By Seth Daniel
It was purely by coincidence that Everett High teacher Shawn Waterman stumbled into the idea of staring a billiards team for the high school.
An avid pool player in his spare time, he was playing at a tournament in Lynn outside of his normal circles and ran into the owner of one of the top billiard stick making companies in the United States. Not only did Waterman run into him, he was playing against him.
From that matchup, the two made a mark on one another, and so much so that the owner said he wanted to gift a large amount of sticks, called cues in the proper lingo, to Everett High School to start a new billiards team.
It had been an idea in the back of Waterman’s head since he started teaching in Everett 10 years ago, but it seemed that the time was now for the program to become reality.
“I have a true passion for this game, and it has been a dream of mine to share this with my students at Everett High School,” said Waterman in a phone interview last week. “In October, a gentleman by the name of Paul Costain decided to make a huge donation to the students at Everett High School. Paul Costain is the inventor of uni-loc and the current owner of Predator pool cues. Paul’s donation involved several pool sticks that he requested for me to give to several students at Everett High School. This generous donation should last for several years heading into the future.”
After getting the enthusiastic permission of Supt. Fred Foresteire and High School Principal Erick Naumann, Waterman set out to recruit some potential players for the inaugural, and instructional, first season.
He didn’t have to look to far, as students immediately took to the program – which met for eight weeks on Sunday mornings starting Dec. 4 and concluding this past Sunday, Feb. 12.
“The attendance has been great,” Waterman said. “I’ve had at least 30 kids each week. It’s just a start and on the whole I think it’s been a total hit…It’s just the beginning, but eventually I’d like to run tournaments…This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anything like this going on at a high school. It seems the kids are very, very interested because they can’t leave the table. Even when they’re not playing, they stay and watch everyone else playing.”
The program takes place at Amazin Billiards in Malden, a pool facility that Waterman said is one of the best in the area. Mazin Shooni, the owner of Amazin Billiards, has provided the facility that includes 10 pristine pool tables with non-smoking and/or no alcohol. Shooni is a former national US champion in billiards.
“For a serious pool player, this pool hall would be compared to the field of dreams when compared to baseball,” said Waterman. “This is by far one of the nicest pool halls that I have ever been to in my entire life.”
Beyond Shooni, Everett players have been exposed to other high-quality pool players that Waterman knows from his tournament circles. That includes Tom McGonagle, a 1968 graduate of Everett High.
McGonagle started playing pool at the age of 13 in Razz’s poolroom in Everett, which no longer exists. He has been playing pool for a total of 53 years and said coaching the youth of Everett High is a way of giving back to the game he loves and the people from his hometown.
Some of his accomplishment are winning New England 9 ball championship three consecutive years, and most recently winning two national championships in the senior division of the BCA in Las Vegas.
McGonagle is also a member and the president of the New England Pool and Billiard Hall of Fame located in Providence.
“The kids are just in awe of watching Tom play,” said Waterman. “They’ve learned a lot from him. He can really, really play even though he’s an older guy.”
Waterman said offering billiards at Everett High looks to have been a success, and he said he plans to continue sponsoring the team as long as the kids continue to show an interest.
“In conclusion, this program has been a wonderful opportunity for the youth of Everett to enjoy the magnificent game of billiards,” he said. “A pool table is like playing a ‘large video game’ and the more you play it, the better you get at it. Unlike many sports, billiards does not require you to be big, strong, and or athletic. It requires lots of practice and devotion to the game. I truly hope that this precious opportunity is just the beginning for the youth of Everett.”