I was taken aback last year and then again this year after two of the female players I interviewed for Billiard Buzz had both shared their experiences regarding what they heard about female players versus male players in the beginning of their pool journey. The similarities caught me off guard.
One of them stated, “When I get to the table, I am going to make them forget I’m a female and remember me as a pool player; I want to be respected by everyone."
I was taken aback because I had never thought that way before.
But then she also shared, "The culture is very different in MA vs TX. In MA, I was conditioned to think I wasn’t ever good enough. I was only pretty good for a female."
Ah, then it made much more sense.
The other female player had similar experiences. "I had a lot of preconditioning to overcome. It was beat into my head early on from everyone who surrounded me in the pool room, that women couldn’t win. I had always looked at women as inferior pool players, counting myself amongst that number of course."
Yippers! Where did these girls play pool??
She continued, "I started playing pool in 1992, before there were many widely respected dominant female players. The pool room where I started, it was just a statement of fact that women played so far under men. That is why when I started playing pool I developed such a big stroke. I wanted to play as good as the men, and when looking around myself I saw a lot of women rolling in balls, and not able to come with big outside English draw shots that bent off rails. I spent hours practicing these and other shots to set me apart from other women. This both helped and hurt me years later."
You can tell both players were affected for many years by what they experienced and heard in the pool room about the differences between male and female players.
And when I posted the interviews, one of my female friends said they related - they had encountered similar situations.
Hmm, wow, really?
I just didn't experience any of that.
Therefore, it made me wonder why I (being a female) hadn't endured this, also.
My first guess is, the male players I associated with never discussed in a negative way about male versus females players. They never made me feel inferior and they didn't downplay females, it was just a fact/opinion I heard, but with no negative connotation to it. I played pool in both Florida and Texas - big states - but just didn't hear such raw comparisons about females. I did hear that guys think males play better than females, but it was never something that had a negative tone to it - it was just kind of a generic topic that sometimes the guys might talk about. We talked about POOL, not gender of pool.
My other guess is because I was around a very strong female player when I started in the pool realm. Strong at the game and strong in her character.
When I was about 22 years old, I was practicing pool one sunny weekday afternoon in San Antonio Texas at Clicks Billiards. The pool room was pretty empty, as it was a very beautiful day outside, and June Hager Walter (who I didn't know at the time) was practicing on another table. She came up to me and told me that I was cute and had a good stroke, and that I could get sponsors and should consider playing pool for a living.
When I told her, "But I have a job," she still looked at me like I was crazy, lol. Maybe she thought I didn't have good, steady job or one that made decent money, I dunno, lol. But when I explained I actually had a career with my job that I went to Texas A&M for, she then said, "Oh, well, you should definitely do that instead of playing pool."
It was really funny.
But her and I became very good friends and it turned out that June was a very good player who had been on the road in the '80s and '70s. Her husband at the time was a well-known road player and so she learned how to play pool very well, and also how to handle herself. Don't get me wrong - June was very sweet, extremely caring, and would do anything for her friends. But she also stood up for herself and handled herself well in all situations, which was something I hadn't seen growing up.
Because her and I became great friends (she was instrumental in helping me overcome something in my late 20s), I would travel with her to tournaments not just in Texas, but also out of the state. I saw her play a lot of very high money matches, and so I'm witnessing a female who was playing high-caliber pool against other high-caliber female pool players and they're playing for a lot of money. So, in my mind I never thought much about the differences between a male and a female pool player. I mean, I know there's differences, but there was never a negative connotation tag to it, as I read in those two interviews.
I'm very thankful I was around a lot of people in my pool journey that didn't talk negatively about female pool players. That would have sucked.