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Pool for education

By Eyleen Gomez

Dave Goodwin and Alison Balban from the Gibraltar Pool Association are seeking funds to help bring pool into secondary schools via a programme aimed at helping children who struggle with their behaviour and education.
The Association prides itself on focusing on expanding the junior’s section and getting more youngsters to play.
The idea of pool in schools came about one evening during a pool match when a discussion with a teacher led to them finding out just how valuable pool can be for students, especially those with educational problems.
“There are two disciplines you need to have to play pool, focus and concentration,” said Ms Balban.
“It makes kids have to think. It involves maths and also you need to make a decision.”
“What should I go for? this or this?”
“When I teach kids, I say, you got to make a choice to go through this route or this route.”
“Once you make a choice, then you have got to stick to the choice you’ve made, maybe you’ve got to adapt to it.”
“I make it a bit like your life choices, where you adjust to the choice you have made.”
“I tell them in life it’s the same. Once you make a choice, maybe it’s not the right choice. But then you need to adapt your life to the choice you made.”
“Even if you regret having made that choice”
“I try to coach andalso guide them, especially when they’re that age and when they’ve got issues,” she added.
The players are aged between 11 to 15, while the majority of them are boys, there is a significant number of girls too.
Now the Association is trying to get funding for equipment to be able to start the programmes in both secondary schools.
“We have been lucky we put out a post to all the pool players in Gibraltar asking for any cues they weren’t using already. So, we’ve had quite a lot of cues,” said Mr Goodwin.
“People who have started with one cue and then when they get better, they want a better cue. So, we’ve had loads of cues handed in to us. It’s great.”
“So really, we’re looking to try and raise funds to get a couple of decent tables, sets of balls and proper cloths.”
They have spoken to the schools regarding an allocated place for the tables.
They have also got a programme which is based on training and Ms Balban’s skill sets and exams, which the children could get certificates on. Which the GPA would provide but it’s also a program that children could integrate into their schoolwork.
Another way it is integrated with the schools is that via the current programme only pupils who have behaved that week in school get an opportunity to do a pool section with the coaches in the Association.
Usually this session is held once a week.
“If the teachers are telling me that you are doing better and that you’re behaving well. Then I’ll give you a one to one,” Ms Balban tells the youngsters.
“So that’s an incentive for them.”
“It does make a lot of difference for them.”
“And we have had like reactions where suddenly it’s like this kid is doing really well. He’s performed really well. His behaviour has been really well. He deserves his one to one,” she added.
Mr Goodwin noted that one child actually achieved student of the week for the first time.
Ms Balban added that they can see a difference in the behaviour of the kids with each other.
“Maybe before they wouldn’t get along. Now, they help each other, and they say, ‘don’t worry, in the next shot you will get it’.
“They’re actually helping each other,” she said.
“It makes a lot of difference. You can see that now they are more attentive. Now they want to improve.”
Mr Goodwin added that, “Now they are more respectful towards the teachers.”
“Now, instead of laughing at the teachers they just turn around and say, ‘oh unlucky sir’ or ‘good shot sir’.”
Another skill the youngsters are taught is to be humble.
“I don’t like when they like miss a shot and they throw the cue sticks and so I teach them sportsmanship,” said Ms Balban.
“And that, to me is really important.”
“So that’s something that they have been doing for months. Now, even if they lose, they shake hands.”
“And there, they are seeing something very different. And they’re actually mirroring it. Even if they’ve got like anger issues, they’re starting to control that.”
The two want to quash the fact that some people think of pool as a pub sport or a man’s game and according to Mr Goodwin it is way beyond that now with the sports grown immensely in the UK.
The Association does not serve alcohol and smoking is not permitted.
The time the Association gives to the children is voluntary.

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