Interview: The South West Snooker Academy - out of passion for snooker (part I)

01:25:00 Ramona Dragomir 0 Comments

God`s smilling to this new project -  the SWSA
A German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to be more precise, once said that “Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion”. And boy was he right! The truth is that passion is the main ingredient for everything and everyone; you just can’t live without passion, not a fulfilling life at least. Passion makes things better, it makes things work, it makes people live, but more importantly it makes dreams come true.

Mr. Paul Mount had a dream for as long as he remembers – he wanted to have his own Snooker Academy and by working real hard and putting all of his energy and love into this tremendous project the South West Snooker Academy was born. This is a small part of Mr. Mount’s story, a story that will definitely inspire each and everyone who reads these lines. It’s a story about commitment, belief, strength and not to forget…passion. :-)

Although I haven’t had the privilege to actually meet Mr. Mount in person, due to the fact that we are separated by quite a distance :-P it’s not hard to see that he is a very modest person, who doesn’t like talking about himself too much but lets his work do the job. He describes himself first of all as a snooker fan and second of all as a coach and manager.

Snooker Loopy: How was the road from being a snooker player to becoming a manager? Was it an easy and smooth transition?

Paul Mount: “I have never played snooker professionally but have played in my local league for around 20 years and have always loved the game since watching players such as Terry Griffiths and Ray Reardon when I was a boy.

Mr. Paul Mount in action
It was playing in my local league that I met local players Robert Milkins and Michael Wasley and over the years we became good friends. When Michael was about 15 he needed a bit of help with his snooker so I agreed to sponsor him and that developed into me coaching him and then managing him. Michael is now 20 years old and is improving all the time and we are all hoping to see him playing on the main tour in the very near future. Michael is also my Academy manager at the South West Snooker Academy.

Through my involvement with Michael and my friendship with Robert Milkins, I began to sponsor Robert too which again, turned into me managing him. Becoming a manager was a fairly easy process in all honesty but the true challenge is in providing the best support and management to my players.”

SL: How did you come up with the idea of putting together a Snooker Academy?

PM: “For as long as I can remember I have always dreamed of building my own snooker academy. Initially, the plan was to build a small academy with a couple of tables to provide high quality practice facilities for Robert and Michael to use but the idea just grew and grew until before I knew it we had 13 tables and a 400 seat match arena.”

The SWSA during the building process
A bold dream, I dare to say and one that was about to change the life of many, many people. But not everything felt into place right away as the building process of the SWSA was a genuine adventure. It took 12-18 months to get the planning permission for building the Academy and like that wasn’t hard enough Mr. Mount had to face the resistance of some local authorities (bureaucracy rules everywhere!) along the way. By December 2009 he finally got the permission to start the project which took another six months of constant hard work.

With the “Pink Ribbon” tournament about to kick off in June 2010 the Academy had to be finished quick enough, but it had to be done in the best possible way so more hard work was part of the equation. With precious help from some of the players who lived in the near area the Academy was finished on time, but that wasn’t the end of things as they got electricity a couple of days before the big launch! It was insane!
You might think that this was it, but you couldn’t be wrong! On the day the big opening was scheduled, the whole team was expecting the building control officer to approve their arduous work. At 5:30 in the morning the officer came to review the Academy and two hours later snooker was at home – the SWSA was finally open! Phew…what a journey that was! :-)

Paul Mount with "Pink Ribbon`s" first winner, Michael Holt
SL: One of the most important events held by the SWSA is the Pink Ribbon tournament, this also being the event that marked the launch of the Academy. Any particular reasons for starting with it?

PM: “The Pink Ribbon is an event that is very close to my heart and it means a lot to me. The Academy is set up to allow any profit made to be donated to our chosen charities with one of them being Breast Cancer Care.
In 2002, I lost my 39 year old sister to breast cancer. It is a terrible disease and causes too many families heartache. The Pink Ribbon is a tournament I run in memory of my sister and as a way to spread the message to as many people as possible about the importance of checking for the warning signs and ensuring all of your loved ones check too.

I have named the arena in the Academy The Kay Suzanne Arena after my sister which makes it even more special for me and my family. We wanted to open the Academy with an event that would show what we would be offering to both Professional and amateur players and to raise money whilst doing this seemed to be a massive bonus. Everyone seemed to really enjoy the event and so many people from my friends and family to the friends and family of some of the players worked voluntarily for the whole event and helped us to raise a lot of money for breast cancer charities.

The SWSA, where high quality snooker feels like home
SL: Shortly after the big launch, the SWSA was part of the World Open pre-qualifying stages. This had to mean a great deal for the whole team. Tell us more about this subject.

PM: “It was an incredible achievement by all involved at the Academy. We have never been shy to admit that we would love to hold qualifiers and PTC events at the South West Snooker Academy. To be asked by World Snooker to hold a qualifier for the World Open within days of having opened was a he surprise but a great honor and our event was very well supported with over 70 entrants in total. It was a long day which saw Sam Baird defeat Andrew Norman in the final to win a place in the World Open as well as a six month scholarship at the South West Snooker Academy.

SL: After almost three months of activity, the Academy closed its doors for 4 weeks, in order to make some essential modifications to the playing facilities. But the snooker lovers were in for a treat, for a wonderful exhibition was planned when the Academy re-opened its doors – The Jimmy White v. Tony Drago exhibition. It was without doubt a smashing success, wasn’t it?

White v. Drago match poster
PM: “We did have to close for a few weeks due to few small issues with how our tables were running. The Academy used 13 large lorry loads of concrete for the first floor alone which meant there was a lot of water in the walls and floors of the building. This caused the humidity of the rooms to be wrong for the optimum conditions of the tables. We spent those 4 weeks using de-humidifiers in the rooms to help solve the problem and they were taking out over 100 pints of water per day! The problem is no longer and issue now and the tables are running beautifully.

We reopened with the Jimmy White v Tony Drago exhibition which was a fantastic evening. Michaela Tabb came down to referee the occasion and, I think it is fair to say, she looked absolutely stunning and added extra glamour to the event. We also had Terry Griffiths and David Hendon commentating for us which was fantastic. It was great to see the Arena full and to have an enjoyable evening as a team to mark the full opening of the Academy.

to be continued...