In spite of a year disrupted by national lockdowns and social restrictions, snooker clubs have battled back hard, players have picked up their cues again and activities have restarted.
One such initiative to return over the summer following a year’s absence was the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards’ (EPSB) Young Leaders programme.
A cohort of rookie volunteers aged 14-16 have supported WPBSA snooker coaches to run junior holiday clubs. At the same time, they’ve completed monthly online skills modules on topics such as ‘safe sport’, ‘club marketing’ and ‘snooker pathways’.
They will be in celebratory mood, as graduates of the scheme this week enjoyed the opening session of this year’s Cazoo Masters as a reward for their achievements. Alongside their coaches, they represented affiliated clubs from six areas of England.
The Young Leaders selected by their clubs were typically existing players chosen to ensure that younger juniors just beginning their snooker journeys would have older mentors to learn from.
The ‘Day at the Masters’ also involved a backstage tour of the Alexandra Palace venue, participation in the World Snooker Tour Cue Zone, a presentation of course certificates and branded polo tops.
The holiday clubs programme offers an exciting opportunity for snooker clubs to kick-start or build junior snooker or billiards set-ups, engaging local schools and community groups, with support from the EPSB. Sessions are aimed at new players, introducing the sport through fun and creative activities.
Through part-funding from Sport England each session is only £1 for participants with the hope of appealing to as wide a community as possible and creating an inclusive environment. Over 200 players have now taken part in the programme, with a further year planned for the summer of 2022.
The programme aims to create sustainable junior groups, which subsequently gain the opportunity for a first taste of competitive action the following season as part of the PowerGlide English Under-14 Championship, which begins with club-based qualifying stages across the country, run by WPBSA Snooker Coaches.
Young Leaders have been pivotal in delivering the success of the holiday clubs initiative so far, and they will be celebrating their excellent contribution at the Cazoo Masters.
WPBSA Club and Facilities Manager Bob Hill commented: “We’re very pleased to be able to offer the Young Leaders and coaches involved in the EPSB’s summer scheme this opportunity, which they thoroughly deserve for their efforts in encouraging a new generation of players.
“What this programme has demonstrated is that a collaborative approach, including the governing body, clubs, schools, coaches and young leaders, alongside part-funding from Sport England, can really make a big impact on the future of our sport.
“Our ambition is to widen these programmes to include more communities and partner organisations through evidencing the success of this three-year initiative.”
Any English clubs interested in joining this programme should email us for more information.