Brighton to Budapest

I never expected to find Rex Williams in the heart of Budapest but that is exactly what I found on a recent trip to Hungary’s capital. The Rex Williams snooker club is on the Buda side of the River Danube, a small club with four good quality tables and a nice bar serving beers with very large heads, and some nice snooker memorabilia.

I was visiting Budapest for my summer holiday and was pleased to have the chance to offer coaching whilst over there and promote World Snooker Coaching’s aim of ‘Growing the Game’. My visit was arranged with the help of Steve, an English Hungarian snooker player and, thankfully for me, a great translator.

The coaching took the form of individual hour long 1-to-1 sessions. I started by coaching Steve. We worked on a number of elements of his game and I introduced the ‘3 phase process’ which helps greatly with consistency of potting and positional play. For a man whose sporting heroes are Alex Higgins and Ian Botham it’s important to introduce new ideas without losing the flair. In the end we play snooker for the fun, because we love it and this has to always be remembered.

I had the pleasure of meeting and coaching the head of the Hungarian Snooker Association, Peter Varga. Peter didn’t speak much English and my Hungarian isn’t too good (if I’m honest I can say ‘thank you’ and that’s it). This made for a very interesting and successful session, using instruction through observation and demonstration, rather than through speech. A key factor in coaching is to use language which gets across the right meaning, avoiding misinterpretation. Working visually meant Peter was able to take on board the instruction and to immediately implement it in his game – make it his own. We learn in this way as children. We are not told how to walk and talk, we learn through observation. I think the best coaching sessions involve the least amount of speech possible – less talk, more do.

Peter is a very good century-break player. I liked his description (translated by Steve) of how he felt when he made his first century break, ‘like being in another place’. Some players would describe it as ‘being in the zone’, but I prefer his description.

Near the end of the coaching session with Peter he was faced with an interesting shot on the pink to get positioning on the black. The cue ball was the ‘wrong’ side to get on the black and the only way to get good positioning was to send the white around the table. A lot of players go a certain way for this shot with the cue ball flirting with the middle and baulk pockets. There is a great way to play this positional shot the ‘professional’ way, avoiding danger and getting positioning on the black.

Coaching can give you such great experiences. Following the coaching I ended up in a great bar called the ‘For Sale’ pub for beer and goulash stew. For years visitors to the pub have pinned their business cards to the wall. Artists have left drawings, some people copies of their passports. They form a ‘wallpaper’ of visitor ‘trophies’. The floor is a ‘carpet’ of discarded complimentary monkey nut shells and saw dust. Eating my stew I saw next to me an old London underground ticket with the words ‘BRIGHTON TO BUDAPEST, ONE WAY’ on it. You go all the way to Budapest and you see Rex Williams and someone from Brighton – small world. I pinned my coaching business card on the wall next to the underground ticket so will be expecting a call from Hungary some time soon.

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