I know I’ve mentioned here that before I went blind, I was an avid pool player. I’ll never forget my all time best shot. I was pplaying against an apponent with a higher skill level and it was a Sunday league night. It had come down the final game; whoever won would win the match. We were both on the 8-ball. He had missed the shot, and had left the ball on the raile between the corner and middle pocket. The cue ball was angled towards the corner pocket opposite the rale where the 8-ball rested. The only shot I could see was to cut the ball all the way down into the far corner pocket. So I’m not sure you can picture this, but the ball would need to travel all the way up the table, along the rail, passed the middle pocket. I was a much better cutter than a banker so it was my only option. This was a 9 foot table, so it was going to be hard. We had to mark the pocket, so I walked over and marked that corner pocket. I was aware of the sudden silence and I’m sure my captain would rather I try to pull a safety. But he also knew this was my specialty shot. I cupped my hand over the 8-ball to make sure it was touching the raile then went back to the cue ball to line up. The trick to this shot is to hit the raile first. Not to hit the rail and the object ball at the same time, as I used to think. By hitting the raile first, a fraction of an inch next to the object ball and putting spin on the cue ball in the direction of the pocket, you’re actually pushing the object ball in the direction. The hardest part is not having control over the cue ball, so you risk a scratch. If I scratched, I lost, but if I missed, he’d surely pocket the 8-ball anyway. I lined up, feathered my stroke, settled my feet, imagined the 8-ball flying down the table and into the pocket, stopped breathing, and shot. The 8-ball did just what I imagined, flying along the raile and falling into the pocket. The cue ball soared around the rails, but did not drop. My teammates cheered, bystanders applauded and my opponent shook my hand saying, nice shot, admiration in his voice.
I share that story even though it has nothig to do with autism, because those moments were such a highlight in my life. I had never been athletic, so to be part of a team and get a win for them, was such a boost for my confidence and self esteem and dammit, I was goooooood. And I liked that. I miss that.
So in doing this series about autism, I had looked up autism and sports, to see what kinds of sports children with autism might excel in. I had the idea that maybe pool would be good for them because you don’t have to interact with a ton of people. It’s you, the table and the opponent. But then I thought about all the noises and sounds in a pool hall and figured it might be a little daunting.
Today I decided to look it up and I didn’t find any experiences with it, but I did find this website, which is about a pool instructor who likes to teach children with special needs. This is her mission statement:
“to bring the love of billiards to children, adults and less fortunate people so that they will have a sport to not only help increase self-esteem, learning and motivation, but also to incorporate the love of a sport into their lives. I want to touch as many lives as I can thus improving well-being and quality of life by increasing the fun and joy they can have in their lifetime with friends and family” !
I might not have clicked on it, but in the descrption on the search results page, it said this: “Worked 12 Saturdays with differently-abled kids whose differences included autism”. I don’t know about you, but I hate the term “differently abled”. But her qualifications are pretty vast. Along with being a pool instructor, she’s got a lot of qualifications for teaching kids with disabilities, especially developmental disabilities.
So it sounds like there might be something to the billiards and autism idea of mine. I wish I had found more information on it, but maybe it’s good food for thought and more research. I know how much pool helped me and helped to develop a sense of comaraderie for me, and I’d recommend it for anyone who can do it. I just gotta figure out how to do it blind haha!