Meet the Joneses – the Snooker Loopy family (part II)

15:36:00 Ramona Dragomir 0 Comments

Mark Jones
Moving on to the second part of our interview, Mark Jones enters the stage. The cameras are rolling, the lights are on the main actor, three, two, one … here we go!

Snooker Loopy: The proud dad of two beautiful young and talented girls. How’s the job? Is it a tough one?

Mark Jones: “I love it! (a big smile appears on his face). It is a tough job though trying to balance work and family with helping your daughters try to excel in their chosen paths, whatever they may be. Times are tough in this country and will be tougher still so any guidance and assistance that I can provide will hopefully stand the two of them in good stead for the future.

Hannah knows what she wants to get out of life at the moment but Ellie is still deciding what she likes or doesn’t like. Hannah has always been a placid type who is quietly confident. Ellie is a totally different character and she wields a sharp fury that is a challenge for me to manage. It is going to be fun to see which direction Ellie will go and hopefully with Theresa’s and my guidance she will succeed in whatever she puts her mind to without getting too angry”. ;-)

Mark’s history with snooker started when he was a 9 year-old lad and his parents bought him a 6ft snooker table. He recalls as being “hooked immediately” and who can blame him? ;-)
Over the years he had the chance to play snooker with his cousin, Matt Jones on a 12ft table and the fact that he got beating put a capital A on his ambition to improve his snooker skills. He honestly remembers the time he saw a “certain” Mark J. Williams playing in Pro-Arm and realising he was “no-where near good enough without a lot more practice”.
Nowadays he still picks up his cue gladly, although as he says “it can be a love-hate relationship with the game”, his main focus being now on observing the new techniques that the players develop and trying “to get Hannah to adopt. It is tough because 14 year-old girls don’t tend to listen to their fathers”, says Mark laughing.

Mark at the practicing table
Snooker Loopy: I know you are the Technical Director of the EASB, but you also have your own company (Wytech). How do you manage to do all that and be involved so much into snooker? You are always with Hannah when she is playing and I’m sure that’s also the case for Ellie Mae.

Mark Jones: “This is simple. I have a fantastic business partner in Paul Stanynought. We started the business (Wytech) up in 2004 and he has always been supportive of Hannah and my interest in snooker in general. He and I set up the Wytech Ladies Masters a few years ago. Without his help it would be nigh on impossible to devote the time to Hannah or other snooker issues. I can’t thank him or praise him enough for his support.

Having your own business gives me access to more resource than other people, which is why I am able to deal with the business, Hannah, Ellie, EASB WLBSA and local snooker affairs but it is a struggle sometime especially when work in the business picks up. However, although I am juggling a lot of things at the moment, I am coping. If things change and I find it difficult then I will have to pull back and focus on the more important areas of my life. People, I am sure, understand.

The bottom line for me is that I will do whatever I can to help improve snooker locally or nationally and it is for selfish reasons I suppose as I want my daughter to have the best opportunities to play the game at local, national, international and professional level.

Snooker Loopy: At this moment, what’s your opinion about snooker? Is this sport developing well enough?

Mark Jones: “I am very excited about snooker. Barry Hearn coming in has brought a buzz into the sport that I have not experienced for many years. In fact I am now playing more snooker and I had turned to pool a few years ago. It is improving at a nice pace at the moment professionally with the Q-School developments and the PTC events. There are lots of opportunities to play.

The EASB have developed more playing grass root opportunities to help children play competitively which will stand them in good stead for the future. I relish the next few years if the past two are anything to go by.

Mark and Hannah (Ladies East Anglican `09)
Snooker Loopy: I know that I would love to see Hannah play in the main circuit. Do you think that the Q School is a better and transparent way of entering the professional tour?

Mark Jones: “I think it has its pros and cons. The pros are the cost, the fact that in three weeks you can see whether have made the grade and also whether you have the ability to make the grade. The cons are that the 3 weeks could be the time you are hitting a really tough patch or that you draw the favorite players in the first round and don’t get a chance to acclimatise.

This is where the PIOS format was a good testing ground because it was based on consistency and your best results over the series so the 8 players going through had sweat blood and tears to make it but could be proud of their achievements.

With the announcement that the top 8 amateurs from the PTC events will be receiving professional status coming through this addresses that problem and with it brings more routes to becoming a professional. Truly exciting times!

Hannah will be playing in these events in a couple of years and will know what it takes to become a professional. A severe test for the best amateurs so Hannah will have to work twice as hard to challenge for a spot but that is the point, only the best should progress. These new innovations will incentivise the up and coming players to work harder which should raise the standard and quantity of grass root players.

Snooker Loopy: Do you see a chance for the girls to have a stronger saying in snooker and why do you think that male snooker players are way more popular than female players?

Mark Jones: “I do see a chance for girls but only if the ladies gets more recognition and promotion to attract the younger generation. There are some great people in the background like Tim Dunkley and Monique Limbos who tirelessly turn out photographs and reports of events but this doesn’t seem to get to the girls as the uptake into the ladies WLBSA junior events and EASB events is pretty non-existent.

The girls need opportunities like Hannah had with the WLBSA scholarship but this needs to be promoted around the country in schools and snooker clubs through local media and word of mouth.

Hannah Jones and the ref Daniel Lewis
As for male snooker players. It has been a male dominated sport since the beginning of the game and will continue to be and the result will be more popularity for the male players. What the ladies need is the likes of Reanne, Maria and soon Hannah to compete at the PTC’s and in Q School and start winning to raise their profile. Unfortunately there will be those that mock the appearance of ladies at such events but that will always be the case and the girls need to focus on the job at hand and ignore the stupid comments that I too often see on forums and in the press.

As a snooker player you have to deal with pressure and tension most of the time, but in the end it becomes part of your training schedule and maybe you even get used to it. However as a parent … that’s where things change.
For Mark, pressure is the name of the game and most of the time it’s even bigger or stronger that Hannah’s feelings towards an important match.

Parents take on too much pressure believe me. I had hair when this all started!!!

The problem for parents, and I am speaking from experience, is that most will over emphasise the better characteristics of their children which can be annoying to others. In doing so they put their child on such a high pedestal that when the child plays badly or loses that there is an element of embarrassment that the parent looks a bit silly for what they have said. This is nonsense and I was guilty of being like this in the beginning, although my intentions were good it may not have come across well.

It is so difficult to watch from the sidelines, be supportive and constructive even when the child is playing shocking and then forget about the match and pro-actively move onto the next one. If you are unable to do this then you risk stalling the child’s development and making them resent you and the sport.

It didn’t get that bad for Hannah but there were times when it could have gotten that bad because you are forever working either at the office or driving around early in the morning until late at night at events spending large amounts of money at events or through overnight stays and when things go bad you could take it personally and question the very reason for being there. It can be a very stressful existence indeed, however it can be a great experience when things go well. Big highs and big lows. I have achieved more of a balance recently which suits me and suits Hannah.

Fortunately for Ellie I have learnt from some of my mistakes with Hannah, plus I am not that good at golf which helps because I cannot judge her performance and just commend her for getting out there as I do with Hannah now. Ellie is at the start. She loves golf; she has played at the driving range at a junior club for about 18 months and has played on a golf course only twice recently one of the occasions was playing a comp last 16 match which she won. She loves tennis, pool – although not enough to want to play all the time, and swimming. With Ellie we are waiting and seeing what she would like to focus on, if at all.

Aiming for the big prize
I’ve asked Mark to share his advice for the parents that want to support their kids into playing snooker and what do you know? There isn’t a magical recipe that each and every one of us can apply, but rather it is common sense, not being afraid of learning from your own mistakes and listening very carefully to your kids` needs and expectations.

The kids need to want to play first and foremost. They have to want to practice. When this happens, these kids then need to be given opportunities to play with their peers and enjoy the social side of sport as well as the hard practice and tournament play.

Also make sure that the practice that they get is constructive and not boring. That it stimulates and makes them improve and strive for goals. Reward the children with praise and constructive criticism. Do not be angry with them for losing or playing badly because it will instill bad reactions to future similar situations.

I have made many mistakes but been so fortunate that Hannah is the person that she is and that she has ignored her dad. I cannot say enough about my daughters they are magical to me and I love them dearly and are so proud of them both. My one regret is that I didn’t have hindsight when Hannah started and that I didn’t tell her how proud I was and am of her. Something that I have now rectified and something that Ellie will benefit from. However I changed the way I see things with Hannah’s games now and have de-stressed which makes my life better and Hannah responds positively knowing that the encouragement is positive and the pressure is less than it was.

I don’t think people realise just how tough it is to be a parent or how tough it is to be a child striving to be the best at their chosen sport. There have been many detractors who have been rather unkind to Hannah and me. It is my job to shield Hannah and Ellie from these comments which adds another pressure to a parent but the rewards will be great even if they are that you have a happy and balanced child who loves what they are doing and can take all of the positive experiences into whatever they end up doing. Let’s be fair I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up….

Father and daughter :-)
There isn’t much room to add or say anything else, rather that I can’t help but admire those who resist the test of time, the ones that are passionate about what they are doing, the ones that aren’t afraid to start again, the ones that don’t complain but try to improve their situation, the ones that don’t stop believing in their dreams and live them each day of their lives, the ones that keep changing the world with every step they take.

This was a small part of the Joneses history with snooker, but there`s so much more to follow. ;-)

And since I’m becoming too sentimental, let’s end it with a funny song that I tried to re-write; put the Flintstone Family’s song and you might just understand what I’ve done here :-))

Joneses, meet the Joneses
They’re the Snooker Loopy family
From the modern Cardiff
They flew all the way to England’s Derby

Let’s go, with the family to the club
Snooker’s everything they talk about
When you’re with the Joneses
Have a yabba dabba doo time
A dabba doo time
We'll have a gay old timeeeeeeeeeeeeee