Legally blind playing league pool?

Growing up I was always keen on sports, whether that was running, football, rugby or pool. If it had a competitive edge I would give it a go. Always keen to compete I would happily get involved with whatever sport I could. I believe if you dedicate yourself to a particular sport then you can get better and better at it. The problem I faced was always which one to choose going forward.

At the age of 10 I was playing football for my primary school, when I went to secondary school I started playing for my local team Cashes Green Rovers, scoring twice on my debut I was selected as captain for the next game and carried on from there. I was only 13 but was captaining the under 15’s.

I used to run cross countries for my secondary school until the age of 14 when sadly a knee injury stopped me from taking part in too much physical work on it. So sadly my running and football days were pretty well over and any kind of competitive level. Instead I could only really kick a ball with friends for much more limited time spans. Still a lot of fun and always good exercise.

The need to compete was always there and I guess it always will be. At the time my parents were running a pub and I used to go along every now and then and hang out with them which were usually rather boring. However, this was where I discovered the game of 8 ball pool. My dad had played for years, so it seemed right that I should follow in his footsteps. He also played all the sport he could when he was young just as I did. So, I observed, I learnt, then I picked up a cue and at the age of 13 or so I started playing. Not very well to begin with of course but never the less I learned by playing and watching the others in the pub who would turn out week in week out for a few games. At first I think they let me win and didn’t try very hard to beat me but soon after I picked up a few good shots and became a decent player. At the age of 14 I joined the pubs pool team. Playing all over Stroud visiting different pubs every Tuesday it was a really great experience, one that I just loved. My first season was not my finest but this only made me want to improve, so I joined the local pool club and would play hour after hour and eventually I started to win more than I lost and the people that used to let me win were now trying their hardest but often couldn’t compete. In my third year of playing I was made captain of the team and if memory serves it was my second season as captain when we won the league for the first time and so a thirst for success was born.

We went on to win several more trophies over the following few years and even ended up going to Wales to play against a Welsh international side which was a lot of fun. Playing pool had given me a new lease of life at such a young age, something I was good at and it was something where you can meet so many people. My social life improved and my confidence improved to go with. I felt unstoppable, until my dreaded sight loss.

It was just before my 20th birthday when my sight failed me and I could no longer see to play. This for me was a devastating blow, especially after my knee stopped me from playing football. I had now lost all of the sporting activities that made me tick. I literally felt like I had nothing, it wasn’t just the sight and all that went with that, sport for me was the lifeline that kept me feeling confident and social, it’s what kept me sane. I was devastated that I could no longer see to compete, I genuinely thought I would never find any other sport to play again.

Fast forward 5 years and after finding a bar that I could practice in and not feel uncomfortable I started playing pool on my own simply to try and rediscover the skills I had lost; I finally found a way to play the game again. I can’t see one end of the table to the other but if the white ball is close to my object ball then I can just about see it. I use the shadow created by the cue on the table to judge where my cue is and the rest is all done through memory. It was tough to begin with but like I always say, practice makes perfect. It has taken me around 5 or so years to get back to a level where I am pleased with how I am playing, I know I can still get better but I am proud to say that those years of miss-spent youth playing pool were not wasted after all. I just had to find a way around the problem and when you think about it in life, that’s all we can do. If there is an obstacle you simply have to find a way to overcome it.

In 2017 I played league pool for the first time in over 10 years and against some of the best players in Cheltenham, I may not be as good as I once was but I am proud to say I am taking part again which I never thought I would be able to do.

With the pool playing giving me back the competitive edge and the founding, running and playing for the Gloucestershire Growlers blind cricket team, I have never felt more alive.

Sight loss for me was at first devastating, not playing sport was even worse, but now I have found a way to still be able to compete and succeed, I have never felt better.

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Fancy a Game?

For as long as I can remember I have loved sports, both watching and playing. After losing my sight playing sport became a little bit of an after thought, I mean I was blind, what sport could I possibly do. Having no idea that there is a whole world of sports adapted to suit disabled people. Now I use that term very lightly indeed. Disabled should not be a word used to described some of the incredible people. Talented beyond belief. Differently abled is more suitable. People with disabilities yes, but the ability to play sports at a higher level that I could even dream of when I was fully able bodied.

So, not that I had any aspiration to be anywhere near Paralympic level, I started trawling the internet on my tiny mobile phone which was pretty well useless. Tech at the time was no where near what it is now. My efforts to find some kind of sport I could play in resulted in me playing tiddlywinks at an old peoples home. Mrs Smith had the years on me and beat me every time. I am sure she was cheating some how. Don’t even get me started on Reg and Arthur. Those boys knew every tiddlywinks trick in the book.

I gave up looking for what I could join in the end and decided I  had to take matters into my own hands. After a lot of hard work and getting the group which is now known as Outlook off the ground I, along with a few others founded the Gloucestershire Visually Impaired County Cricket Club. A sport I had never played before one late summers day some five years ago now. It seems like just yesterday.

Blind cricket you say? You must be mad!!! Well, the truth is, I probably am a bit mad but you have to be to start such a venture. Cricket after all is a game played with eleven players and at the time we had 6. Great squad numbers I know. At the time I was dubious, many conversations would take place between myself and the coach at the time about whether or not we could get it off the ground and make it work. It seemed unlikely to ever happen when we turn up a the ground for only 3 or 4 people to be there most without any knowledge of cricket at all. But hey, you have to start somewhere right?

Over the years we have grown and attracted players from far and wide. Even people from the mighty cricketing nation of Wales. It is advantageous to have Wales so close as they do not have a blind cricket team these day’s. We are close enough for people to jump on a train and come to join us so thank you Wales.

So the team now known as the Gloucestershire Growlers after one infamous afternoon in a wooden shack in Gloucester have developed into a good unit. We have our moments of brilliance where very few batsman can touch our bowling, we have our moments of epic fails where we can lose a game on the last ball as someone runs when it was wiser not too. But with all of the mishaps and all of the good cricket our motley crew produce, it is always fun. The bus journeys are full of laughter, the banter is always on point and you can always guarantee a good pint after the game (or before in some cases) not that we endorse it.

At the end of it all when I look back to all of the struggles and the hours spent to form the embers of what is now a club burning brighter and brighter every season, you have to say, it was all worth it. Friendships for life are formed, exercise is always good and my trophy shelf has some welcome additions which for a while I didn’t think would happen. After all there is no prize for winning tiddlywinks at an old persons home.

That’s it for now

Speak soon

MRWG.

 

 

Fancy a Game?

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Today I want to talk about the good the bad and the ugly sides of being partially sighted. I am going to look at some of the more interesting aspects of the journeys I have been through, be it emotional or physical.

Granted to many it would probably seem like there are very few upsides to being partially sighted but you would be wrong. For one thing I have a free bus pass. Well free to a point at least, before 9.30am and after 11pm the bus companies seem to think we have magically been given our sight back so the bus pass becomes obsolete, just sat in my wallet craving attention like the Nectar card that hasn’t seen the light of day since I first got tricked into having it. Don’t even get me started on the Matalan card. But hey, for every other journey it is totally free. Thank you HMRC.

A second up side is the tax allowance, an allowance of £2000 on top of the generous £10500 of our hard earned money that we are allowed to keep. Good work Nick Clegg. (if memory serves). Fair play the Lib Dems didn’t do much with the small amount of power they managed to blag somehow but I do believe raising the tax threshold was their idea. Thumbs up for that one.

Blind sports is another brilliant upside. I simply love team sports, I always did and I always will. Being able to play cricket with sight loss for me is incredible. I used to be quite good but then my sight got worse and now I see double all the time and I am never quite sure which ball I am meant to be hitting. This would be one for the bad sides. Double vision is a real pain in  the arse. I have always said since its onset, I can live with sight loss but the constant double vision just gets on my nerves. It makes me feel dizzy. This brings me onto my second downside. Sight loss and a dodgy ear. Not sure if these go hand in hand, there is no reason to suggest it does but my left ear is useless. As such my balance is awful. I could be completely sober but look like I have been on a bender with a group of randy darts players. I do try and be as positive about as many things as I can be so I keep downsides to a minimum and to be fair randy darts players does sound like a fun weekend.

The left eye not being straight to me is ugly, I have seen it close up in a photo and I don’t like it. In fact I hate it, this brings me to the ugly, now I haven’t seen myself in a mirror for nearly 10 years, when I look into a mirror for all I know I am looking at a blank wall. In fact I am quite sure a lot of the time I am. But I do know one thing, the ugly side of sight loss is not from looking in the mirror at my once perfect reflection, it is from the narrow minded people that treat you like second rate citizens. Many times I have been out with friends or family members and people find it fun to hurl abuse my way for whatever reason. It used to really get me down until I realised that ugly is exactly what they are. There’s no decency to a person that can talk to a total stranger in such ways, just ugliness.

There are many more positive things I will talk about in the future but I can’t give all of my secrets away straight away now can I.

Until next time

All the best

MRWG

 

The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Welcome

So I have been meaning to get round to this for quite some time now. A little blog to keep notes on my life and to give you all all an insight to the life and times of a visually impaired man from Cheltenham,

Hopefully there will be the occasional joke or two, you never know. What I can guarantee is some open and honest opinions on the world I see or rather don’t see around me. Probably  the occasional bit of controversy, but hey who doesn’t like a bit of that.

 

So a bit about me, I my name is Marc, I am legally blind, I suffer with a condition called LHON. Basically it means that my central vision is rubbish although I can see shapes and outlines of things, detail perception is totally gone.

I am 29 years old and I live in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. I love sport. I am a Manchester United fan and I also play cricket for Gloucestershire (well, the blind side anyway).

I work for Insight Gloucestershire which is a charity that helps visually impaired people in to remain Independent. My role is to run the low vision technology centre. More on the in the future. I am also the founder and chairman of the Gloucestershire Growlers. The best blind cricket team in Gloucestershire.

That’s it for now, keep your eyes peeled for the next blog soon.

 

All the very Best

Me!

 

Welcome