A local nonprofit offers free coaching and more for kids interested in learning to play billiards at a high level.
The beauty of a game like billiards, Thomas White believes, is its accessibility. The physical demand of sports like football and hockey isn’t there and it’s relatively easy to find somewhere to play at any time.
That’s why the game is growing and getting friendlier for younger players. There are around 50 juniors in Florida playing at the competitive level by his estimation, and his son Trenton White has already made a name for himself competing in tournaments all over the world and has won 14 state championships over the years. There’s clearly potential for a boom under the right conditions.
Shooting for the Future, a nonprofit established last year, aims to make all of those stars align for kids without putting a financial burden on their parents. The group originated in Zephyrhills and is based out of Mainstreet Billiards, Executive Director Brandon Butts’ pool hall, but it has expanded into Hillsborough and Polk counties. The Whites linked up with the program to bring it to Plant City and local kids as young as 7 (though there is some wiggle room if they can reach up over the table to shoot) can learn from them and others involved in the program.
“We teach them the basic fundamentals,” Thomas White said. “How to hold a bridge hand, how to hold a stick. And then as they get more advanced, we work on their shots and aiming capabilities. Then we work on their english, get into more advanced shots as they progress. We prep them and get them on an advanced level.”
Getting in on this program is simple. Plant City’s coaching hours are from 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Monday at Mikey’s Place, 3412 W. Baker St., but families are welcome to bring their kids at any time during that block — so if you can’t make it to the pool hall until closer to 6 p.m., it’s not a problem. There are seven-foot tables available for the younger players as well as full-size tables for older ones. Shooting for the Future also lets its young “Shooting Stars” work with the kids. That includes Trenton White, who has already turned pro at age 16, and Pasco kids can learn from 12-year-old international 9-ball champ Sofia “Pink Dagger” Mast.
“It’s great showing kids what I know and what I’ve learned over the years, giving back and hoping they can reach my level,” Trenton White said.
It’s also completely free. Shooting for the Future is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that relies entirely on community support to help the kids. Not only does that mean free coaching, but it also means the kids who go on to junior competition will cover tournament entry fees, travel costs, gear and uniforms. In this case, Mikey’s Place and Shooting for the Future host monthly tournaments to raise money and local businesses like Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Octopus Car Wash, Fred’s Market and Johnson Barbecue help with raffle and giveaway items.
“Instead of raising money at the last minute for these kids, we do it every month year-round so we have a stash,” Thomas White said. “Now when these events come up, Shooting for the Future can just pay for it.”
The program has been a staple at Mikey’s Place for about five weeks and running. Mikey’s Place, which opened on Oct. 7, 2020, was intended from the start to be a family-friendly restaurant and pool hall — so it’s the perfect home for a program like Shooting for the Future, owner Mike Mofield said.
“We’ve got people donating their time and we don’t charge anything for these kids to learn,” Mofield said. “You learn about pool, learn about math, learn about competition and you’re hanging out with other people instead of sitting at home playing video games. You’re interacting with other kids… we’re happy to be part of it. We’re glad to be able to do this for the Plant City community.”
For more information on Shooting for the Future, visit shootingfuture.org.