simply need access to a proper environment to up their game.

He is joined in these coaching sessions by Marnitz Hawkes, 17, a National Junior champion himself. Hawkes is something of a poster child for the new age of pool careers and Sessions, working at the club while being fully supported in his pool ambitions by his parents who home-school him to allow him time to dedicate himself to the sport.

Why You Should Play

Besides the attraction of turning pool into a professional career, or even going to the Olympics, the game provides numerous benefits for children:

Builds confidence and socialisation – Kids learn how to mix with different people in unnatural situations, ie not at home behind a screen, where there is a certain amount of pressure. Over time they adapt to their surroundings and learn to play both the game and the players. 

Encourages healthy competition – There will always be a winner and a loser and one soon learns that losing graciously is as important as winning. 

Great hand-eye coordination – No two games are alike and by practising your muscle memory your cue control will improve, making your hand-eye coordination better and strengthening cognitive skills, such as decision making and problem-solving.

Positive mindset – One must be present in the moment and learn how to control your breathing and slow things down. As with any professional sport, if you have a negative mindset you are going to fail. Breathing exercises help as well as being aware of your physicality through stretching, balancing and power. 

There is no shelf life – You can play and constantly improve even in your 80’s. This allows for games to be played with various age groups socially and makes for a great multi-generational family activity. 

Even if you’ve been away from the game for a while, pool is one of the sports that never leaves you, asserts Bouwer. “The passion is always there. It’s like therapy,” he jokes. But really, the thrill of a good shot, or potting multiple balls in a row, or successfully working out angles – that joy never goes away. “It’s the social aspect but also the game,” says Bouwer. “Lots of players who come here, maybe used to play and are happy to come back to it.”

Boot camps are not only available to children, although building and promoting the sport is a huge part of what Bouwer hopes to do. Adults, whether beginner or intermediate, can refine specific skills too, like body positions, elbow positions, how to hold your head, where to look and how to stroke. Whatever your age or skill level, this is pool like you’ve never experienced it before.

Sessions Billiard Club, Unit 12 & 13 Tyger Manor Centre, Corner Durban Road, Bill Bezuidenhout, Willie Van Schoor Ave, Bellville, Cape Town.
(+27) 71 614 0958

For more information, click here.

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