YORKTON - Being a fan of a particular sport is often the result of something from our childhood.
Watching Hockey Night In Canada with my Dad in a time when we had one television channel I am sure laid the foundation which still has me watching dozens of games a month now in a universe of too many TV channels to ever watch.
Playing fastball for years with the New Osgoode Bandits – we took our name from a can of chewing tobacco at the time – still has me driving out to Rhein whenever possible to watch the Rockets.
And I still fondly remembering walking uptown with my grandfather when I stayed with them where he would always stop at the local pool hall for a few games. I never learned how to shoot pool – I’ve tried, but I am abysmal at it – but I do like watching good pool or snooker. So every once in a while I head to YouTube.com to watch some pool. I prefer snooker, although pool is a quicker view.
Given my natural interest, I was of course intrigued when I saw cue sports were among those being highlight at the World Games in Birmingham, Alabama this summer.
The games have a roster of sports you know are all wishing to be in the Olympics one day, with the World Games something of a trial run. The sports include inline (roller) hockey, flag football, squash, women’s softball, 6v6 lacrosse, canoe polo, korfball and for cue sport fans; billiards, carom and 9-ball.
So I was rather happy when I was able to connect with Brittany Bryant who will be representing Canada in women’s 9-ball.
In the interview I noted I did not recall may women playing when I was trailing after my Grandfather.
“It’s obviously changed over the years. You see more women involved,” said Bryant, whose interest in the sport had at least an initial parallel to my own.
“I actually went with my Dad. That’s how I got into it,” she said. “He played league. I kept score for his team.”
When a junior league started Bryant signed up.
“I was kind of drawn to it,” she said adding she recalls “I won the first game I played. It was love at first play.”
Bryant took to the sport showing a lot of skill early, being named top female in league when only 15.
At age 16 she had joined the Women’s Professional Billiards Association, finishing well enough in her first event “to stay on tour.”
And the good play has continued.
At 18, in 2008 she won a World Cup event.
More recently, she finished second at a WPBA event in Las Vegas, was fifth at the APBA Northern Lights Classic in Minnesota and third at WPBA Ashton Twins Classic in Calgary in June, from events on a very busy schedule.
“This is the busiest I’ve ever been,” she said, adding she is trying to attend two events a month, and that includes heading to Europe at times as well including the Predator Germany Open.
Over the years Bryant has had a couple of highlights that have stuck in her memory, starting with her first World Cup win, “honestly because my father was there.”
And, then there was Bryant’s first WPBA win in Bristol, Tenn, in 2019, which she said solidified her confidence at the pro level.
Part of the reason Bryant has been so busy with her sport is because of COVID.
“COVID did really well for billiards. More people got involved,” she said.
For her the worldwide pandemic was something of a proverbial wake-up call about what is important in her life.
“I have a different mindset coming out of it,” she said, adding it was difficult to put into words. “… I have given so much as a person . . . It’s time to dedicate to the game.”
Bryant has also become more pragmatic about her play and the results she achieves.
“It’s not life and death,” she said, adding she used to “put a lot more pressure on myself.
“But, now there’s no expectations. You win some. You lose some.”
As for the World Games, Bryant, who will join John Mora as the only Canadians competing in cue sports, said hopefully it is a step toward the Olympics for cue sports.
“I think our board has been trying to get into the Olympics for years,” she said.
For Bryant the World Games will be a new experience.
“It’s the first time I will have gone,” she said only days before heading south, adding having it in Birmingham has made it “simpler to go down there and cheaper too.”
While noting some countries actually support pool players with government-based support, that is not the case in Canada, so when past World Games have been held in locales such as Poland and China, Bryant said it was simply too costly to go.
As it is, Bryant has a job in the hospitality sector she must balance with attending tourneys.
It is a big event realizes Bryant.
“I’m so honoured to represent my country,” she said, adding she is heading south having played well in recent events, so she is hopeful she does well, although one loss and you are out of the event.
Bryant said play starts July 13 and winds up on the 16th. When asked if she would be playing that final day, the Ontario-based player was confident in her reply.
“I believe so. That’s the plan,” she said, but added it will not be easy. “At this level everybody’s going to be fantastic.”