Shari Yearwood said women tend to overthink the game more than men. (Picture by Lennox Devonish.)
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In years gone by, it was said that rum shops were for men, but that was the only place to find the pool tables and experience the game.
That meant that the pool table held some mystery and along with it a major attraction for many women who simply wanted to pocket a ball.
And for some years now, women have been following that desire. A group who call themselves Two-And-A-Half Chicks and Guy are so passionate about pool they have organised a pool tournament called Queen Of The Green.
Lead coordinator Alicia Archer, along with fellow organisers Eugenie Layne, Ann-Marie Busby and Davie Davis, sat with several competitors, Alana Davis, Sherri Shepherd and Shari Yearwood, to discuss what the game of pool means in Barbados and the tournament that is set to be held on Saturday and Monday at Tiami Dock, Bridgetown.
However, the registration ended last year November and the 16 contestants have entered. They include Eugenie, who is one of the more experienced of the group.
Twenty-five years ago she started playing at Eight Ball Lounge, which used to be located in Fontabelle, St Michael. At first it was just for fun, but she soon joined the group Crazy 8s and began playing competitively.
“I just fell in love with the game,” she said while adding that when she started there was this gentleman who played her almost every night and would give her a 7-Up. It got so bad he played with the back of his pool stick, then used a broomstick and still won.
She said people are not that arrogant anymore, but it made her determined to improve her game.
While the lure of the forbidden attracted Sherri Shepherd to the game, as she would watch the guys play, she soon realised that her love for mathematics and physics would draw her even closer to the game.
“It includes mathematics and geometry, angles. You can play the straight shot, the obtuse angles when you have to cut the ball on the back of the object ball, or the 90 degree angle when you cut on the outside of the ball,” she said.
Explaining further, she said it is pure physics to consider the trajectory of the ball.
“To get your position, you need to know where the ball is going after you play the shot, the friction when the ball connects and how it throws the ball or causes it to go off the path. Also how it rolls along the line, how fast it goes and what affects the speed. In order to play pool you must have a basic understanding of that,” she said.
Ann-Marie’s story was similar. Just seeing the pool table at the shop made her want to play from the time she was a little girl.
“Back in those times as a Barbadian female it was like a male thing and you would find the pool table in a rum shop and obviously girls are not supposed to be in rum shops. Long story short: when I moved to New York as an adult I realised that anybody was on the pool table – children, men and women,” Ann-Marie said.
She found that as the perfect opportunity to play and she liked it and has been playing for the past 22 years.
“Pool is something you really must practise to be good but if you want to play the fool, which most of us started out doing, sometimes you get lucky. I ain’t get no better, really,” she said jokingly.
Even though the number of women who play pool in Barbados has increased, the approximately 200 women only make up about 10 per cent of the overall players. Some of the more recent players are Alicia, who would see men playing at her family shop when she was growing up.
“As much as I was working in the shop I was not allowed in that area. I could not play,” she said.
Eventually, the curiosity from seeing the guys play all the trick shots and her favourite, a shot called doubling, Alicia started playing in 2012 and there was no turning back.
For Shari, it was when she sustained an injury and had some downtime in 2013 that she started playing pool at Casa Blanca, where she was introduced to competition to improve her game. She said most women were determined to get better but tend to overthink the game and that gives men a bit of an advantage.
Alana is in the tournament for the fun of it. Her husband, avid player Davie Davis, roped her into the competition, though she has never played the game.
“Before we got married, he took me to a bar and showed me these really cool shots. It was fascinating, but my fascination ended there because I had other things to do,” she said.
Alana said she is getting some tips and pointers and attends the twice-weekly training and boot camp organised for the competitors to get them accustomed to playing in competition conditions.
Sherri lamented that for competitions the males got rewarded handsomely, about $1 500, while the most a female got was $300.
“Females playing pool in Barbados, it is kind of like a back seat and men are at the forefront. It is about time that the women get recognised, so we got together and decided to put the lady pool players on the map,” Eugenie said.
Ultimately, they want Barbadian women to travel abroad to compete and to bring women here to compete. They also want to have a dedicated pool hall.
The winner of Queen Of The Green will not only walk away with the title but will match her skills against 23-year-old Ashley James, the top female player of St Lucia.
Participants and supporters also get to contribute to the work of the Barbados Cancer Society who will be the beneficiary of all proceeds raised from the tournament. Alicia said they also held raffles, a monthly cake sale and will have a fundraising cruise on May 12. So far they have raised over $2 000 but are aiming for $5 000. (LK)