Billiard Education Foundation Celebrates Successful Junior National Championship

Rob Johnson, Shane Tyree, Cecil Messer and Tom Rossman

While the numbers may have been slightly down for the 2021 Billiard Education Foundation’s (BEF) Junior National Pool Championships at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in Las Vegas, with the help from some returning Champions and some creativity, the Billiard Education Foundation was happy with the final event and how it fits into the infrastructure that they are trying to build.

A couple of changes that took place this year was the addition of an “Under 22” 10-ball event, and an “Under 18” 8-ball event.

The “Under 22” event was partially created for players who might have missed their last chance to compete last year due to the pandemic and cancelation of the event. “We wanted to give all of the kids who missed out on the chance to defend their title or missed their last year of eligibility an opportunity to come back to the Junior Nationals and compete again.” said Shane Tyree co-managing director of the BEF.

The creation of this new older division was two-fold though. “In addition to giving these young players another opportunity to compete we wanted to add a stepping stone between junior competition and playing against the professionals. The majority of these junior competitors aren’t ready for a professional event and we needed have to do something to change the infrastructure to develop our young talented players. This new U22 10-Ball National Championship gives the older players a stepping stone before they are competing against the Shane Van Boenings and the Sky Woodwards of the world.”

With a field of 22 players, the “U22 10-Ball Championship” in its inaugural year is already a success, and Tyree still sees a lot of room for growth in the future. “All of the kids in that division are going to college and are going to tell their friends about it. The potential for that to grow is unlimited. With the ACUI (Association of College Unions International) no longer doing a billiard event, we might be able to bring in these college kids and run a bigger national championship.”

The 2021 Awards Banquet

A big difference between the standard 9-ball divisions for the various age groups and the “U22” 10-ball division was the prizes for the players. The various 9-ball divisions are paid out to the winners as scholarship money, but the 10-ball was different. “With the 10-ball, players are already college-aged and playing for money in most of their local events, so they are more accustomed to what event payouts look like. What we wanted to do with the 10-ball was to cater to their development and growth as a player so we want to encourage them to enter more big-time professional events. The payout is paid entry into 3 BCA rankings events to first place. 2nd is paid entry to 2 events and 3rd is 1 event.” explained Tyree. “We want them to continue to grow. We want them to go to those tournaments and match up with professional players and start seeing if this is something they want to pursue.”

This year’s new 8-ball division saw players of all ages competing as it was open to all competitors under 18, both male and female. “The younger kids love playing the top players, and the girls cherish an opportunity at beating the boys. It’s a challenge they all welcome… We simply want to give all the junior competitors as many opportunities to compete at the highest level as possible. The lessons they learn along the way through this process are invaluable. They get to learn more strategy as they get more exposure to a wider range of opponents. But overall it helps build that camaraderie amongst our young athletes.” said Tyree.

While the event certainly had its reasons to celebrate, one dark note during the event was the absence of Junior International Championship (JIC) organizer Ra Hanna. Hanna has created a thriving “tour” system for the young competitors and has been a key part of past Junior National Championships. He was not able to make it this year due to health reasons. When asked about what Hanna’s absence meant to the players, Tyree described it as “disheartening.” “Ra not being here is sad. Ra has a connection with these players and brings an energy like no one else. Anyone and everyone can see that. His love for the kids, comes through in his live streams. He’s been doing BEF Junior Nationals for a handful of years and has a relationship with most of these players. For him not to be here, it’s just not the same. He is in our hearts and prayers. “.

Tyree expanded on how Hanna’s JIC is such an important thing for the kids, “The platform that Ra is building with the JIC is building a camaraderie with these kids. We look forward to maintaining our relationship with Ra and the JIC and to see what we can accomplish working together.”

At the end of the day, the Junior National Championship was one event that was just part of a plan that Tyree has for the game to “develop the infrastructure of pool in America. We don’t just need one SVB. We need a dozen of them if we are going to compete on that world stage. When we go to international events, we need more than one or two players who are competitive. The only way we can do that is by developing and refining our current infrastructure. It is important that we get as many industry insiders working together as possible that’s the only way we will be successful.”

Next up for the BEF and Tyree is to handle the North American contingent of players who qualified for Predator’s World Junior Pool Championships… America will field a team of roughly a dozen players who travel to Austria for the 2021 WPA Predator World Junior 9-Ball Championships in Klagenfurt Austria on October 6th – 10th.

After that event is over, Tyree will be back to planning an even bigger 2022 Junior National Championship at the South Point on June 21st – 25th 2022.