INTERNATIONAL SNOOKER COACH

 

NIC BARROW

 

 

 

 

First published 13 June 2011 © John James Carty. All rights reserved.

Snooker has become more and more international over the last twenty years. Nowadays the professional players have tournaments in Europe and in many countries in Asia. Australia is now back as a new stop on the world tournament map and Brazil stages its first tournament in 2011.

Nic Barrow is not a professional snooker player but he is one of the most widely traveled men in Snooker. I should say he is not a professional snooker player now but he was a tournament professional for seven years and was rated in the top 100 in the world.

Nic is an international snooker coach. He’s the official coach of the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) and a coach for the World Professional Billiards & Snooker Association (WPBSA),

 Nic has coached and examined coaches in nearly twenty countries and was the National Coach of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for eight years.

Nic Barrow is the owner, publisher, editor and guiding light of www.thesnookergym.com, a very impressive website dedicated to training in Snooker and other cue sports.

I was very interested in Nic’s international background, so we arranged this telephone interview. It lasted two hours on Skype and was, of course, a free call. After some introductory chat I started the interview.   

JJC: Nic, you’ve had such a varied career – I’m sure my readers will be interested in all aspects of it. But let’s start at the beginning: when did you start playing Snooker?

NB: I started at eight years old, at home in High Wycombe, Bucks. I played on the living room carpet using marbles as balls, books for the cushions and a broom handle as a cue.

When I was about ten I received a six-foot Snooker table as a gift and I played on it in our cellar. I made my first 20 break on it, although there wasn’t much space and the wall kept getting in the way. I sometimes had to cue up at an angle of 45 degrees.

 JJC: When did you first play on a full-size table?

NB: I started to go to the old Lucania Hall above Burtons in High Wycombe. In those days Ray Reardon and John Spencer were my inspiration. I practiced seriously and made my first 100 break at age 16. The family moved to Oxford soon after that, so most of my development took place in what is now the Riley’s Snooker Centre in Cowley.

JJC: I see that in www.thesnookergym.com, you say you were ‘inspired by coaching’. Does that refer to a particular coach?

NB: No, what it really means is that I was inspired by the whole idea of coaching. The more I played the game and the more I discovered about what happens on the table, the more I wanted to explain it to other people.

JJC: But you became a professional player and joined the circuit.

NB: Yes. I made my first maximum break (147) when I was 21 and I was obsessive about Snooker. I had already started writing what I thought would become an encyclopedia of Snooker. I was studying as much as I could about other sports and about psychology. I read the works of great coaches in thirty different sports.

JJC: That doesn’t sound like the usual preparation for a professional Snooker player.

NB: Well, you’ll think this sounds strange but I had a great ambition to become World Snooker Champion, but I only wanted it so that people would accept my coaching ideas. It was always about coaching.

JJC: Was it difficult for you to concentrate on the demands of the professional Snooker circuit?

NB: You know, one day I was about to pot the black off its spot in a qualifying tournament – in Aldershot, I think it was – when I thought, ‘Why am I doing this? It isn’t what I want.’ I can do something 100% or 0% but I can’t do 90%. So right then I decided on coaching. I never gave up as a player; it was simply that to me there was something more important than playing. You could say I brought my coaching career forward by fifteen years!

JJC: How did you support yourself in your years on the Snooker tour?

NB: Well, I was always coaching; in my local club, other players. I was making a living before I started Nic Barrow Snooker Schools in Oxford.

JJC: I see that you’ve got a strong recommendation for www.thesnookergym.com from Ronnie O’Sullivan. I assume he wasn’t one of your pupils….

   

 

 

 Ronnie O'Sullivan, London.

Three times World Professional Champion and second highest career prize winner at over $9,000,000.

 

 

NB: I’d known Ronnie for years on the circuit and we had always got on well. We met up once in 2009 when we had some time on our hands and we talked about my training theories for hours. We agreed on so many things and he said,

‘Well, I’d recommend you to anybody,’ and he very kindly did.

JJC: Obviously I’ve been looking at www.thesnookergym.com. It’s a very impressive website – clear and easy to follow.

NB: Thanks, John. I’ve invested the equivalent of $150,000 to get the best for my students: my own internet training, website experts, recording studio and computer equipment. I’ve done the very best I can.

JJC: Has it all worked out as you planned?

NB: I wanted to follow my dream to the top of the mountain; being endorsed by the IBSF and WPBSA means a lot to me. I wanted to turn my hobby into a business and I’d like everybody to think like that – even outside Snooker – take something you’re passionate about and turn it into a business.

JJC: That’s a sort of life guide, isn’t it?

NB: I believe this: the most important thing in your life is to know what you like doing. That’s even more important than Snooker.

JJC: Has it been worth it so far?

NB: That depends on what you mean by ‘worth it’. Financially I’m not doing as well as David Beckham. All the coaches in Snooker earn less in a week than Lewis Hamilton, but it’s great as far as satisfaction is concerned – I’ve achieved my target in life.

JJC: It’s nice to talk to a happy man.

NB: It’s all self-indulgent, you know – it’s how to live forever. I love it that people can buy my products and save years of frustration. I suffered all that and I want to ensure that other people can avoid the frustrations. It’s not entirely altruistic; I mean I’m not Mother Theresa of Calcutta or anything like that.

JJC: How did your job with the United Arab Emirates come about?

NB: It’s all serendipity; I put my cue away and started Nic Barrow Snooker Schools. I took the WPBSA coaching course with Ray Reardon and he gave me the certificate. Three weeks later all thirty seven WPBSA coaches received a letter: Doug Mountjoy was finishing his period as National Coach to the UAE – he’d been there for three years – and they needed a new National Coach. I put my best efforts into making a strong presentation. I was invited over there for three days of interviews and I got the job.

  

Doug Mountjoy, Ray Reardon

JJC: You must have been thrilled about that.

NB: I was terrified! Until then I’d never coached players who could make 100 breaks and the UAE players could score 100s and more. I knew I had to show confidence and I worked very hard in those first six months to justify my position. It turned out well – you could say my abilities caught up with my personality!

JJC: What was the job description? What did you do there?

NB: I had to coach the national A and B teams (8 players per team) and also the juniors. I set up a national junior program and we took Snooker into the schools all over the United Arab Republic.

JJC: So you were a government employee – a civil servant?

NB: Oh yes, I had the whole expatriate package and the UAE was a very good employer.

JJC: So what about these Snooker teams?

NB: The teams were involved in the Arabian Championships, the Asian Championships, the IBSF World Championship and the World Asian Games. As a team we won ten international tournaments during my time there.

JJC: I’m out of touch, but I don’t think we’ve heard of many players from the Middle East. Did you see any rising talent?

NB: One young lad, Ali Bufaroosha, is a very promising player. He won the Gulf Under-18s Championship in 2003. He had started playing Snooker from zero only three years before. Also, I would say, Mohamed Shehab who is not a champion but has made one maximum break and has won other titles.

JJC: I see from your website that you learned Arabic when you were out there. I guess it’s more difficult than English or Spanish: what level did you reach?

NB: When I moved to Dubai I decided that I needed to learn Arabic quickly. I studied hard and learned two characters a day. Within two weeks I had learned the characters and the numbers.

JJC: Arabic is a language that has very different sounds, isn’t it?

NB: Yes. The trouble with English people learning a foreign language is they want every sound to fit into their sounds, the existing sounds of English without effort. But you can’t do that – you must accept and learn the sounds of the other language.

JJC: So how did you get on?

NB: I went for lessons and I could soon read Arabic. It made my job a lot easier. I reached intermediate level in spoken Arabic and I could have some conversation: I could talk about most aspects of coaching in Arabic.

JJC: Do you keep it up?

NB: No, but it’s a beautiful language – it looks beautiful.

JJC: Are many of the visitors to your website from Arab countries?

NB: No, my biggest customer base is Canada, Germany, Australia, Britain and the Middle East

 

JJC: I see that your site also gets a reference from Alfie Burden. In fact, he says, “I wouldn’t have won the 2009 IBSF World Amateur Championship without Nic Barrow being here with me during the event.” As a coach, what contribution can you make to a top-class player?

 

 

Alfie Burden, London

NB: Well, Alfie’s a friend of mine and, as he says, I was with him in Hyderabad, India, when he won the world title. It’s not really a contribution: it’s helping to remind them of what they already know. It’s a bit like the auto pilot on a plane – just helping them to stay on course. It’s hands-off, it’s different from coaching. One thing I found out about top players is that what you don’t say is more important – you need to filter what you say.

JJC: Very interesting. Now, can I take you back to what you say about liking to coach beginners?

NB: I like to solve the mysteries; there are a lot of mysteries in Snooker and, as I said before, I want to show people how to solve them and save years of struggle. Most people can’t do it alone. I love coaching kids because it gives me a chance to be a bit childish.

 JJC: A lot of your time is spent in certifying Snooker coaches from all over the world. How can people become IBSF certified coaches? 

NB: All the details are on my website and I hope anyone interested in coaching will have a look. It’s very important to have qualified coaches in every country.

JJC: And players – what advice would you give to people who want to play Snooker properly?

NB: I don’t want to sound like an advert, but ANYONE can start by visiting www.thesnookergym.com. They only have to put their email address in the little box. They don’t have to buy anything. There’s about $150 worth of free coaching materials in my free area.

JJC: Well, that must be worth a look! Now, to conclude the interview, do you have anything new in progress or anything of special interest to my Spanish-speaking readers?

NB: Nothing special, just keeping on with my aim of removing the frustration from the game. On the Spanish-speaking side I might mention that my girlfriend, Barbara, comes from Argentina. She’s a big fan of Boca Juniors and loves Maradona and Messi. I call her “my angel from Argentina.”

JJC: Very good – give her our regards from www.ingles-gratis123.com! Well, thanks for the interview, Nic. I’m sure our readers will find it valuable and interesting.

NB: Thanks, John.