It’s quite poignant that with World Health Day on 7th April 2017 that I have decided to say #LetsTalk about mental health, and the positive contribution that the snooker could give to individuals who endure mental health problems everyday of their lives. Just as the eve of the World Snooker Championship event marks it celebrations of the 40th anniversary at the iconic home of snooker, the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield, United Kingdom. And after I have just completed my research study in collaboration with World Snooker on an extensive research study around mental health awareness in snooker, I felt the need to add to the encouraging aspects of mental health and well-being from the lens of snooker as a “whole” game.
It’s not often that you associate snooker with positive mental health, but have you ever considered how snooker as a game can contribute to your mental health? You’re probably thinking how does that happen? Well, on this very day, World Health Day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) campaign theme around depression, I would say it is even more important today to generate an awareness of mental health. World Health Day is momentous and with their health promotional message this year being about depression, it is easy to point out that there are many people who suffer with depression or some form of mental health. Depression is not unseen and unheard of even though it lies within the deepest emotional state of individuals that suffer from its manifestation.
In April 2016, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) signed up to the Mental Health Charter that encouraged mental health awareness in sport and the charter set out objectives for the sporting industry to boost aspects of responsiveness, inclusion and differentiation with mental health in sport. The governing body of snooker, the WPBSA decided to take up this challenge. In order to meet the charter the WPBSA undertook a Snooker Insight Survey. The survey measured many aspects of health, social and mental well-being associated with participants who play the game of snooker. The survey was open to all the “everyday snooker players”. I say “everyday snooker players” with a very loose term, as they were participants of both genders as well as of differing abilities of snooker, as players of the game. Nevertheless, the data collected and analysed from the Snooker Insight Survey produced some interesting findings, especially from the view of snooker having positively influenced “everyday snooker players” towards a good mental health and well-being.
The various elements that contribute to positive mental health from snooker stem firstly, from the very knowledge of the game. I refer to the knowledge of the game of snooker as “snooker pedagogy” in my research. This is because one needs to establish the rules and regulations of the game of snooker before starting to play. What I mean by “snooker pedagogy” is the development in learning the game of snooker. One starting point is the terminology that is used in snooker, for instance the word “break” would generally conjure up to “tear in to pieces” or “take time out”. But in snooker the word “break” is defined as the beginning of any snooker frame where the cue ball (white ball) is placed strategically inside area of the top of the table. The cue ball is then struck, with a cue, to “break up” the triangular reds set up on the snooker table.
This kind of learning of the game of snooker can suggest that it contributes to positive mental health, as the player is on learning journey that distracts them from any issues that surround their mental health. This learning is continual throughout the game so one can say it attributes to cognitive development as well as a focus away from the negative aspects that surround mental health.
The second element that contributes to positive mental health from snooker is the notion that the “everyday snooker player” needs to concentrate on each shot that they play and think about the following shots from that. Snooker as a soloist sport like golf, tennis and darts, requires the individual to concentrate by themselves and as with tennis and darts, snooker requires real time hand and eye coordination when playing the game. To use this type of simultaneous concentration requires a great effort of the mind and so it can be suggested from a curve of mental health that this allows the mind to steer away from any negative thoughts surrounding the individual’s mental health. Many participants from my study that have experienced mental health problems state that concentrating when playing snooker helps them not to think about the other worldly problems that surround them each day. So, it can be supposed that snooker can play a supportive role in one’s mental health and well-being.
The last element that can be considered from an optimistic contribution that snooker may bring to one’s mental health is how snooker can be used as a health promotional tool that may benefit and contribute to supporting an individual’s positive mental health and well-being. Sport in general, engages with an underlying notion of consisting of good all round holistic health, from physical to social and mental health. Most of all, sporting activities are seen as an enjoyable exercise. So, one real component that affirms positive mental health well-being when playing snooker is that snooker for the “everyday snooker player” is more than likely to be enjoyable. From the research I’ve conducted with the WPBSA nearly all participants expressed their enjoyment when they get a chance to actively play snooker.
My research has explored mental health awareness through the game of snooker and concludes its findings by promoting snooker as sport that is able to assist with cognitive development from the pedagogy of the game, and also raise one’s spirits from an angle of association with positive mental health and well-being. This certainly suggests that snooker as a sport, is able to contribute to positive mental health and well-being. So, all in all I would say not only is playing snooker good for emotional and social health, it’s also good for the feeling of pleasure and enjoyment. So give snooker a go, and play!
My research puts snooker firmly on the academic map for the very first time and will be published on Psychreg Journal of Psychology in June 2017.
Rohit Sagoo qualified as a children’s nurse in the late 1990’s and practised children’s nursing for several years. Thereafter he took an interest in teaching and learning, since then Rohit taught in further and higher education institutions.He is currently a Senior Lecturer at Anglia Ruskin University in the faculty of Health, Social Care and Education.Rohit is also a PhD candidate and is also an academic researcher for World Snooker. You can follow him on Twitter @RohitSagoo
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