|Today's date: Wednesday May 22, 2013||Vol 46 Issue 20|
We Cover The County...
Lining up the shot - Certified Master Coach Terry Davidson gets in position to take the shot on the snooker table at his home in Alma, where he has the technology and tools to teach students proper snooker techniques in person and through the internet. photo by Kelly Waterhouse
On cue: Snooker champion Terry Davidson
by Kelly Waterhouse
When Terry Davidson and his wife Jerre built their custom home in Alma, there was one design specification Terry insisted upon: the basement had to accommodate his professional-sized 6 x 12 snooker table.
Forget the man cave. He created the ultimate billiard training room.
Davidson has come a long way since his early pool hall days in Fort Erie, when snooker and pool were played in smoke-filled back rooms.
“I used to watch them play snooker and then I picked it up,” Davidson said. “But then I joined the Canadian Navy at age 17 and that was the end of that.”
Twenty-three years later, Davidson retired from the Navy, moving to be with Jerre in her native Scotland, where he was free to pursue his sport.
“I always loved snooker, but I wanted to make it my full time gig,” he said.
“The 80s were a snooker heyday in England. Every weekend in Britain somewhere there was a Pro Am game. I was playing full-time and was sponsored to do so, and we played every weekend,” he recalls, fondly.
“I used to practice eight hours a day. It was like a job. It was my job,” he said with a laugh.
His dedication earned him the Leicestershire County Championship title, as well as several other such titles in England and Wales. When the leagues opened up the pro ranks, Davidson attempted to qualify to go professional.
“But it’s a young man’s game … you need to have great hand-eye coordination and I wasn’t there anymore.”
The couple returned to Canada, where Davidson’s career in telecommunications took precedence and snooker became a hobby. Still, in 1989, he won the Ontario regional championship finals against pro snooker player Ed Galati.
But the business world introduced him to golf and, much like snooker, he was hooked.
“Golf became an obsession,” he admits. “I got down to an 11 handicap.”
He adds, “Snooker is very similar to golf. You have to accelerate the cue, or the club, through the ball. The best snooker players, like [Ronnie] O’Sullivan, hardly seems to hit the ball. He is so smooth. Or golfers like Freddie Couples. It’s all about technique.”
Another element the two sports have in common is strict etiquette in manner and dress.
“It’s a gentleman’s sport. Professional snooker players always wear a waist coat and tie,” he explains.
Golf was Davidson’s hobby when the couple moved to the United States, to follow his telecom career. For 10 years, he did not play snooker at all.
The couple returned to Canada in 2005, settling in Alma. With the space to pursue his sport, Davidson started “playing steady.”
But that doesn’t mean it was easy to pick up where he had left off.
“I could never recapture the skill level back to where it should be, by my standards. After 10 years, I was getting worse,” he explained. Like any athlete, his inability to focus on his sport for years frustrated him.
Jerre understood his angst, but she also knew Terry had not lost his skill.
“Terry has been obsessed with snooker since I met him,” Jerre said. “Snooker really fits his character. It is a sport of strategy, patience and hand-eye coordination and he loves delving into the minute details of technique.”
To encourage him, Jerre bought Davidson the Nic Barrow snooker coaching DVD series. That was the push that got him back in the game.
It worked. Davidson was inspired to take his sport in a new direction.
“I contacted Barrow immediately. Then, I went over to Britain to become a certified Master Coach,” he said.
Granted through the International Billiards and Snooker Federation, Davidson is now a Certified Examiner, Certified Master Coach and Snooker Gym instructor, and a Class C referee.
Under Barrow’s tutelage, Davidson is able to teach and certify other snooker players in the international arena.
“I have now certified coaches from Victoria, Toronto and an American who went on to open a snooker academy in Malaysia,” he said.
Taking early retirement in 2007 allowed Davidson to share his passion for snooker by encouraging others to pursue the sport.
His basement is a full coaching facility for clients the world over, who come either for private lessons or do so over the internet. His set-up includes a video camera, tripod, flat screen television, mirrors and sports camera.
“The first question I ask a student is: what are you after?” he explains. “Generally, the answer is: I just want to play better.”
Technology helps Davidson help the players. Sports analysis software specific to cue sports allows him to take the video or photo images in a play situation and analyze the individual’s technique.
“With video, you can show a student if they are delivering the cue straight. I can analyze the video on screen, drawing lines to show the shots, so he can see it.”
Davidson is looking for specific things.
“Is the cue central? Is his chin down? Is his nose in line with the shot? Which eye does the player favour? When a guy is delivering the cue, you have to be able to see what his fingers are doing.”
The mirror, placed on the snooker table helps with this too. “The player can see their position and correct their mistakes.
“There is an ideal, perfect technique but nobody has the same ability, vision or build. A coach has to see what the individual is doing differently,” he explains.
Davidson is part of the online coaching forum at www.thesnookerforum.com and snookerline.com. Players email Davidson questions or submit video footage and he offers solutions to improve specific issues.
“I may set up the shot they’ve described and record myself making the shot, or they will put a video on YouTube that I can watch and analyze from here,” he said.
“The grip is the most important part. To be a good snooker player you must deliver the cue consistently straight. What I do is coach a player to develop a technique to do that.”
Davidson believes to achieve greatness in the sport of snooker, one has to start young.
“To become a professional snooker player, they usually start around the age of eight. If you come to it much later, you don’t stand a chance,” he said.
Davidson hopes the day will come when snooker becomes more popular in Canada.
He promoted the sport as president and treasurer of the Ontario Snooker Association for five years, but now looks to coaching to encourage a new generation of young players.
“Snooker is big time everywhere but Canada and the U.S. There aren’t many places to play here, because no young players are coming through, so it’s become an old man’s game,” he said.
“It’s not on TV here and we can’t get sponsorship because people still think it is a gambling sport, played in a smokey pool hall. It’s not like that.”
Coaching takes up much of his time and it means that, even in retirement, Davidson is tied to his BlackBerry device. He doesn’t mind.
“I get emails as a coach that I check every morning and spend an hour or so responding to them. I check the forums and websites daily too.”
Then he heads to his basement to practice his own technique for anywhere from four to six hours every day.
“Every morning I get down here because there is always something I have to work on. I love the challenge. It gives me something to keep myself interested,” he said. “Walking around the table keeps me active.”
It also keeps his mind engaged. “Every shot, you are using your spacial recognition. It is a mind game,” he explains. “When I play in a tournament, it’s a real mind game. You are playing the table but also your opponent. You have to adjust your game to your opponent’s.”
Jerre respects Terry’s dedication and daily schedule.
“One of the reasons he is so good is that he has trained in every aspect of technique and he practices every day for most of the day. He has studied with many of the great coaches in the sport,” she said.
“Snooker has been in a constant in Terry’s life. He loves to play and snooker has given him a purpose or goal through most of his adult life and now that he has retired, he is able to give this passion his full attention.”
As Davidson tells his students, “To be a great player you have to play every day, and play against great players.”
To keep his skills fresh, Davidson continues to compete, having qualified for the Canadian Snooker Championships seven years running.
“You have to earn ranking points to keep in it,” Davidson explains.
This June, he qualified for the games held in Toronto, but did not pass the round-robin level, splitting four games, with two wins, two losses, and coming in third. Only the top two advanced to the final 16 players, before playing for a final position.
“I was the top ranked senior in Ontario last season. I am ranked ninth in open players,” he explained.
He also travelled to Las Vegas in 2007 and 2008 with the Canadian team for the Can-AM Snooker Challenge.
“As long as my health holds up and I can play competitively, I’ll continue with snooker,” Davidson said. He hopes new players will join.
“It’s a good sport now. It’s not a den of gamblers chomping on cigars,” he said with a laugh.
For coaching information, contact Davidson at 519-846-0538 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
August 17, 2012
The Wellington Advertiser
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