One of the phrases that you hear in many facets of life is that the children are our future. It’s no different in pool then it would be in any other sport. You need young kids that want to continue the sport and take it into the future, in order to have that, you need people to mentor them and that is exactly what James Goodknight and his crew are doing with the Young Gunz program in the Quad Cities Iowa/Illinois. The Young Gunz program is run out of Sharky’s Billiards in Davenport Iowa.
Young Gunz was started in 2012, out of the Junior APA league run by Nate Kennis. We were wanting to give the more advanced players a little more of a challenge. We have a weekly Jr. APA league on Saturday mornings, where most of our players started. We wanted to give the Juniors something more than just weekly play against one another.
We started with seven kids back in 2012 and have grown to 33 in 2015 in the two state area. The kids are learning to play pool with proper technique, but most importantly how to carry themselves in a positive manner; sportsmanship and the attitude of Win or Lose it’s a Learning Experience. We strive to take the financial end off of the parents by having fundraisers, raffles, T-Shirt and Koozie sales; and also have the help of our sponsors: Diveney Cues, Jacoby Custom Cues and GRIND’N Clothing Co. as well as our local businesses. They assist in getting these juniors to tournaments they normally wouldn’t be able to attend.
Pool has been given a negative stigma as being just a bar game complete with smoky rooms, gambling and hustling. Starting the kids off treating the game with respect is a good step in changing that image, as well as keeping them connected and off the streets and out of trouble. We have juniors playing at the Jr. World Championship in China and at the Atlantic Cup Challenge in Chicago, Illinois this year. These kids are growing in their skills to the point that a number of them are competing as Advanced and Masters with the adults in ACS, ISPA and MPA State Tournaments.
Two years ago one of the Young Gunz teams took first place in an ACS State Team Tournament and 2nd place the following year. The support that these kids get through generous contributions from our sponsors and of course family and friends, allows them to travel and meet new players and compete at the next level of play.
When asked why he puts in the time and investment into the Jr. Young Gunz program, James had this to say “I can’t play competitive pool as much these days due to multiple shoulder surgeries, so I spend my time with my son, Joshua, as well as the other junior players. I get my fix of playing by living through these kids. We need more young players interested in playing or the game will die off. I get to see the kids competing at all levels and enjoy the thrill and excitement of winning and console them through disappointment and defeat that follow losing.”
Events coming up for the Young Gunz program in 2016 include; qualifying for the BEF, ISPA State in Des Moines, VNEA Juniors International Championship in Erie Pennsylvania, Junior BEF International 9-Ball Championship (Billiards Education Foundation) Chicago, Illinois and Juniors APA National Championship Davenport, Iowa, and a lot more. They are planning a Masters or Mosconi style challenge match with a Junior team from New Zealand and Masse Hamilton. Junior pool is on fire in Iowa/Illinois/Minnesota, and the Young Gunz are at the center of it all.
For more information on the Junior Young Gunz program, check them out on Facebook or Jr YoungGunz Nation on Facebook.
Author: Brian Pauley
Photos: provided by Garret Troop, CEO
Editor: Shaylyn Arthurs