Archive Page

Sharing The Light – Question 8 May 2022

Question #8, May 2022:

What involvement do you have in the game today?

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis:

On August 29, 2020, I fell down a flight of stairs and broke my right hip which required a full right hip replacement, broke my left wrist, and tore my rotator cuff in my left shoulder.  It took almost one year of rehab to get back on the pool table to play without pain.  In the Summer and Fall of 2021 after having had COVID that January 2021, I returned and did Gospel Trick Shot shows and traveled to the Midwest and in the Northeast and played through the pain.  The pain completely ended the week before the 2021 U.S. Open 9-Ball in September.  Thank you, Jesus!  I felt so blessed to play professional pool again as I even won a few matches on the Joss Northeast Tour and in the 2021 U.S. Open 9-Ball in Atlantic City, NJ with Matchroom Sports.  In late October 2021, while attending Pat Fleming’s International 9-Ball event, I started feeling dizzy and weak and ended up in the VA Hospital in Norfolk, VA and was released with a diagnosis of vertigo.  I had to withdraw from the tournament and could not do GTS shows in our Gospel Trick Shot booth at the 10-day event.  Special thanks to Pat Fleming who helped us through this whole process!

After a good rest during the 2021 Thanksgiving and Christmas Holiday break, I returned on tour in 2022 with Gospel Trick Shot to Arizona twice, California, Indiana, Florida, and Las Vegas to do 35 Gospel Trick Shot shows in a three-month span and play in two Predator pro-10-Ball events.  At the end of my last tour on April 4, 2022, I knew something was seriously wrong.  After a recent doctor’s visit on April 7th, I ended up again in the emergency room of the hospital on April 8th to have immediate surgery to open up two main arteries in my heart with three stents.  As I write this article on April 27, my cardio rehab is one week away and I am in recovery feeling much better.  May and June 2022 will be cardio rehab in preparation to hopefully return on tour in July and August with Gospel Trick Shot as shows are already scheduled locally.  Then in September Lord willing, I am once again scheduled to play in the 2022 U.S. Open 9-Ball in Atlantic City, NJ with Matchroom Sports.

My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has been with me every step of the way these past two years as I am so thankful to be alive to have more opportunities to share the glorious Gospel through GTS shows and to play and compete in the game of billiards that has been given to me by God some 60 years ago as a gift!  Each part of this recent difficult journey has given me more sensitivity towards hurting people and has equipped me further to share the love of Jesus more effectively as we have seen many people give their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ in the last few months!  All glory to God as I look forward to how the Holy Spirit will confirm every new adventure as an ambassador for the Kingdom of God!  Please pray and together let’s see what God will do in my life and the lives of others as we continue to share the love of Jesus with all our many friends and partners of Gospel Trick Shot Ministries, Inc. www.gospeltrickshot.org and www.gtsrackrooms.com

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman:

At the tender age of 72, I continue to feel like a “kid in a candy shop”…as the “gifts” God has blessed me with and the talents / skills God has equipped me with help maintain an unspeakable JOY from the “sights and sounds” of “spiritual billiards” in all its forms.

I still do entertainment shows in a “tent making” capacity (secular contracts) and as impromptu requests are made to demonstrate the “table trotter” style of Artistic Pool (“Trick Shots and So Much More”). There is a spirit-led energy that starts moving within me so naturally anytime these occur.

In the early years of doing shows I often wondered when it would become…in presentation lingo…SMOOTH. Over the years I discovered the Holy Spirit is always producing an “alive (smooth) stroke” in us, so to speak, as we focus on the amazing and victorious “Cross” message of what Jesus did for all of us. I hope and pray that God allows me to continue to share the joy of each “artistic” and heartfelt cue movement…until God completes my journey.

Additionally, for over 50 years now I continue teaching private and group lessons, do instructional workshops, present online video instructions (80 with the APA and 36 with the CSI), plus many other forms of knowledge engaging sessions, as God opens those doors.

I also work in the industry with private promoters to direct events and/or promote products that are used as “witness tools” for Christ and that produce special “joy in the heart” moments both on and off the table.

One day of the week I head to Indianapolis to play 3 Cushion (my favorite disciple) and fellowship with my “carom” buddies. I also have several friends that live near me with pool and / or carom tables, so when I am nudged to do so, I continue in a more relaxed witness mode of play.

In summation, I have discovered that when I do the activities above in the industry (and beyond) I have an expectation for God to show up in some way, especially with the Holy Spirit direction of my steps to do “what it is that He wants me to do”!

Sort of like when one goes to a fight and a hockey game breaks out! When one goes where the Holy Spirit leads…shows, teaching, directing, playing, and more game involvements simply “break out”! The purpose for doing these things becomes evident…for a far greater goal of “sharing the light” of Jesus to those needing hope, encouragement, and a listening ear and / or someone to lean on during a difficult journey / trial experience in life.

Even though the activities above could be construed as “secular” in nature, I now look at them as “spiritually initiated” and common in purpose — to give God the glory, thanks, and praise for each moment. More and more “ministry” attachments under the GTS umbrella (since 2000 for me) and now the new GTSRACKRooms.com website (debuted in April 2022) help me to keep my focus on the everlasting love of Jesus Christ and the “Message of the Cross”!

Blessings to all… Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman. Submitted 4/27/22 

Robin Dodson

Robin Dodson:

My involvement in pool today: 

Hasn’t wavered a bit, but for sure it has a much different look to it. 

After retiring from the Women’s Pro Tour in 2002, I began teaching pool in retirement communities. I also enjoy helping my students in the amateur arena, those playing in our local APA.

I still LOVE the excitement of pool balls dropping, only now it is through a much different lens—from the passion of my students. Their successes are my successes.

My students’ ages range from 12 to 97, and all in-between. Priceless, is all I can say.

We still have my beautiful Gold Crown IV, and it will never be for sale. My pool table will always have a very special place in my life. I look around our pool room today which houses mementos from many of my career titles, along with a Hall of Fame honor. WOW! I even went on to get my certificate from the PBIA to become a Certified Instructor. My walls are complete with many proven accomplishments. I am very thankful. 

I am also writing. Who knew I had what looks like a book inside me? The title will be Thirty Wows because it will be filed with stories that will cause anyone reading them to finish with a big “WOW!” So far, it’s been a love- hate undertaking because I feel very incompetent. I am no writer, and yet I believe God has inspired me to finish well. When Thirty Wows is finally finished, I guarantee I will be the first one to say, “WOW!”

Thank you for asking. Life is great, and Roy and I are enjoying our Golden Years together. Pool is very much alive and well in the Dodson home.

Tommy Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy:

Hello, again everyone for my answer to question 8. I am still heavily involved in the game like I have always been. I run the J. Pechauer Southeast Open 9 Ball Tour and am giving many lessons when I can. I also do exhibitions and sell cues whenever possible. I also see this as a very vital ministry to reach the lost for Christ. That is really the main reason I am still here playing and being involved with the game to reach a lost and dying world that for the most part is on their way to Hell. Jesus said, I have come to seek and to save the Lost.” I want to follow the example of The Lord Jesus Christ who said, ” I have come to set the captives free.”  He also said, “He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the Light of life.” And “If you call upon My name you shall be saved.”  Christ is the savior and deliverer. He can release any man from any bondage that he is in. When we come to Christ for salvation and forgiveness, He meets us where we are and gives us eternal life. We have to know Who He really is and repent of our sins and turn to Him for salvation. Jesus is God in human flesh and He is the only savior of mankind!!! He died on the cross and then He rose again from the grave a risen savior. He ascended back to The Father and He will come again to establish His earthly Kingdom which has no end. Jesus Christ died for you and He paid for all of our sins in His own body. This is why I continue on in the pool world so I can reach the people that God wants me to reach. I have a special calling on my life from the Lord Himself. I am His ambassador and anyone who is a Christian is one of His ambassadors. We are His slaves and we are doing His will when we witness for Him and call others to Christ. I have the highest calling in the universe to lead people to Him. This is why I exist.  In the book of Acts Jesus made this statement, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be My witnesses.”  Jesus said, “Go into all the world and make disciples.” We need to listen to Christ and reach out to others on His behalf. Thank you everyone. Tommy

Nick Mannino

Nick Mannino:

I’ve been retired from the game for a long time now.  So I don’t compete in any capacity other than playing in a men’s club in my town or at my house. I try to share freely to others what I know about the game when and if asked, like others did for me when I was learning to play. I think it’s endless what we can learn in one lifetime!   I pray to the Holy Spirit for opportunities to share the gospel wherever I go.   Nick Mannino

Sharing The Light – Question 7 April 2022

Question #7, April 2022:

What motivated you to play competitively once you became a Christian?

Tom Rossman:

Tom Rossman

This is a fantastic question and sums up what happened to me when I became a Christian and what I believe is available to anyone accepting Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior.

Psalms 37:4 says: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart”

Motivation prior to becoming a Christian was mostly “self” focused for specific goals or “desires of my heart” that I wanted to pursue. After I became a Christian I became acutely aware that focusing on Jesus (like Peter in the boat) would allow the Holy Spirit latitude to “direct my steps” (motivate me) in the way He wanted me to go.

With Peter, the Holy Spirit held him on top of the water because the Holy Spirit was simply “directing the steps” of Peter at that moment, and as previously noted…as Peter continued to focus on Jesus. Once Peter took his eyes off Jesus, the Holy Spirit removed Himself from the picture, so to speak, and Peter sank because “self” got in the way and he realized that he was on top of the water and should be sinking, which he did.

Bottomline, before I was a Christian I did competitive events, etc. without thinking about or focusing on Jesus and each action was done by very often poor free will decisions and self motivation. Once I became a Christian, I understood that by focusing on what Jesus did on the Cross for me (and all people) the Holy Spirit living in me would motivate me the way He wanted me to go by using my senses (spiritual eyes, spiritual ears, etc) to “direct my steps”. “Self motivation” laid dormant because I could not focus on Jesus and “self” at the same time.

Self motivation became a Holy Spirit motivation. This Holy Spirit direct connection was exactly what God wanted to do for me so that He would receive the glory, while providing me the “desires of my heart” — AMAZING!!

I often think of a special verse in the great song — The Old Rugged Cross”  that reinforces Holy Spirit motivation.  It is the Holy Spirit now moving in my life and the following musical verse is so real that competition is simply something that God allows me to do in order to “give Him the glory through it all”.

Here is the verse that make competition what it is for me today:

So I’ll cherish the old rugged Cross

Till my trophies, at last, I lay down

I will cling to the old rugged Cross

And exchange it some day for a crown

Focus on the Cross and what Jesus did there and lay down the trophies that Jesus allows you to watch over. For me I look at trophies differently now and in my heart lay all of them down. Through the wonderful Holy Spirit “motivation” I thank God for the “crown” that only He can provide via His Son’s amazing grace.

Submitted by: Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman, 3/24/22

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis: 

Let me start by explaining what initially motivated me to play competitively as I was a Christian at age 11 before starting to play pool competitively at age 16. Playing little league baseball at age 11 and getting a pool table for Christmas that same year along with Willie Mosconi’s little red book inspired me to be the best I could be for the love of the game both in baseball and in pool. I was not allowed in pool rooms in my home state of New Jersey until 16 years old where I was introduced through peer pressure to gamboling. I fell for that trap which ended some 20 years later after losing not only my love for the game but my faith in the process as well.

After 12 years apart from the game and delighting myself in the Lord, God began to do amazing things. I became a college professor with a desire to reach students for Christ. A campus pastor suggested that I use pool. The rest is history as Gospel Trick Shot Ministries, Inc. was born in the mid 1990’s reaching not only students but people around the world.

Now back to the original question about playing pool competitively after becoming a Christian. In my case I rededicated my life and my game to Jesus Christ. After 4 years of exclusively doing ministry with Gospel Trick Shot a few of my fellow GTS board members suggested that I return to play competitively after a 15 year hiatus. My motivation was to make Jesus and the ministry more visible. God honored that and my love for the game competitively returned and the ministry expanded around the world as I competed as an ambassador for the Kingdom of Heaven. To God be all the glory!

Robin Dodson

Robin Dodson:

I wrote this story many years ago about how I picked up a pool cue after I became a Christian. It took a total of 5 1/2 years before I returned to the game I had loved from childhood. Pool would be my mission field very clear to God, looking back now, it also became very clear to me too.

My Story:

Story #21 – Ezekiel

Father, who will I be when I grow up, what shall I become? My past memories, my old life of playing pool, partying and drugs were gone. I found myself wondering just what was I being prepared for, what did my future hold. These were now the questions I had for God. Reading my Bible daily, I happened to be in the book of Ezekiel (by chance?).

First Question: Father God, where will I go?

Ezekiel 3: I am not sending you to a foreign people whose language you cannot understand. No, I am not sending you to people with strange and difficult speech. If I did, they would listen!

Right away I thought the only people I know who are not foreign to me are pool players. I was such a fish out of water anywhere but the pool room. We were a breed all our own language was even different…pool terms only a regular in the pool room could understand.

Second Question: Lord, do you want me to go to the pool room to tell them about what Jesus has done for me?

But the people of Israel won’t listen to you any more than they listen to me! For the whole lot of them are hard-hearted and stubborn. But look, I have made you as obstinate and hard-hearted as they are. I have made your forehead as hard as the hardest rock! So don’t be afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.”

Wow, it sure sounded like pool players to me and it also sure sounded like me! I thought, really? Lord Pool Players, I would LOVE that!!! I really loved pool players and I loved pool.  I wondered; do you want me to play pool again too. I continued and asked.

Third Question: Now, Lord, do you want me to go NOW?

Then he added, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. 11 Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”

I thought to myself…could this be real…is God talking to me about playing pool again, to share my faith with pool players??? I was so overwhelmed by now I couldn’t contain myself…I ran into the house and told the ladies with my tender yet bold young faith what I thought God had planned for me. “When I finish here at the Harvest House, I’m going to play pool for God” and in seconds without missing a beat laughter came (and doubt enter me just as fast) “Robin get a grip you’re not going backwards” God is not going to have you play pool again, I figured surely they knew more than I, so I pretty much dismissed it thinking I was over reading God’s word into my own life.

When the ladies at the Harvest Housed laughed at my first revelation, they did not see what God saw. In His Time, He makes all things Beautiful!

Tommy Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy:

Honestly I didn’t know for sure what it was until time went on and it became evident.  What I can say is that as a Christian I was able to play because He allowed me to play and continue on. I quit gambling and was willing to quit totally, but The Lord allowed me to continue on. The difference now as a Believer is now I play for Him and I will use my ability to serve Him and reach others for Christ through playing pool. Yes it is a job, but now it’s a joy because I do it for Christ and not just for myself. Also He provides for my every need because of playing. I have never gone without now that I’m a Christian. He always provides and in reality I should never have to worry about winning or losing. I can play and exalt Christ and not me anymore. It’s also a motivation to have a good attitude and not be upset if I lose. We need to be good examples of Christ no matter how bad it is or how bad we are losing. It has been a tremendous test of my faith. To do what I do for over 40 years and still hold onto my faith in Christ is amazing. He sustains me through the good and the bad. I will admit it hasn’t always been what I would want it to be, but I do what He wills and I am committed to doing His will no matter the cost. So the motivation is to love Christ and play to His glory and whenever the opportunity comes up, just be a witness for Him to reach others for His kingdom, preach Christ, and trust in Him for the wins. Just to give you a Biblical perspective on this. In Matthew 4 when Jesus was tempted By Satan in the wilderness, here is the first temptation out of three that comes to Christ by Satan.  Satan tries to create doubt in Christ’s mind and says, “(If) you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Then Jesus gives this classic answer, “It is written, Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.”   Here’s what’s going on in this temptation of Christ. Satan says (If). Satan knew that Jesus was God’s Son and Jesus knew that Jesus was God’s Son. But Satan is always on the attack and he will do whatever he can to confuse the issue. But Jesus had nothing to do with Satan’s temptation. Jesus responded beautifully. It is written. Those were the first 3 words of Jesus’ ministry. It is written. Jesus had a biblical ministry and anyone who claims to be a Christian should have a biblical ministry also. Then Jesus said, “Man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God.” There is a lot here to talk about and I don’t want to go too long on this letter, so suffice it to say Jesus was telling Satan, when God is ready to feed Me, He will feed me.” The temptation was for Christ to go ahead of God’s plan and make bread for Himself and satisfy His own needs independent of God’s will. And that’s how I feel when it comes to pool and to winning, and especially gambling. God says He will provide for my every need. And I will win when He is ready to let me win. I will not get all upset and agitated and discouraged when I lose. I will live by God’s words and not by my own abilities and thoughts and desires. I will do His will even if I never win again. God is in total control of my life and His decisions for me are the final verdict. So this is really what is motivating me to play now as a Christian. All glory goes to Him and not me. He has been so good to me and He deserves all of the credit.  I will say what Jesus said, “Begone Satan, begone!” Don’t believe the lies of Satan!!! Believe God for all of your needs!  Tommy

Nick Mannino

Nick Maninno:

It took me a long time to realize the power and peace I acquired having the Holy Spirit, sent by my Lord and savior Jesus Christ. It doesn’t get any better! I was relieved of the burden of self. I would pray not to win but to give me peace as only He could. My game got stronger when I started to rely on Him.  Psalm 46:10 Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the Nations, I will be exalted in the earth!   Amen and Amen!    Agape Love to all!  John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.  –  Nick Mannino

Sharing The Light – Question 6 March 2022

Question #6, March 2022:

Is it possible to reach pro level without the experience of playing for money?

Mike Massey

Mike Massey:

Of course it is. Ralf Souquet is a good example. He doesn’t gamble, and I believe he never did. He’s in the BCA hall of fame and one of the best players for decades from Europe.

When I first accepted Jesus, I didn’t gamble for quite a few years. Then, because I didn’t get grounded in The Word, Satan deceived me into thinking that matching up with players was okay as long as I didn’t hustle. I also thought that drinking alcohol was okay as long as I didn’t get drunk. The next thing I knew, I was cheating on my wife. It all destroyed my marriage, and also my fellowship with God and other Christians.

Don’t underestimate Satan, the deceiver, and also the human heart which the Bible says is evil and deceitful. The good news is, God is there with open arms to take us back if we repent. Just like the prodigal son. Go to Jesus and tell God your sorry and ask him to help you overcome this problem. God is stronger than the desires of the heart.  If you truly go to the light and don’t try to rationalize the wrong things in your life, he will reveal them and help you overcome, if you let him.

In the last few years, I have participated in Calcuttas. I also believe this is wrong for me, and I quit recently.

What I’m saying is meant for Christians. Non-Christians don’t have the Holy Spirit to teach them, so to them it seems okay. But they also believe a lot of other things are okay, that aren’t.

The Bible says, what seems right is wrong and wrong is right in the last days, which I believe we’re living in. No one knows, but the Father. Even the angels don’t know, and Jesus didn’t claim to know.

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman:

I believe it is absolutely possible to reach pro level without playing for money. The last time I wagered on a pool game was in the Spring of 1972. My opponent broke my heart and my wallet one night playing my favorite game with me. I had a good job working with Brunswick, so I could afford the wallet issue; however, when my heart was “broken” I realized my first love for the game (sights and sounds of the pool balls) had been put on hiatus because of some very poor free will decisions on my part as they applied to the game, including the gambling factor.

That night I made another free decision to “never” play for money again, as I was convicted that it was God’s money and that I should not use it as a pawn in my pool journey any longer. Beating someone for money became a short-lived emotion for happiness, and I realizing if I hurt that much by “losing God’s money”…then, just maybe a person that I may take their money from could hurt him or her even worse with irreparable results.

From 1972 until present day, I have thanked God for the ability and joy in playing “His” game in a positive, sharing, and loving capacity in relation to anyone I may play. After that decision in 1972 to steward over God’s game in this manner, I started winning in my heart each time I played. God even allowed over 40 major professional victories on the table via Artistic Pool, plus a special BCA Hall Of Fame induction in 2017.

So, I am firmly convinced that one can reach pro level without playing for money and play with the “heart” of Jesus…focusing on Him and what He did for us on the Cross. By doing so, the Holy Spirit will be activated, which can take anyone to the next level and beyond.

Best Victories to All…

Tom “Dr. Cue” Rossman

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis:

The answer is absolutely yes and I will use various examples of recent top professional pool players.  Let’s look at a few Christian BCA Hall of Famers first.  Mike Massey (2005) and Robin Dodson (2005) both made commitments early on to stop gamboling and play professionally without wagering as they both felt it was a poor witness for Jesus Christ.  They both went on to become World Champions after they stopped playing for money.  Tom Rossman (2017) made a similar decision and had a very successful career as a top showman and World Artistic Pool Champion.  Tommy Kennedy became a Christian as a young man and went on to win the 1992 U.S. Open and many other titles inspiring people like me to play pool competitively and use it as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus.  Other top European players who I respect and admire like BCA Hall of Famers Ralf Souquet, Thorsten Hohmann, and Mika Immonen fine-tuned themselves into world class athletes and World Champions with rigorous discipline and training and did not play for money.  I could go on and on and name many more but all these mentioned above not only earned the respect of their peers with their pool playing ability but also earned the respect of sponsors and fans by not playing for money!

Sharing The Light – Question 5 February 2022

Question #5, February 2022:

What first attracted you to the game of pool?

Robin Dodson:

Pin Balls machines and Boys!

Both of them found inside the Westminster Family Billiards. One year later Pool took the front seat, leading the way for an unbelievable career.

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman:

Back in 1959 I started working as a rack boy at Elsie’s Pool Room in Minonk, IL. The first attraction started with a focus on the “sights” of the pool balls. The “colors of the rainbow” (sights of the solid balls)) became apparent to me over time as a first covenant relationship to the “bow in the sky” that God placed there after the flood. The “colors of the rainbow” (sights of the striped balls) followed suit as a relationship to “by His stripes we are healed”!

It is interesting that the 8-ball reflects “the darkness of sin” and separates the solids from the stripes in the game, just as “sin” separates us from our heavenly Father, except for the atoning work of Jesus and what He did on the Cross for all of us. The foundational linking of the New Testament and Old Testament is evident in this “sight” property of God’s sport gift.

The second attraction (closely bonded to the first) deals with the “sounds” of the pool balls, as they come in contact with each other. An affect of “chirping birds” echoes the many collisions from “gentle tweets” to “stronger tweets” based on the power applied to each shot. Each time I hear the “sound” of the pool balls, I am reminded that “just as God provides for the sparrow”…so much more He will take care of us as His children.

The duality and bonded attraction of the “sights and sounds” of the pool balls has allowed me to “Play Skillfully with a Shout of Joy” (Psalms 33:3) for over six decades now. The relationship of “rainbows” and “chirping birds” in our pool games continue to remind us of God’s creative genius and profound gifts to bless our life journey both “on and off” the table.

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis:

Back in 1961 as a young 10-year-old boy , I was part of a Saturday morning bowling league and really struggled trying to improve.  I became so frustrated one Saturday that I went to the back of the bowling alley and looked at this beautiful green felted table that had beautiful rainbow-colored balls that someone left just sitting on the table begging to be struck.  I picked up a cue stick and remember having a straight shot into the side pocket on one of those beautiful balls.  I made it and marveled at the sound of the tip striking the cue ball and the sound of the balls as they collided.  I was in love with the game from that point on.

However, I had nowhere to play.  My parents asked me months later what I wanted for Christmas and immediately I said a pool table thinking that they would never get that for me.  To my surprise on Christmas morning, I had very few gifts under the Christmas tree as my sister got many which began to upset me a little.  Then my parents told me to go down in the basement and guess what?  There it was again the green felt and the beautiful rainbow-colored balls.  I picked up a cue stick that Christmas morning and played right through breakfast, lunch, and dinner as my Mom brought the food down to me.  Little did my parents or myself realize back then that God would use my fascination and love of the game of pool to bring the love of the Lord Jesus Christ around the World through Gospel Trick Shot Ministries, Inc. www.gospeltrickshot.org

Our gifts and interests are from God!  He wants us to act on those desires in a way that will bring glory and honor to the Lord Jesus Christ and a benefit to us at the same time because he created us.  It has been an amazing journey for the past 60 years as that initial fascination and the joy of playing pool has not worn off!  By God’s grace I will play until I cannot play any longer and do it always to the best of my ability for His glory and honor!

Tommy Kennedy:

I first played when I was around 11 years old. I was around a small pool table when I was with my relatives. They had a table in their basement. I started playing a little then. When I was 13 I started playing 12 hours a day. I just loved to play and it was a challenge. My sister played in high school so I guess I got more interested in playing because of her. It was a game that I wanted to get really good at. So I played for hours on end and kept improving. I really needed to win and to beat someone who beat me. I hated to lose so I pressed on and improved as I went. My sister really encouraged me to play so that probably did it. 

Cory Barnhart

From custom homes to custom cues, this guy can do it all. Today we say hello to Cory Barnhart of Barnhart Cues in this month’s “Meet the Cue Maker”

Cory Barnhart, 51, is a lifelong resident of Martinsburg, West Virginia. There he resides with his wife Michelle and their 2 children; daughter Morgan and son Alex, ages 16 and 14. When he was young and before Cory ever even touched a cue, he had the dream of becoming a commercial diver. Sadly, it wasn’t in the cards for him due to medical issues with his inner ear and he was forced to pursue another direction. With a father that owned a construction business, a mother that sold real estate and a sister as a mortgage lender, it made sense to stay in the same field opting to go into construction. He obtained both an electrician’s and plumber’s license and became proficient in cabinet making along with anything else that involved wood working. These skills would lead to a successful career in building custom homes and eventually owning his own construction company.

Cory’s introduction to pool began in his 20’s when he started playing in local leagues and tournaments. He quickly got hooked but it wasn’t until the 2nd annual Super Billiards Expo in 1994 that he first decided to try his hand in cue building. It was there, he purchased materials from Prather to build his own jump cue. Due to his background, he already had experience in woodwork along with all the tools required to build the cue. He even had a workspace available in his detached garage at home. After the jump cue turned out a success, he decided he wanted to pursue the hobby further. In 1995, Cory established Barnhart Cues with a goal in mind of joining the American Cuemakers Association (ACA). He began accumulating all the necessary equipment, most of which was acquired from short term cue makers that came and went. For a few years, cue building was just something Cory did after work instead of watching TV. Remaining just a hobby, he didn’t have much free time after spending 60-80 hours each week building custom homes. The cues he did build were then mostly gifted to friends. As time went on and the quality of his cues became more well known, he began devoting more time to the growing business. It was after meeting legendary cue maker Tim Scruggs that validated Cory was heading in the right direction. As it was his first time visiting another’s workshop, he asked Tim for advice on builds and technique. As it turned out, Tim was already a fan of the new cue maker and advised, “I like your cues, just do the same thing you’re doing.” A large compliment that he clearly meant, because it was Cory that Tim ended up passing along his equipment to after he retired. Cory continued to build cues in his spare time and even accomplished his goal of joining the ACA in the early 2000s. In 2005 he transitioned to a full-time cue maker, and it was custom homes that became just something he did on the side. His largest award to date came in 2009 at Valley Forge, where Cory received 2nd runner up for “People’s Choice Cue of the Year” for a 30-point re-cut cue with a frog skin wrap. This award winner ended up going to Eric Schleich out of Connecticut and to this day remains part of the infamous cue collector’s extensive Barnhart collection.

When it comes to technique, Cory traditionally uses the half splice method over full splice, but can do both. He then prefers to venture outside of traditional specifications and says he’d like to see more cues done with variety in length and diameter of shaft: “58 inches may be the standard cue length, but it doesn’t have to be”. He says there is so much room for individuality he doesn’t see why others stick to the same basic specs. Because of this, you’ll often find Barnhart cues with variations in shaft length as well as diameter, wider butts and even have a farther back wrap placement. Cory’s designs are typically made into a series of 10 to 15 finding it more efficient than designing each cue individually as each cue takes about 40-60 hours of work. His bumpers and joint pins are tailor made to his preferred specs and for the last 5 years, he has even had his own tips made. He likes to have at least a couple hundred forearms around the shop at all times. Because he doesn’t like to mail order wood, Cory makes special trips each year to personally visit all the big wood suppliers to make his purchases. While he doesn’t have a preferred build, he does prefer to work with coco bola, ebony or any nicely figured wood. Cory says the most challenging part of building cues is working with the wood itself while using a precision machine. He explains that you can’t expect the same tolerance you get from working with metal as the wood is constantly moving, “even more so for dense, exotic woods”. Besides his choices in wood, one way to spot a Barnhart is his signature dotted ring design commonly found on many of the collars. You’ll also see his name signed in pencil hidden in the handle of the cue. Gone are the days when he engraved his name saying he learned an expensive lesson having a fancy cue eaten up with the engraving machine. It was after that he took the advice of Ray Schuller to keep it simple and sign in pencil. He’s now been a full-time cue maker for the last 15 years and continues to build around 50 to 100 cues per year out of his 800 sq ft shop in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Cory says he didn’t really have any mentors prior to jumping in the business and mainly learned by trial and error. However, one of the first people he compared notes with after starting up was Ray Schuller. He also noted it was Chester Krick who showed him how to use a CNC machine and says he spent a week learning from Dennis Dieckman as well. Some of Cory’s favorite cue makers are Paul Drexler and Thomas Wayne stating, “Artistically, no one will probably ever do what they have done.” He also really likes Jerry McWorter and Richard Chudy because they take simple elements and put them together in a way that he finds super artistic. Aside from the flexibility it allows to spend more time with his children, Cory says the best part about building cues are the people he meets. Along with meeting other cue makers, he also enjoys meeting pool players from all over the country as well as outside the US. If you are wanting to get a Barnhart of your very own, Cory doesn’t have an official waitlist, nor does he take deposits. His cues range in price starting at $850 for a basic merry widow and increase depending on build. For many years, most Barnhart cues were sent to buyers overseas in China and Japan. However due to Covid, for the last 2 years he has taken orders directly from customers. The best way to procure a Barnhart cue of your very own is to email him directly at corybarnhart@msn.com. You can also find current Barnhart cues at Biggelbachs.com. However, if you’d like to see the man of many talents in person, you’ll be able to catch him in April at the Super Billiard’s Expo in Philadelphia. Make sure to stop by and say hello.

How Much Should You Care?

Throughout the past 35 years, I’m confident that I have either made or witnessed every mistake possible in pool. When it comes to attitude on the pool table, it is critical to have a balanced view.

While this might sound simple, I can guarantee that maintaining a positive attitude will be a very difficult thing to do under given circumstances. Every pool player in the world could use help in this area.

Finding the balance between caring too much and not enough might look different for everyone. We each bring our own personalities to the table. However, I know that leaning too far in either direction does not usually work out in the long run.

All of you know this by now, a tournament takes a long time to play. Each round usually has its own unique challenges. If I had to pinpoint one of my biggest flaws as a player, I reacted too heavily based on the result of each game.

Losing a game or two might send me into a panic – suddenly, I’m walking faster and worrying about what my next mistake might be. Conversely, an early runout or two might have me feeling a bit too good, wondering just how well I was going to play.

Be mindful that there is no such thing as perfection. We are humans, and it’s impossible to control our emotions completely. There are still matches where I am a little more erratic than others, but I know I’m doing far better than I used to. Additionally, after being around top-level players, I can tell you that they very rarely show emotion.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is a desire to go on “tilt” when the going gets tough. I used to play a very unproductive game against myself. Let’s say my first match was a disaster; I might say to myself, “Oh, just forget about this tournament.” And then, all the sudden, after 4 good matches, I might say, “You know, I’ve got a shot to win this thing.”

There are always opportunities to bail out or say to yourself, “I don’t care what happens.” Often, I find pool players do this as a defense mechanism. We’re scared to find out just how badly we might play if we keep trying. 

This extreme doesn’t work either. If you are going back and forth between caring and not caring, you lack the consistency to win. 

Somewhere between not caring and caring too much is the right balance. It generally can be achieved by committing to the following process:

Each shot you stroke is an independent event. All shots cumulatively influence your overall success, but I find it’s best to approach each shot as a new, different circumstance. It will help you make better strategic decisions, and more importantly, help you departmentalize your emotions. Again, this is all much easier said than done! Nobody does this correctly 100 percent of the time.

Diagnosing “Mental” Issues with Pool Players

We use the term “mental” in a lot of different ways when it comes to sports. We praise athletes who are “mentally tough” and marvel at their ability to play their best when the game is on the line.  We also use the term “mental” to describe athletes with poor focus and the ability to stay calm in pressure situations.  But what does the word “mental” actually mean when applied to sports?  

Breaking down “mental” issues

If you are a pool player and sometimes struggle with mental toughness, it might help to begin by breaking down mental challenges into two categories: Cognitive and emotional.  To help you better understand this breakdown I have provided further description below:

A.) Cognitive. Mental breakdowns that are rooted in cognitive psychology include lapses in what to do while at the table. Examples include taking the wrong shot, playing the wrong out, or simply putting the wrong English on the cue ball.  Players can improve their cognitive abilities by continuing to learn about the game and allowing experts to teach them better ways to manage the table.

B.) Emotional.  When we talk about emotional hurdles in pool, we are talking about how a player stays calm and cool when pressure increases.  Does the player remain focused, or allow anxiety to distort his/her thinking?  These kinds of breakdowns have little, if anything, to do with knowledge of what to do on the next shot (cognitive), but instead relate to challenges managing nerves, anger, sadness, and other emotions that can steal focus away from the next shot.

Improve your mental toughness

Regardless of whether you are challenged by cognitive or emotional issues, you can improve in both by learning more about how you can keep your head in the game.  Cognitive challenges are usually improved upon by taking lessons and learning the game of pool from more advanced players.  Learning how to address the cue ball, get shape on the next shot, and execute a run out are all skills that can be learned if the player is willing to put in the work.  Emotional challenges can be addressed by developing a pre-game and pre-shot routine, using skills like imagery and breathing, and coming up with a bounce-back mechanism for those times where you feel like you are allowing negative emotions to take over your game.  Regardless of the type of mental challenge you face, it’s important that you are proactive and seek the assistance that will best help your game.

Sharing The Light – Question 4 January 2022

We took a little break for the holidays but we are back with Question 4 of our ongoing series 

Question #4, January 2022: 

In your experience, did alcohol ever help, or hurt, your game?

Tom Rossman

Tom Rossman 

The last time I had any alcoholic drink was in my college days from 1967 – 1972. I do not remember it hurting or helping my game, probably because I never drank to excess.

I have however been helped in matches on a few occasions when my opponent drank to excess and his game went south very quickly — missing shots and playing position poorly.

I would rather experience any help that I gather from the game come from the “sport gift” of billiards that God has allowed me to play…accordingly to Psalms 33:3 — “Play Skillfully with a Shout of Joy”!!

When my focus is on what Jesus did for me (and everyone) on the Cross, I can truly enjoy the roll of the game with literal makes…or literal misses, which are simply “makes in disguise” (“new shots”) in the bigger spiritual picture of things.

The Holy Spirit working through me is the only guaranteed “help” I need!

Tommy Kennedy

Tommy Kennedy 

No, I never used alcohol in the sense of being an alcoholic. But on a rare occasion I have had a drink.. But now I don’t even want any. But if I feel bad sometimes I might have some to help with my stomach. Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for your stomach. But it wasn’t to the point of drunkenness which the bible forbids.I also don’t like the way it makes me feel. It makes me very tired and just makes me feel like I want to faint. And I think it is a bad testimony if you are a drinker. You will be setting a bad example for others who might be tempted to drink and then they fall into drunkenness because they can’t handle it like you can. So out of love for my weaker brothers and sisters I don’t want to be a drinker. Also what I drink now if I do is sangria. Usually from Carrabas. It is blackberry Sangria and it is awesome. But it has been over 2 years since I have even had a glass of it and I don’t plan on having some anytime soon.. To me it’s just not worth it. And lastly, the book of Proverbs says, “Woe unto him who gives his neighbor strong drink.” This verse is the reason I don’t own a pool room. People have wanted to put me in business in a pool room but they wanted to sell alcohol. So I would never own a pool room because of the alcohol in case anyone was wondering.  I could make lots of money but I would rather follow Christ and be poor and in His will than to be rich and out of His Will! And you can’t be a Christian and sell alcohol to people. It just is not compatible with true faith in The Lord Jesus Christ!         Tommy

Nick Mannino 

I never used alcohol.  Nick

Robin Dodson 

Using drugs in my teen years was never attached to the mindset that it would help my pool game. On the contrary, I could barely stand up let alone try and shoot a ball into a pocket. Alcohol was never an issue for me, I began my Christian walk at 20 years of age. I never did have an interest in alcohol. When I played on the Pro Tour I wanted all my faculties to be clear and focused! I Loved playing and enjoying the ZONE.  It’s all Natural!

Steve Lillis

Steve Lillis 

As a young upcoming professional pool player, I quickly learned how much alcohol was a part of the game and still is to a large extent.  I grew up in Northern New Jersey outside of New York City.  The laws on the books in most towns and cities where I lived in the 1960’s and 1970’s was that no alcohol was permitted with regulation 9-foot pool tables.  If you wanted to drink and play pool you had to go to a bar with pool tables and most bars back then in my area had 7-foot pool tables only.  Additionally, you had to be 16 years old to play in a pool room without alcohol with 9-foot regulation pool tables and 21 years old to go to a bar in New Jersey and 18 in New York to play on those 7-foot standard bar size pool tables.

I started playing pool on my home pool table starting at age 11.  By 13 years old I was running over 50 balls in straight pool and watching the Friday night match of the week on TV with such billiard stars as Irving Crane, Babe Cranfield, Joe Balsis, Luther Lassiter, and other future BCA Hall of Famers.  My dream was to become a professional pool player like them.  When I turned 16, I went to the local pool room and realize that I could win money playing pool so I began to gambol.  Then at age18, I went to the bars in New York and realized I could win even more money.  I began playing people for drinks and drank with them only to raise the bet.  The more I drank the more money I won.  This cycle continued and when I turned 21, I became a full-time bar room hustler by night and a professional pool player in the pool room by day.  

My dream of becoming the best pool player I could be expanded into playing in professional pool tournaments by age 22 in the New York New Jersey area with the very best players around including Allen Hopkins, Steve Mizerak, Ray Martin, Pete Margo, Jack Colavito, and many others all of who I have beaten on several occasions.  My main source of income at the time was my bar hustling which included a lot of drinking alcohol.  I did not use alcohol to play in the professional tournament because it was not allowed but I certainly drank heavy before and after my professional pool tournament matches.  

At 25 years old my world collapsed!  My alcohol abuse along with other drugs had severe consequences.  After a night in the bars sometimes hustling and now mostly drinking, I would experience blackouts and wake up in places in which I was not aware of how I got there.  My decisions in life became severely flawed as I eventually ended up divorced, lost a lot of money gamboling, and suffered a major emotional and physical breakdown.  But God rescued me from this destructive lifestyle!  At 26 years old after suffering for many months in seclusion feeling ashamed and defeated, I joined the U.S. Navy and became clean for the first time in almost a decade.  The rest of this story back to life and health can be found in my two books available on Amazon.com entitled “But You Must” and “What’s That in Your Hand.”  

In conclusion, alcohol not only destroyed my game temporarily but my life as well.  I have been clean from alcohol since 1976 for the last 45 years of my life I have been serving God and other people!  Jesus has forgiven me and I have been blessed with a wife, children, grandchildren, and a ministry called Gospel Trick Shot Ministries, Inc (www.gospeltrickshot.org}.  As an added bonus the Lord has given me the opportunity to continue to compete at the highest levels of pool competition with the very best players in the world at age 71.  To God be the glory great things He has done!   

James White

Always humble, “I can’t wrap my head around people knowing who I am and me not knowing who they are.” We definitely know who you are James White. 

However, for anyone hiding under a rock, let me introduce you to James White of James White Custom Cues in this month’s “Meet the Cue Maker”.

James White, 56, resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He has 4 children: Lauren, Nicholas, Jacob and Rachel: 2 of which he lives with. He has spent most of his life in the Pittsburgh area. Growing up, James always had an interest in building and design and thought he would pursue a career as either a veterinarian or an architect. Quite the difference in direction but as it turns out he became both a thriving cue maker as well as having an established career in Pathology. Over the years, he’s found a way to balance and continue in both pursuits.

James’ introduction to the pool scene began around the age of 18 when he started shooting pool in college. By the mid-80s, he was in his early twenties and started hanging around a pool room called “Pinky’s Billiard Parlor” over in Pittsburgh. It was the same pool room local cue maker Paul Mottey was often found at when he wasn’t working at his cue shop. James first met Paul in 1988 but it was in 1990 when he decided he wanted a Paul Mottey custom cue for himself. He gave the cue maker a deposit but will laughingly tell you that he, like many, lacked the patience to see it through. After pestering Paul continuously for updates, he was eventually given his deposit back that same year. Instead of waiting for one to be built, James purchased a Mottey cue that was available in the showcase at Pinky’s. He bought the 4-point cue along with 3 shafts for $450 which was a steal at that time as it would normally go for about $800. He decided to modify the cue by sanding it down and staining the maple grey. Looking back, he says it was “quite nonsense” but turned out ok as he was able to resell the cue. By 1992, James began working at a local pool room called “Mr. Pockets” and was still tinkering around with basic cue modifications. Shortly after, he joined Paul Mottey and also began working part-time at Mottey’s Cue shop. As if he didn’t have enough going on, he additionally started pursuing his associate’s degree and began establishing a career in Pathology. 

By 28, James was working his primary job in pathology along with learning how to build cues under legendary cue maker Paul Mottey. Paul’s cue shop was located over an auto repair shop in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. It was there, James began learning to spray and finish the cues for Mottey. He then gradually began building sneaky Pete’s in addition to turning shafts and sanding cues. Throughout the years, he continued to learn from Paul and build cues under the Mottey name. In 1999, James purchased 49% of the Mottey cue business which included the equipment and customer base and also brought along 49% of the profit. It wasn’t until 2000 that James signed a cue under his own name in an effort to join the American Cue Makers Association. Although he didn’t end up pursuing the membership it did open the idea of building cues under his own name.

It was in 2003 when Paul and James decided to go in 50% each and purchase a pool room called “Breakers” over in the Dormont area of Pittsburgh. However, as time went on, Paul began spending more time in the pool room and less time building cues. Paul retired from cue building in 2007 and sold James the other 51% of the business in return for James’s 50% of the pool room. James continued to build cues under the Mottey name until 2010. When reflecting on his mentorship to James, Mottey explains that although he learned from scratch himself, he was happy to pass along his techniques to James. He even stated “James is probably a better cue maker then I am.” Quite the compliment from a Hall of Fame cue maker.

It was around 2011 when James decided to branch out onto his own and start consistently building cues under James White Custom Cues or JMW. He moved all the equipment from the cue shop in Overbrook to his 550 sq ft garage in Pittsburgh that he converted into a shop. He’s well equipped with 4 lathes, a mill, a shaft machine, a CNC machine as well as a few others. James prefers building cues using the half splice technique which as discussed in previous articles, is when the builder uses a single piece of wood and creates a V shaped groove for the veneers to lay over and then be turned down. He prefers this method as he says he has more control of the weight distribution and where the balance point falls. He creates the cue from start to finish minus the joints, screws and bumpers. James finds the hardest part of cue making is the repetitive stuff; the monotony of turning shafts and attaching joint collars. Although it’s a necessary part of the process, it doesn’t allow any room for creativity. He says the best part is “Making people happy and giving somebody something that they are hoping for and exceeding expectations.” He doesn’t have a favorite design but enjoys making each cue a little different. He does however, prefer to use ebony or ebony black rosewood as he believes it creates the classiest of looks. You’ll commonly find his signature hidden in the forearm and his JMW stamp on the butt of the cue. Although James states Paul Mottey has been his only real mentor when discussing construction methods, he does have a few influences. A few of his favorite cue makers are Dennis Searing, Pete Tonkin, Thomas Wayne and John Showman. Showman shows mutual respect saying, “He’s a great guy and great craftsman. He’s been doing some fantastic work for years and I always thought he was underappreciated.” That’s something we intend to correct! James White Custom Cues has long been a name in the cue building world, and we intend to get the word out.

It’s James’s passion for creativity that enables him to consistently carve out time from his main profession to continue building cues. He states that each cue has about 40-60 hours of hands-on work and will likely take no less than one year from start to finish. Be prepared to spend at least $2,500 depending on build and design. His career in pathology allows him enough time to produce about 20 cues per year and his waitlist is about 3 years long. Although he doesn’t have a broker, he currently provides Mark Kalunguan and Joe Van Buren with 5 cues per year. The rest of the 20 are pulled from his waitlist. So, if you’re looking to add a JMW cue to your arsenal the best way to do so would be to try your luck and be added to the waitlist, no deposit required. The best way to reach James is his business page on Facebook under James White Custom Cues. Any collector would be lucky to have a cue built by this multi-faceted cue maker.

The Formula For Pool Playing Achievement

What rating would you give yourself on improving your pool game? Do you have a systematic plan for increasing your overall ability? 

The best pool players in the world know what it takes to motivate themselves, maintain focus and drive forward to the achieve their vision and dreams. 

Imagine if you could quickly recover from losses, mental setbacks, bad luck, or anything else that can stand in your way from playing at your optimal speed. Top players begin the process by carefully noting what is and what is not in their control. They then only focus on those things over which they have control and let go of those things which are out of their control. If you list all the things you must accomplish during a tournament and all the roadblocks that might fall in your way, you will quickly realize that the only thing you have true control over is yourself.

So to improve your playing ability, begin by focusing on yourself. Focus on your attitude, your thoughts, how you feel, how you react to problems, how you prepare yourself, how you review your performance and how go about achieving your goals. Let’s look at a professional players tips for improving personal performance:

Review your goals daily. Use this as a springboard for heightening motivation and for building focus that can carry you through each practice session.

Plan your performance, then work your plan. You must know where you want to go before you get there. Be clear about what you want to accomplish before your next tournament or before your next match and then execute your plan.

Remember, “Mile by mile it’s a trial, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch”. If you look at everything you must do it can seem overwhelming, but if you break down each aspect into parts or bite-size portions, you will be amazed at how quickly the little things combine to complete major tasks. Take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves.

Ask yourself, “Will this matter?” If you get sidetracked by things that «feel good” to complete, but are “off-task”, then ask if what you are doing will have any impact on your future goals. This will keep you focused on what is truly important.  In other words, if you are weak in defense practicing ball running probably isn’t your best option even though it may be the “fun thing” to do. 

Set deadlines and make timetables for executing each objective. It is amazing how future due dates drive improvement. Good records give you proof that you are making progress. Having a deadline creates some urgency to complete your goals. If you want to continually improve you need to keep pressure on yourself to perform. Setting goals will do this!

Ask yourself, “What were the top 3 things I accomplished today?”. This makes you accountable to yourself and helps you measure how well you stayed focused on your pool playing priorities. It will also help you set-up your short-term goals for your next practice session.

Celebrate your successes. We often go through days or weeks and barely acknowledge our accomplishments. We tend to only focus on what we lack or on what we haven’t completed. Give yourself credit for the things you have accomplished in practice. If you complete a drill for the very first time, it’s time to celebrate!

Practice continuous improvement. This is one of the true secrets professional players often exhibit. They continually set higher goals after each old goal is met. They endlessly create new goals to fuel the fires of motivation and to take themselves to an even higher level of performance.

The best pool players in the world know what it takes to motivate themselves, maintain focus and drive forward to the achieve their goals and dreams. Top professionals, maintain self-awareness, adjust and execute their goals to perfection.  This is the formula that separates armatures from professionals. Practice it to perfection and your game will improve by leaps and bounds.