PoolRoom

Ruijsink to Coach U.S.

Ruijsink will switch jerseys for the Mosconi Cup.

In a move that was met with mixed reviews, Mosconi Cup promoter Matchroom Sport announced Holland’s Johan Ruijsink as 2017 captain for Team USA. The 50-year-old Ruijsink is well known in Mosconi Cup annals as the undefeated captain for Team Europe, having led the squad seven times between 2006 and 2014. Ruijsink voluntarily stepped down as Team Europe after the 2014 event, in part citing the lack of a challenge in leading the European team.

Ruijsink replaces Mark Wilson, who helmed the U.S. squad for three years, coming closest to victory in 2015, when the U.S. lost, 11-7.

With Team USA posting just one win in the last 11 Mosconi Cups, Matchroom said it was seeking a game-changer to “revive America’s flagging fortunes,” even if it meant appointing a European coach.

The announcement caught many American players and fans by surprise. Numerous posts on social media decried the decision as “an insult to the Americans,” while others applauded the selection as America’s “best chance” to become competitive again.

“The reason to take on this job is quite obvious,” Ruijsink commented in the Matchroom release. “I am an authentic lover of the game and especially of the Mosconi Cup. In 25 years of coaching, the Mosconi Cup has proven to be by far the most exciting event in the world of pool.

“As a coach in pool, there is no higher goal then working in the ‘home of pool,’ the U.S.A. My entire coaching career has been founded on seeing the American players compete at the World Championships in Bergheim, Germany, in 1990. There I saw Earl, Varner, Davenport, Mizerak, Mataya, Lebron and a young Johnny Archer, and they made me love the game even more.”

Ruijsink is credited with coaching Holland into a pool powerhouse, mentoring stars like Alex Lely, Niels Feijen and Rico Diks in the ’90s and early 2000s. In recent years, he has been coaching in Russia, developing a talented crop of players, including recent World Pool Series champion Ruslan Chinahov.

“I was shocked at first,” said American Justin Bergman, who has played on the last three U.S. squads. “But I don’t think it’s a horrible idea from a player’s view, since he probably has good ideas and he’s a knowledgeable coach. I think we should all support him.”

“I think it’s good, since he was so huge for Europe’s team,” echoed Skyler Woodward, Team USA’s best player over the past two Mosconi Cups.

According to Matchroom, Ruijsink will get to hand pick his five-player team, so long as each player is ranked in the top 10 in Mosconi Cup points in 2017. Additionally, Ruijsink plans to travel to the U.S. several times during the year to meet with and observe potential team members.

Ruijsink’s first decision was selecting Archer as his vice-captian.

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN

Mark Wilson announces his resignation as Team USA Captain, today, Dec. 22, 2016.

I had a lot of time to think on the flight home from London, where Team Europe pasted Team USA in the Mosconi Cup. The final score was 11-3, which is bad enough. But it was the way Team Europe rolled to victory that really gave me pause. The Europeans were machinelike in their execution. They simply didn’t miss. They didn’t make mistakes. It was actually a beautiful thing to watch. For the stats-driven fan, Europe posted a collective .899 Total Performance Average over the four days. A .900 TPA is considered “world class.”

Professional level is .850. Team USA’s cumulative TPA during the event was .838. The difference is glaring. The beat down was so thorough, talk spread through the event that, after 23 years, the Mosconi Cup’s future could be in peril.Matchroom’s Barry Hearn even went so far as to announce his intention to start a Europe v. Asia event, to “test the Europeans.” Personally, I don’t buy the notion that the Mosconi Cup as we know it is in peril. At least, not yet. Defenders point out that the U.S. dominated the early years in the same way. During those years, however, Europe was continually closing the gap. Anyone who has watched the last five Mosconi Cups can see that the gap between the sides is widening.

What I see, though, are ticket sales and television deals that have grown exponentially over the past fouryears. Europe against the U.S. in tiddlywinks would draw a passionate crowd. Still, it is painfully obvious that Team USA needs to do something dramatic to make this a horserace again.

Which brings us to Mark Wilson. Three years ago, Wilson, one of the game’s top instructors and most ardent supporters, presented Matchroom with a three-year plan to get Team USA back on track. He stripped down the squad and rebuilt it based on character and commitment. In his spare time, he generated more interest and enthusiasm in the U.S. for the Team USA “program” than anyone before.

The results? The first year of the experiment resulted in a one-sided match, which was somewhat predictable. The second year showed promise, with Team USA gamely battling well into the final day. The third year, however, was a disappointing step backwards. As it is wont to do, social media exploded with posts slamming Wilson and the team. A handful of self-proclaimed experts shamelessly threw their hats into the ring as replacements for Wilson. Here’s a tip: Posting your intentions on Facebook pretty much eliminates you from serious consideration.

So, what’s the answer?

I don’t think anyone in the U.S. is more qualified than Mark Wilson, and I have far too much respect for him to suggest that he be replaced as captain of Team USA, but even he acknowledged that is a possibility. After all, the Mosconi Cup is Matchroom’s product, and they certainly don’t need to explain or apologize to anyone for taking the steps necessary to ensure continued growth and success.

So, in the event Matchroom does find it necessary to make a change at the helm of Team USA, here is my suggestion: Johan Ruijsink.

For those not familiar, the Dutch-born Ruijsink captained Team Europe seven times between 2006 and 2014 and posted a 6-0-1 record.

I know. I know. He’s not American. I realize Willie Mosconi just spun in his grave.

Just hear me out.

Johan Ruijsink is one of the world’s top instructors and coaches. The 50-year-old Dutchman took over Team Europe during those years of American domination and turned the squad into the fierce competitors that they are today. His first year at the helm was 2006, when his team tied the Americans, 12-12. After that, Team Europe won six times against zero defeatswith Ruijsink in charge.

Think he was simply fortunate enough to take over Team Europe as they were peaking? The last time Team USA won (2009), was one of only two times between 2006 and 2014 that Ruijsink was not Europe’s captain.

Now, about that “he’s not an American” argument.

Who says the coach must be American. Sports history is littered with instances of foreigners running national teams. Were Americans offended when Romanian gymnastics coaching legend BelaKarolyi took over Team USA and turned it into a gold medal machine? Were American soccer fans up in arms when Sweden’s PiaSundhage took over USA Soccer’s women’s program and produced a pair of Olympic gold medals? The bottom line is to maximize Team USA’s chances of not just competing in the Mosocni Cup. The bottom line is to drive Team USA to win the Mosconi Cup. Of course, Ruijsink is much more than simply a once-a-year-captain. He is a coaching legend in Europe. A former top Dutch player, Ruijsink turned to coaching in the ’90s. His small, six-table room in The Hague was open only to players committed to training. Ruijsink’s training methods turned Holland into a European power, with the likes of Rico Diks, Alex Lely, Nick Van den Berg and NielsFeijen turning their games over to him.

A voracious student of training and coaching techniques, Ruijsink earned a Master Coach degree from the Dutch Olympic Committee in 2000. It is the highest coaching education in Holland, allowing him to coach any sport. Over the past two years, Ruijsink has been coaching in Russia, where the Russian federation hired him to develop its crop of talented young shooters, like Konstantin Stepanov, RuslanChinakhov and rising star Maxim Dudanets. Ruijsink will be bringing his Russian brigade to the Derby City Classic in January.

Trust me on this one. If change is necessary, this is the right man for the job.

Of course, there are questions I can’t answer. Would Matchroom go for such an idea? Hearn is a pretty shrewd operator, so I’d have to guess this idea has already crossed his mind. And given the fact that he desperately wants to see the U.S. competitive again, and the fact that he loves a good storyline, I can’t see why he wouldn’t entertain contacting Ruijsink. Would Ruijsink consider coaching Team USA? Can’t say for sure, but two years ago he told me he was stepping down as coach of Team Europe because he “didn’t see the challenge in coaching Team Europe any longer.”

The $60,000 question, though, is this: Would American players put aside their egos to be coached by a foreigner? Unless they are more pigheaded and self-absorbed than I imagine, they should.

I guarantee one thing: Announcing Ruijsink as Team USA captain would scare the living bejeezus out of Team Europe.

Teams Set For Mosconi Cup

With the announcement of the final “wildcard” selections by the opposing captains, the final rosters for Team USA and Team Europe are set with four weeks to go before the 23rd Mosconi Cup commences at the Alexandra Palace in London, Dec. 6-9.

Team USA captain Mark Wilson used his wildcard picks to add Mosconi Cup veteran and recent Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame inductee “Rocket” Rodney Morris and 29-year-old Justin Bergman to the roster. It will mark the tenth Mosconi appearance for Morris and the third consecutive appearance by Bergman. The duo will join Shane Van Boening, Skyler Woodward and Mike Dechaine, who earned automatic spots on the team by finishing in the top three in points over 28 tournaments throughout the year. Only Morris did not play on the 2015 team that fell to Team Europe, 11-8, in Las Vegas. (Corey Deuel was the fifth member of Team USA in 2015.)

Team Europe captain Marcus Chamat handpicked reigning World 9-Ball Champion Albin Ouschan of Austria and England’s Darren Appleton, who will be making his eighth consecutive appearance, to join Holland’s Niels Feijen, Scotland’s Jayson Shaw and England’s Mark Gray. The three automatic berths on Team Europe were awarded to the points champion of the EuroTour (Feijen), the top European points earner on a World Events Rankings (Shaw), and the highest-ranked player on the Combined (Gray, who placed third behind already-qualified Shaw and Feijen). Feijen, Appleton and Ouschan also appeared for Team Europe in 2015.

As is customary, the wildcard announcements were greeted by second-guessing in social media. American fans questioned Wilson’s selection of Bergman, ranked sixth on the U.S. points list, over fifth-place finisher Oscar Dominguez. (Morris finished fourth in points.) Given the fact that the 2015 squad was made up of the top five point-earners, and the fact that Bergman lives in southern Illinois, not far from Wilson’s St. Louis home, charges of favoritism and “politics” were bandied about as fans weighed in. “I don’t have a bias and I don’t give those claims any credence,” said Wilson. “I simply picked the team that I thought gave us the best chance of winning this year. I analyze things like late-season performance, strengths and weaknesses and how they fit in with the strengths and weaknesses of the rest of the team.

“In the case of Rodney,” Wilson continued, “He went to the last six events. The effort and results were there. He gives us the best chance of winning.Last year it just happened that the team I chose finished one through five in points. That doesn’t mean that is the way it was meant to be. People seem to have a hard time with the concept of what the wildcard pick means.”

The concept of a “wildcard” selection was even more pronounced in Chamat’s selection of Appleton for Team Europe. While the former World 9-Ball Champion has been a member of six Mosconi Cup-winning squads, Appleton suffered through a subpar 2016, failing to crack the top 10 in the European Combined points list.

“No player really stood out for me for the last spot,” said Chamat. “There are so many good players in Europe, but I had to weigh the ups and downs. Darren is a big-match player with huge experience. And he is an awesome team player. I could have picked other players, but I believe in Darren. This is the biggest event for all of us and the pressure will be amazing. I think Darren will be amazing, too.”

Mosconi Junior

With the well-documented success of the Mosconi Cup and the emergence of the Queens Cup, it was only a matter of time before international team clashes reached the junior ranks.

Enter the Atlantic Challenge Cup, an event recently announced by the Billiard Congress of America (BCA) and the European Pocket Billiard Federation (EPBF). As with the Mosconi Cup, which pits players from the United States against a team of European stars, the Atlantic Challenge Cup will be a transatlantic clash. Four boys and two girls will represent Team USA and Team Europe at the inaugural Challenge, which will take place July 1-4, in Rankweil, Austria. Players must be 19 or younger.

“The future of the game lies in our ability to develop tomorrow’s players,” said BCA Chairman Mike Serra. “The prestige of competing in an event of this magnitude will further promote the game to today’s youth.”

Europe, through the EPBF, already enjoys a strong youth program, and EPBF officials suspect the addition of the Atlantic Challenge Cup will further fuel the efforts.

“We expect the desire from the players wanting to be included into the team will be very strong and will further increase the standard within pool,” said EPBF President Gre Leenders. A seven-person committee, chaired by longtime instructor and referee Rick Doner, was assigned by the Billiard Education Foundation to select the U.S. squad The committee included players Jeanette Lee, Johnny Archer and Laura Smith, along with instructor Randy Goettlicher, instructional author Phil Capelle and longtime tournament director Earl Munson, who will also serve as coach and captain for Team USA. The BCA was expected to announce the Team USA members on May 4.

Meanwhile, the EPBF announced its roster, which will include Germany’s Joshua Filler and Raphael Wall, each of whom earned a pair of gold medals at the 2014 Youth European Championships. Maxim Dudanets of Russia, currently ranked 34th on the Euro Tour, will also participate, as will Sweden’s Daniel Tanguud. Youth Euro Championships silver medalist Marharyta Fefilava of Belarus and youth 8-ball champion Kristina Tkach of Russia will round out the squad.

While details have yet to be determined, the four-day event is expected to be a race to 11.

WILSON ANNOUNCES FINAL SELECTIONS FOR TEAM USA

After making “some of the roughest telephone calls I’ve ever had to make,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson announced his five-man team for the 21st Mosconi Cup, scheduled for Dec. 1-4, in Blackpool, England. The squad features a mixture of veteran players and youth.

Not surprisingly, newly minted U.S. Open 9-Ball champion Shane Van Boening will lead the U.S. squad, which has dropped four Mosconi Cups in a row (and six of seven) to Team Europe. The 31-year-old Van Boening will play in his eighth Cup, and will be joined by Cup veterans Corey Deuel, also making his eighth appearance, and John Schmidt, who played in 2006 in Rotterdam. Making their Mosconi Cup debuts will be 27-year-old Justin Bergman of Fairview Heights, Ill., and 26-year-old Justin Hall of Palm Harbor, Fla.

The “tough calls” Wilson made were to Brandon Shuff, Oscar Dominguez and Jeremy Sossei, who have been offered coaching positions in Blackpool. Dominguez and Shuff have each participated in one Mosconi Cup, with Dominguez being a member of the last U.S. team to win the title, in 2009.

“This represents a new era for Team USA,” said Wilson, who was named captain by Matchroom Sport in January, just a month after Team USA was humiliated by Team Europe, 12-2, in Las Vegas. “And I’m counting on these players to be leaders. “The final decisions were difficult,” Wilson added. “Every player put a lot of time and effort into their game over the past nine months. And they all represented the sport and the U.S. well during that time. There were a few close calls, but I’m confident in these picks. It was a pretty thorough process.”

According to Wilson, the three players left off the final squad were asked to travel with the team to England, expense-paid, to assist during the event. “This won’t be a holiday,” Wilson added. “Each player will be assigned special duties, setting up little refresher drills for the team before each round.” Wilson said the duties include an Offensive Coordinator, a Defensive Coordinator (to work on safeties and kick shots) and Specialty Shots Coordinator (for breaking and elevated cue shots).
“I will have drills for the players to work on,” said Wilson, “and the coaches will help the players run through the drills.”

According to Wilson, the team will meet in St. Louis, Nov. 20-21, for intensive practice sessions at Lindenwood University, where Wilson coaches the billiards program. The team will participate in Mosconi Cup-style match play at Starship Billiards in Decatur, Ill., the following two days. After several more days of practice in St. Louis, the team will share a Thanksgiving dinner, before leaving for Blackpool on Friday, Nov. 28. “I feel great about Team USA,” Wilson said. “I’m ready to go to war with these guys.”

SEALs Of Approval For Team USA

In his new book, “Play Great Pool,” Team USA captain Mark Wilson recounts a special guided tour he took of the U.S. Navy SEAL facility near San Diego in 2009. He refers to the trip as one of the most inspiring, motivational and uplifting experiences of his life. In late May, Wilson hoped to get a similar response from his Team USA squad. Seven of the eight Mosconi Cup hopefuls were scheduled to visit with the Navy SEALs, May 22-25, as part of a combined training and charity mission in preparation for Mosconi Cup XXI in Blackpool, England, Dec. 1-4. (Shane Van Boening had a scheduling conflict with the San Diego dates.)

According to Wilson, in addition to a tour and lecture at the Navy SEAL facility, the San Diego camp will include a visit to a Veterans Administration hospital, a full clinic, a charity event and challenge matches. “This is all about motivation, discipline, core values and professionalism,” said Wilson. “If this visit doesn’t get the players dialed in and pumped up, nothing will.”

Wilson has expressed interest in getting the team together for several “boot camps” before selecting the final five players who will compete in Blackpool. He added that he would be compiling physical evaluations on each player — statistics on break speeds, cue ball control, spot shot accuracy and more (“like the NFL Combine,” he said) — and plans to post the results on a Team USA fan page.

To listen to Team USA promotional spot, click on the link.
http://billiardsdigest.com/audio/Mosconi-PEP.mp3

Wilson Names Team USA Hopefuls

Mosconi_CupAs was his original intent, Mosconi Cup Team USA Captain Mark Wilson worked quickly to select the players who will compete for the final five roster spots for the 2014 event in December in Blackpool, England. Wilson announced the selection of eight players who will train and compete together through the summer, before the captain whittles the list down to the five players who will wear the red, white and blue in Blackpool.

Not surprisingly, Wilson tabbed America’s No. 1, Shane Van Boening, and immediately announced that he will expect the taciturn star to provide leadership to the 2014 squad. “Shane sets a great example,” Wilson said in a press release. “And I expect to rely on him for leadership this year.”

Wilson also named seven-time Mosconi Cup veteran Corey Deuel, who many thought should have been on the team in 2013, to the squad. John Schmidt, Oscar Dominguez and Brandon Shuff, each of whom has participated in one Mosconi Cup, were named to the team was well. Leaning on America’s youth, Wilson rounded out his selection with Southern Classic One-Pocket champion Justin Bergman, Derby City titlist Justin Hall and Connecticut’s Jeremy Sossei.

“I’m really excited by this team,” Wilson said. “Every player seems so genuinely appreciative and excited. They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to develop a strong team and a strong sense of unity.”

More interesting than who Wilson selected, of course, was the list of players who weren’t invited to “camp.” The most notable omission was Johnny Archer, whose string of 17 consecutive Mosconi Cup appearances will come to an end. Fourteen-time Cup participant Earl Strickland and nine-time team member Rodney Morris were also left off the roster. In fact, Van Boening will be the only holdover from the 2013 squad that lost 21-1 to Team Europe in Las Vegas.

“I didn’t interview those players,” Wilson admitted. “And I explained to Johnny that I thought it best to go in a completely different direction this year. A lot of it is about attitude. Last year I felt there was no sense of urgency. There seemed to be a sense that it was a yearend bonus, and if the team won, great.”

Another player conspicuous by his absence is Mike Dechaine, one of the most consistent American players over the past three years.

“I spoke to Mike,” said Wilson. “In the end I felt that his reputation among the players wasn’t a good fit at this stage for a team event like the Mosconi Cup.”

Wilson added that his plan is to get the players together several times over the summer and fall for practice and team bonding. Wilson said he planned to make the final cut to five players after the U.S. Open, and that Team USA would meet and practice together for a week at Lindenwood University near St. Louis before departing for London. The dates of the 2014 Mosconi Cup are Dec. 1-4.

ESPN to Stream Mosconi Cup

Just hours before the 2012 Mosconi Cup kicks off in London, Matchroom Sport announced that ESPN will broadcast all of the action live on its ESPN3 network. Here is the full release from Matchroom Sport:

With the 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup set to start at 2 Eastern time on Monday 10th December, pool fans across America will be able to follow all the action live on ESPN 3 as Team USA goes in search of Team Europe’s crown.

Taking place at the legendary York Hall in East London between Monday 10th and Thursday 13th December, this is the 19th annual running of pool’s biggest event as two five man teams from the USA and Europe go at it over four days of sheer adrenalized 9 ball action.

Team USA are aiming to win back the trophy they last won at MGM Grand in 2009. The Europeans retained their trophy in Vegas 12 months ago, defeating USA 11-7 in Vegas.

Captained by CJ Wiley, Team USA members Johnny Archer(Georgia), Shane Van Boening (South Dakota), Dennis Hatch (New York) and Mike Dechaine (Maine) are joined by rookie Brandon Shuff (Virgina) for Mosconi Cup XIX.

ESPN3 is ESPN’s multi-screen sports network, a live destination that delivers thousands of sports events annually and accessible online at WatchESPN.com, on smartphones and tablets via the WatchESPN app and through ESPN on Xbox LIVE to Gold members. It is currently available to 79 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider. The network is also available at no cost to approximately 21 million U.S. college students and U.S.-based military personnel via computers connected to on-campus educational networks and on-base military networks.

Team USA Set for Mosconi Cup

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Van Boening will be making a sixth consecutive appearance. (Photo by JP Parmentier-Matchroom Sport)

Here’s the official release from Matchroom Sport announcing the five players who will compete for Team USA and captain CJ Wiley:

Following from his undefeated run through last week’s U.S. Open 9-Ball Championship, Shane Van Boening cemented his place at the head of the American 2012 PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup rankings to secure his spot on the team as one of the top two automatic spots.

“I’m so happy to be on my sixth appearance as Mosconi USA team member,” Van Boening said. “As I just won the U.S. Open, I know I’m playing well this year and will try my best to help the team take home the title.”

Such was Van Boening’s dominance of the five-event series that he beat the second placed player Mike Dechaine by an incredible 218 points. In his previous five Mosconi Cup appearances, the South Dakota Kid sports a record of 12 wins from 26 matches.

For second placed Dechaine it will be a return to the team following on from his debut in Las Vegas last year and he will be relishing the chance to show what he can do in front of a partisan, sold-out crowd at the York Hall, London, from December 10-13.

“I am very excited to compete in my second consecutive Mosconi Cup, especially with this one being in London,” Dechaine said. “With the crowds being heavily in Europe’s favor, this is without a doubt the team I’d want going against it.”

The first of the remaining three wildcard picks is Virginia’s Brandon Shuff, who caps off a fine season to make his Mosconi Cup debut at the age of 29.

“When I was growing up, it was an American pool player’s dream to play on the Mosconi Cup,” he said. “This is definitely a blessing and hard work is paying off and I’m excited for this accomplishment and I’ll be training hard to help our team bring that Cup back where it belongs.”

Back for his third Mosconi Cup is Dennis Hatch. An MVP in his 2009 debut when his gung-ho team spirit helped propel the team to victory, Hatch will be hoping for a successful return to the York Hall where he made his last Mosconi Cup appearance in 2010.

“It’s always an honor and privilege to represent the US,” he said. “I am so fired up and hungry that the only thing I plan on tasting while in Europe is victory, because I believe this is one of the best teams yet.”

The final spot in the team is filled by Georgia’s Johnny Archer who will be making a record-breaking 16th consecutive Mosconi Cup appearance. With a winning percentage of 53, the Scorpion made his debut at the event in 1996 and has been an ever-present since.

“It is an honor to represent the USA team for my 16th straight year,” he said. “And I will do whatever it takes to help the boys take that cup from York Hall and bring it back to America where it belongs.”

Mosconi Cup: Wiley to Lead U.S.

Wiley will lead an underdog Team USA into hostile territory.

Wiley will lead an underdog Team USA into hostile territory.

Matchroom Sport distributed this press release on Sunday, Oct. 14:

FOLLOWING A 16-year absence from the event, winning 1996 Mosconi Cup player/captain CJ Wiley returns to London this December as skipper of the American team at PartyPoker.com Mosconi Cup. The 47-year-old Wiley from Texas was in charge of the side in London in 1996 and had the honor of potting the winning 9 ball in a 15-13 victory.

After a highly decorated spell at the top, including winning the ESPN World Championship, Wiley wound down his career in the 2000s, choosing to focus on a successful business career. He’s now back — and will be facing one of the toughest challenges of his career as he attempts to rally his side and turn their recent Mosconi Cup fortunes around.

“It’s an honor to be chosen to represent the USA team as captain in 2012,” said Wiley.

“I have been honored with the Player of the Year award and won major championships; however, being chosen to represent my country and its best players in the Mosconi Cup is something I value as an even greater personal accomplishment,” he said. “I know that the European team has dominated us over the past 6 years and I know it’s going to be especially challenging to go into York Hall in front of a highly enthusiastic home crowd and win the Mosconi Cup.

“This year however, is going to be different. The USA team will be young, ambitious and hungry for this victory. I, as captain, will make sure they are all on top of their games both mentally and physically. This is more than just a pocket billiards match; this is for patriotic pride. This is for the right to say we are the champions and take the Mosconi Cup back to America, where it belongs.”