| On 3 years ago

It Takes Balls: This Secondary Two Drop-Out Made A Career As Singapore’s Top 9-Ball Pool Player

I am sure most of you have groaned and whined at least once on a weekday morning to your parents, telling them that you didn’t want to go to school. And none of your parents ever took you seriously, and they probably just nagged at you to not be late.

But for Aloysius Yapp, his parents actually took his whining and groaning seriously.

Unlike our lazy reasons for wanting to stay home and sleep more, Aloysius Yapp dropped out of school to compete in 9-ball pool professionally. To most people, it’d seem like a risky move, and you’d constantly be asking yourself: “what if I don’t make it?”

Aloysius’ answer to this tough question was this: “You’ve got to be fully committed to your choice, and don’t give up. I mean, that’s what I’ve done.” 

And choosing this journey definitely did mean skipping the rigorous nights of memorising content for exams, but it wasn’t a simple walk in the park either.

Life As A Professional Pool Player

We talked to him about his journey, the difficulties he encountered and the choices he made that made him who he is today.

So how did you start this career and what made you realise your love for it?

It started one day after school, when I happened to watch pool on TV. I remember seeing a ball that was very colourful, and after it dropped into the pocket, there was this sound that made me feel really good.

I asked my mum what the game was, and she bought me this tiny table to play pool on, and I built my interest from there.

How old were you then?

I was eight years old. I actually started at The Cue Shop that was once at Bras Basah, and is now at Waterloo Street. It’s an academy that teaches younger people to play pool, because most pool shops have a minimum age of 16. I went for lessons every weekend and picked up the basics from there.

How did your parents take it, you dropping out of school to play pool professionally?

I was only 14 years old then. Of course, they weren’t supportive. They told me education was very important. But I just wanted to compete full time. I went to some billiard exhibition overseas and they talked about one player there who was very young and had just become the world champion. And he dropped out and played full time and I was like, wow, I want to do that too.

So I convinced my mum that if I do this full time, I will really be fully committed to this. I’d go for training every day and come home afterwards, without any distractions.

Do you plan on completing your education?

Actually before I enlisted, I took O-Level exams for two subjects. And after I ORD, I’m planning on getting my sports management diploma.

Do you have any message for other aspiring athletes in Singapore?

Be fully committed to your choice, and don’t give up. 

Credit (Aloysius Yapp finished first place at the Golden Break Invitational Championship)

What’s been the toughest moment so far in your professional pool career?

There haven’t been too many, because it’s a process. You’ll learn something new from every defeat, and it’s another new opportunity to improve. 

What’s the one that hit you the hardest?

In 2016, for the entire year, I lost in every tournament’s first game. It was quite demoralising, because I trained so hard and flew across borders, just to get smashed in the tournament. It didn’t feel worth it at all.

Even the times when I played well, I still lost. One of the positive take-aways was that I reflected on what was going through my head when I was about to lose.

What I found out was that I had lots of negative thoughts. It was all in the mindset: when I placed certain shots, I had a feeling that I would miss those shots.

So after coming back, I focussed more on my mental game, and that helped me a lot.

What did you do to change that?

I did drills, and worked on certain shots under pressure where I knew the same negative thoughts would come back. So I re-enacted those scenarios until I was prepared. And it worked out.

And did that unlucky streak end?

I managed to play quite well last year. I won two big events, the ‘Golden Break Invitational Championship (Asian Open Tournament)’ with a lot of top players in it. I was trailing throughout all the matches but eventually finished as a champion. That was one big confidence booster for me.

Following this, was the ‘South-East Asian (SEA) Games’, where we won the doubles as a champion.

Have you met your idol?

My idol is Woo Jia Qing. I’ve played with him a few times before, but I lost all the games. I just can’t seem to win, because he’s too good. It’s not that I feared him, but when I played with him there was really a gap between our standards.

He won the world championship when he was only 16 years old, and he was one of the youngest ever to win. And that made me feel that being young isn’t a vulnerability.

What are some of your inspiring moments?

Winning my first world junior championship at 18 years old in 2014 was my first ever breakthrough that made me feel quite relieved. Without it, it wouldn’t have set up many things for me today.

It was a big mental breakthrough, where I had more confidence in myself to compete with the best. If I didn’t win, I wouldn’t have known that I could do it, and maybe I wouldn’t have pushed myself as hard.

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If you’re facing a similarly tough decision between reality and your dreams, I hope reading Aloysius’ experience helps to inspire you. And in the words of the man himself: be fully committed to your choice, and don’t give up.

Aloysius Yapp: Facebook

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