Former professional Andrew Norman excited to take on head of snooker role at Stratford Sports Club
ATTRACTING a new generation to the sport while trying to find a future world champion – that's what Stratford Sports Club’s new head of snooker hopes to achieve.
Former professional Andrew Norman starts his role on 5th June and is already looking forward to introducing youngsters to the sport, as well as coaching regular players of the game.
It’s an exciting chapter for the 40-year-old Bristolian, who told the Herald that being a coach can be very rewarding when seeing players he’s tutored go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.
Norman landed the role at Stratford Sports Club purely by chance when working as manager and head coach at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.
“What I didn’t know was at the time I was giving coaching lessons to one of the sports club’s committee members,” said Norman.
“We formed a friendship and he responded really well to the coaching. About two months or so later I had a phone call saying that I had been recommended by that committee member to spearhead the sports club’s snooker operations.”
Norman, who peaked at 42 in the world rankings, retired from the game five years ago and is always on the search for the next champion.
Having had a number of positive conversations with the committee at Stratford Sports Club and club members, Norman cannot wait to get started.
“I gave up snooker due to family reasons and the fact the cost of being a professional was not enough to support my family due to the era I was in,” he said.
“After I gave up snooker I came back to the ‘real world’ with a normal job and decided to become a professional coach.
"I’ve always wanted to find a future champion because it inspires me to help others.
“Juniors are good to concentrate on as they’re the future, but it’s also rewarding to help the average club player.
"I have been talking with the sports club and a few players there and can see there are fantastic facilities available for people to use.
“The tables are of championship standard and everything about the club shows it is very well run. The club is a professionally run outfit and is one I am proud to represent.”
Although finding a future champion is the ultimate dream for Norman, he stressed being able to attract a new generation to the sport was much more important.
“I’ve done summer clubs in the past for children who did not know what snooker was because it isn’t televised as much as the likes of football, cricket or tennis,” he said.
“Children then see the tables and are amazed at just how big they are. However, it amazes me just how quickly they grasp the hand-eye co-ordination – their enthusiasm to learn is brilliant.
“Playing snooker gives children the chance to learn about angles and mathematics, as well as manners, etiquette and sportsmanship.”
Norman added: “I love coaching and seeing those I coach go on to bigger and better things in the world of snooker.
"I’ve now realised through coaching that it’s much harder to watch people who you have coached play than playing myself.
“To see children or anyone go from two to three years barely holding a cue to making a century break gives me such a buzz.
"To get phone calls and texts from parents telling me how well someone I have coached is doing just spurs me on to do even more for them.”
Looking back on his time in the professional game, Norman has no regrets but admitted he wished he could go back in time to give his younger self some all-important advice.
“At my highest I was number 42 in the world in 2007-08. I’m not sure why I did not get any higher as I have played snooker all my life and practised the right things," he said.
"I was very dedicated. Looking back I was probably too dedicated as I trained too hard.
"Snooker has brought me a lovely life and some amazing experiences. I’ve played everyone on the tour apart from Steve Davis, who I’d love to play against.
“I look back on my time as a pro with no regrets as I have had some lovely moments. My biggest achievement was getting to the last 16 of the 2006 Grand Prix, where I lost to Neil Robertson in the last frame on the black ball.
“That was the year Neil won the Grand Prix and look where he is now.
“Looking back, I probably did not have the mental toughness to get better.
"Now that I’ve got an older head on my shoulders, I wish I could go back in time and tell the younger me how to handle myself and how to get more out of my game.”
When the South West Snooker Academy closed down in 2019, Norman got himself a job at the local Co-op as a goods-in manager but kept his foot in the game by continuing his private coaching at a small snooker club in Clevedon.
But with the opportunity to now spearhead Stratford Sports Club’s snooker operations, Norman is looking forward to the next stage of his career.
“Stratford Sports Club is really investing into the game and to be able to coach there is a fantastic opportunity,” he said.
“There’s the chance now for Stratford to get its name on the snooker world map.
“The sports club is a hidden gem and is clearly set on bringing the game to a higher standard, almost like a centre of excellence.”
He added: “There are some fantastic facilities here with brilliant people behind them. Everyone is welcome to come down and experience snooker for the first time.
“These snooker facilities are a brilliant thing to have on your doorstep and I am looking forward to seeing as many people as possible at Stratford Sports Club.”