I’ve learned valuable lessons from playing all kinds of sports and games, but one stands out among the others: snooker. If you’re not familiar with it, here’s what the starting position looks like.
DerHexer, Wikimedia Commons, CC-by-sa 4.0
The angle of this photo hides the true size of the table. A typical bar pool table in the U.S. is 6 feet long and 4 feet wide (6’ x 4’), 8’ x 6’ tables are common in pool halls, but a full-sized table is 9’ x 6’. Snooker tables are 12’ x 6’, which means 33% more surface area than even the largest standard pool tables for eight ball, nine ball, and straight pool.
Snooker combines straight pool, where you sink the object balls in any order, and a rotation game such as nine ball where you must target (though not necessarily make) the balls in numerical order. In snooker you pot a red for one point and then nominate a color. After sinking all 15 reds and the nominated color, with the colors being respotted after they’re made, players must pot the colors in order without replacement. Color order is yellow for two points, green for three, brown for four, blue for five, pink for six, and black for seven. If you run the table and make a black after each red, you’ll score 147 points.
So, yeah…this game is hard. The balls are heavier than standard billiard balls, the pockets are tighter, and they have rounded edges instead of points. As a long-time eight ball and nine ball player that difference took some getting used to.
I played snooker a couple of times when I lived in Canada and at odd intervals since then but hadn’t stepped to a table for over 20 years. Last month I was in London on a business trip and had time to sneak away for a couple of hours. A friend of a friend recommended Cousins Snooker and Pool in Holloway, between Seven Sisters and Finsbury Park on the Victoria tube line. Excellent choice. The club is open and friendly, there’s plenty of space between tables, and the membership fee is quite reasonable.
Why was I keen to play snooker again? In part because it’s challenging and fun, but also because it reinforces the need to mix tactics, strategy, offense, and defense in your approach. There aren’t many places to hide when you’re playing eight ball or nine ball, especially when there are just a few balls left on the table. Safety play is certainly possible and at times necessary in those games, but snooker’s vast distances and higher ball count early in the game put a premium on maneuvering and safety play. Once the first red goes down the nature of the game changes a bit, but there’s always a chance you won’t have a clear shot on a red and will have to play safe.
If you’re not familiar with snooker, I encourage you to watch some matches on YouTube. The ease with which professional players maneuver the ball and make long-range shots hide how difficult the game is for amateurs. A friend and I played for two hours and finished two frames, which gives you an idea of how much time to set aside if you do get to play.
After you’re done playing, or have watched some matches on YouTube, take some time to consider how your experience relates to life and business. The lessons will be different for everyone, but I personally gained an appreciation for when it was time to go on full offense, make shots with offensive and defensive components, or play it safe. You can also challenge yourself in friendly games to go against your natural tendencies. I’ve done so and gained valuable insights.
I hope you get a chance to try snooker—it’s a marvelous game. Be sure to watch the clock, though, so you’re not late for dinner!
As the 2022/23 season nears the halfway point, I wanted to congratulate London Seaward on a terrific start to the campaign and share my thoughts on how I hope to support the club going forward.
I’ve been fairly quiet, in part because I had a couple of courses to create and record for LinkedIn Learning but also because I’m in the process of discovering how football is played at a serious level and how to be a sponsor. For the first bit, I’m happy to say Manager Dan McKimm took some time to explain the basics of LSFC’s offensive and defensive frameworks (which I mustn’t share, sorry) so I can better appreciate the matches. As someone who never advanced past the youth levels of the sport, I appreciate those insights.
How to be a sponsor is even more foreign to me. As a writer and online training course developer, I spend my life behind the scenes and appear as words on a page or a voice in a video, usually accompanied by an author photo. My approach as a writer and online course developer is to provide accurate, usable information that focuses on learners and their needs. In a similar vein, I add value for my publishers by turning in good quality work on time. The analogies to playing successful football are obvious, but there’s another truth sponsors should acknowledge: that our best approach is almost always to provide resources and step back.
Just as learners must apply the lessons I teach in their workplace or school, so must LSFC train for and play the matches. Sponsor funding goes to pitch rental (a significant expense in London), kits, and player expenses so clubs can avoid the pay-to-play model that severely limits who can pursue the game they love. That last point emphasizes the value of individual sponsorships, for which I know the players are grateful and I appreciate because it reinforces the value of the club to the community.
I will support London Seaward going forward by following the club on social media, especially on game days, and visit Waltham Forest when I’m able. Ginny and I hope to attend the November match with Hounslow and the March home games against QPR and Wimbledon. Beyond that, I trust the club to make best use of the resources we sponsors provide and play their best football on the pitch.
You’ve probably seen my recent announcement that my company, Technology and Society, is the Platinum Sponsor for London Seaward FC, a women’s football club playing in the English National League Division 1 South East.
Photo credit: TouchTight Media
You might ask: Why in the world would a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon, USA sponsor a women’s football (soccer) team based in Waltham Forest, East London?
First off, fair question. There’s no single, straightforward answer, but my decision came down to an affinity for that part of East London (my wife and I visited Waltham Forest several years ago), a desire to reach across borders as an extension of the support and sponsorship efforts my wife and I undertake in Portland, and as a show of support for a group of strong, talented women who fought to keep their club alive.
London Seaward were affiliated with a name men’s club in East London but were dropped after the 2020/21 season. With just a couple of months to go before the start of the 2021/22 campaign, the players assumed management of the club and convinced the Football Association to let them maintain their position in the pyramid without being relegated to a lower division. Managers, coaches, physios, and other support personnel stayed on or joined to help them stay afloat. Initial sponsorships provided funds for that first year, but they needed a new shirt sponsor for 2022/23. That’s where I came in.
I heard about London Seaward through their digital marketing director, who I happened to follow on Twitter. He asked if there were any London startups willing to sponsor the team. After a few days with no announcements, I read up on the team’s history and commitment to their community and asked if the shirt sponsorship was still available. It was, so we sorted the details and Technology and Society, represented online by techsoc.com, became the team’s Platinum Sponsor.
My late signing, travel at the end of the summer holiday season, and world events delayed our official announcement until now, but I’m happy to be part of the team. As an American I’m honor-bound to try to make a profit from this sponsorship, but I literally have the rest of my life to do so. I hope to build awareness of my courses on LinkedIn Learning, the books I have available through Amazon and other retailers, and other independent projects or speaking engagements, but my main goal for now is to support the team and the Waltham Forest community. I’ll figure out the rest later.
To start the ball rolling here, I thought I'd revisit a post I made on my Improspectives® blog back in February 2017 regarding Lincoln's shock win over Burnley in the men's FA Cup.
One of the undying joys of sports is watching an underdog beat a massive favorite. The U.S. Olympic hockey team beating the USSR in the semi-finals of the 1980 Winter Olympics is one such win, as was the #15 seed University of Richmond basketball team’s win in the first round against my alma mater, the #2 seed Syracuse Orange. Even though those wins were improbable, they came in contests among reasonably well-matched teams. Richmond and Syracuse are both Division I programs, so they could recruit and offer scholarships to elite players.
Few tournaments remain where teams of all levels compete on equal terms. Even the famed Indiana state high school basketball tournament changed to four divisions based on enrollment in 1997. The exception is soccer, or football as it’s called everywhere except in the U.S. and Canada. Most national organizations hold a tournament where teams of all levels compete. In England, that tournament is the FA (Football Association) Cup. Premier League, League Championship, and League 1 teams get byes through the early rounds, but the lower division sides advance and, on occasion, knock off one of the big boys. It’s unusual for a League 1 or League 2 side to beat a Premier League team, but it does happen.
And then there’s Lincoln. Lincoln plays in the National League, which is, in rank order, below the Premier League, League Championship, League 1, and League 2. According to the New York Times, Lincoln was 81 places below Premier League side Burnley when they played on February 18. No National League team had ever beaten a Premier League side in an FA Cup game until Lincoln pulled it off.
While the win is shocking, it’s doesn’t come against Lincoln’s run of form. They reached the Round of 16 by beating League Championship sides Ipswich and Brighton, so they were clearly playing well. And Burnley is a mid-table club, substantially behind the leaders but well above the cutoff line for relegation to the League Championship. (The bottom three Premier League teams are relegated, while the top two League Championship teams, plus the winner of a playoff among the sides that finished third through sixth, are promoted.) Burnley has the money to attract top-flight foreign talent, while Lincoln fields part-timers who work to supplement their football pay.
Upsets of this magnitude make for great stories, but they also point to the depth of talent available to take the field for English sides at all levels of the game. The history of the game, its cultural significance, and the pride that comes from playing well shine through Lincoln’s success. As the saying goes, “England expects.” Lincoln has exceeded those expectations.