Snooker coach Roger Leighton has been jet-setting across the globe bigging up snooker and now finds himself in Hong Kong at the 120 Snooker Academy this year. Before landing in Hong Kong, the 51-year-old was teaching the secrets of the green baize in south China at the Wiraka Billiard Academy in Foshan.
Leighton’s love of coaching came back in the UK, where he said he got a buzz from showing people how to play the shots and it progressed into him applying and landing jobs around the world, including Brazil. He then managed to land a job at the Wiraka in China.
The ex-pro, whose highest break is a 147, who famously lost to John Higgins in the European Open in 1993, the year after Higgins had turned pro, has coached many young Chinese prospects including the likes of new pros Luo Honghao and Fan Zhengyl.
What Is It About the Chinese and Snooker?
SnookerZone asked Leighton if the Chinese were doing anything different in the promotion of the game in Asia.
He started by explaining:
“I saw many talented kids in China where the average age to make a century is 10 years old and i have many students that show great potential with one being Luo Honghao 18 years old who is now just playing his 1st professional season after winning the 2018 WSF Amateur Championship and I feel he has what it takes to become a top 16 and another who is now playing his 1st professional season 17-year-old Fan Zhengyi the 2017 World U21 Champion which he beat Luo 7-6 in the final. Also, now, my 14-year-old student Wu YiZe who just recently won the 2018 World U21 Championship shows great promise but still needs guidance.”
Leighton added: “Snooker in China is popular and many like to play. I just think snooker suits their culture and I do not think it’s done any different than in the UK like advertising. Its’ more a case the population is so huge that inevitably it produces more people playing snooker. I do think Asia can do much more to increase snooker here because I think it has been exposed enough especially with all the ranking events taking place in China now something like 3 or 4 each season.”
Snooker in Hong Kong
He now turns his attention to Hong Kong where he says snooker is getting bigger with more clubs now opening and many like to play but he was told it used to be more popular than it is currently.
Coaches can be innovative when it comes to the type of snooker products they would wish to create. For Leighton, he said he would love to create something that would “secure” the back arm so that it went through totally straight, but said that was easier said than done
Watch Leighton in action when he was head coach at Wiraka.
The advice he gives for anyone wanting to play snooker is to watch and learn and play with someone good, as he said you might not think you’re learning a lot, but you are. He also said watch as much snooker as you can on TV and online.
He added: “Play with a clear head, and just enjoy our great sport!”
Leighton, who has a diploma in Sports Psychology, has also coached at the Star Academy in Sheffield, the home city of snooker in the UK, where top players go – and has been the home for Chinese sensation Ding Junhui. Ronnie O’Sullivan frequents there on occasions. Lots of young hopefuls from around the globe also go there to learn their chosen trade.
When he coached in China, Leighton said the Chinese were very disciplined (probably why they are creating more prospects) and he used to teach Chinese players every day on every aspect of the game.
“This is what is needed.”
He said some Chinese players had great techniques, but other parts of their game were very bad. Leighton had to adapt his coaching to the Chinese, not just because of the language barrier (he learned Mandarin), but because the Chinese are very knowledgeable about the game. He found himself the only British coach in China at one stage.
Leighton finished by offering a small tip to SnookerZone re-cue actions. But we’ll leave you to guess what the tip may have been. Hint, it’s a common problem Leighton said that his students have all over the world in relation to the backswing!
Thanks to Roger Leighton for chatting to SnookerZone and good luck in coaching in Hong Kong.
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