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Level playing felt.

Billiards is one of the few sports where players with disabilities can compete against able-bodied players with only minor modifications, if any, to the playing equipment.

The availability of the sport is very widespread, from billiards rooms to bowling alleys, recreational centers, bars and even private homes. Tables are also found in many Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals and rehabilitation centers.

Playing billiards from a wheelchair isn't anything new. A photo from the early 1940s on the Stoke Mandeville Legacy website (man devillelegacy.org.uk) shows three players seated in wicker wheelchairs playing a game of snooker with two standing players.

According to that website, Sir Ludwig Guttman, who is considered by many as the father of the Paralympic movement, introduced games and sport in the early 1920s as a vital part of the rehabilitation program for spinal patients. Guttman recognized their value in encouraging fitness, introducing competition and providing pleasure. Once spinal patients were up and into wheelchairs, then they could take part in games like darts, billiards and skittles (bowling).

Currently, billiards is a proven social outlet for many people with disabilities. It can be a way to go out on a Friday or Saturday night to a local billiards room or bowling alley for some pool action with friends or family and have a rewarding experience.

Many wheelchair pool players even compete in weekly amateur pool leagues. One national pool league association, the American Poolplayers Association, hosts an annual 8 Ball singles challenge event every year in Las Vegas for wheelchair poolplayers who have qualified through regular local league play. This is a well-attended tournament, with players competing based on their demonstrated skill levels in their local league play, primarily against able-bodied competitors.

As in all sports, billiards players must put in a considerable amount of dedication and practice in order to improve their skills. Practice helps build muscle memory, improves consistency and provides situational experience for later application during competition.

The key difference for wheelchair players is that most local practice will occur with a non-disabled partner. This can limit a wheelchair player's potential to play at the highest levels of competition.

This is where the National Wheelchair Billiards Tournament Series, hosted jointly by the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and National Wheelchair Poolplayers Association (NWPA), plays a vital role.

By traveling to these events, wheelchair poolplayers can learn from their fellow competitors the important new skills and techniques on how to best play certain shots or positions from a wheelchair. It's also a chance to see new pieces of adaptive equipment used by the other competitors, such as specialized handgrips, cue extensions, extendable bridges, no-hands-required bridges, and much more.

With added tools, techniques and experiences, players can return home with more skills and confidence in their pool-playing ability. In addition, by regularly competing in the PVA/NWPA tournament series, they can qualify for national and international competitions and championships.

In April, the Mid Atlantic PVA 9 Ball Classic took place at Diamond Billiards in Midlothian, Va. Ken Nottle of Parkesburg, Pa., won the main event with Michael Chenail of Gordonsville, Va., taking second. The Second Flight event was won by Angel Torres, with Bob Barnaby finishing as runner-up.

For complete results and information on the PVA/NWPA Billiards Tournament Series, visit pva.org.

Contributor: Jeff Dolezal.
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Title Annotation:sports & rec
Author:Dolezal, Jeff
Publication:PN - Paraplegia News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2013
Words:551
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