- Associated Press - Saturday, October 31, 2015

PORTAGE, Ind. (AP) - Mike Roque was 10 years old when he first heard the clacking of two pool balls colliding.

The noise, the lights, the action of the balls gliding across the pool table at a youth center in Gary’s Glen Park neighborhood fascinated the then fourth-grader from Hobart.

Sixty-two years later, Roque, a retired supervisor from Bethlehem Steel Corp. is still fascinated with the sport.

In the basement of his Portage home, he shoots pocket billiards with ease, explaining how and why to set up each shot. The walls are covered with plaques from tournaments he has participated in, both locally and across the country. A 10-foot shelf holds trophies, five deep, recognizing his wins in the games of 8-ball and 9-ball.

“The game relates to all your senses. I just wanted to learn as much about the game as I could,” he said, recalling walking 30 minutes each way from his west Hobart home to a pool hall as a youngster to practice.

As a teen and a member of the Hobart High School football and baseball teams, he said, he disregarded his coach’s advice to stay out of pool halls and would sneak in whenever he could to practice. As a student at Indiana University, Roque represented the Hoosiers in intercollegiate play. It was there a grad student took him under his wing and helped him hone his skills.

All the time, said Roque, he researched pool, talked to experts and jotted down notes.

When Roque retired 15 years ago, he began putting together a book to pass on his knowledge and love of the game. For some five years, he organized and wrote down his thoughts and tips. He signed with Bebob Publishing of Livonia, Michigan, and three years later “Build Your Game 365 Days of Instruction, Motivation and Insights for Pool Players” was published.

“I was very happy, very elated. It was a highlight of my life,” Roque said about seeing the finished book for the first time. The book has received several favorable reviews from pool authorities and publications.

“This is my legacy to the fame. These are the nuggets for the game of pool,” said Roque.

The book offers a tip, a motivation or an inspiration for each day of the year, ranging from how to take a certain kind of shot to having conviction in your play. Some of the messages, he said, apply to more than pool or even other sports, but can be helpful in life.

“There is no other billiard publication like this. No other has this daily concept,” he said about the book, which is available online through the publisher or Amazon.

Roque said there are 30 million people who play pool in this country and the game has come a long way from the stereotypical smoke-filled pool halls where hustlers went to win a quick buck.

Back in the mid-1950s, early 1960s, he said, every town had a pool hall. When he was traveling he’d hit a few.

He said he believes the game changed when the movie “The Hustler” starring Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason came out in 1961, shedding light on the more dubious aspects of the sport.

Since the 1980s, Roque has played in tournaments. He plays in weekly leagues at Griffith Billiards and in Florida where he and his wife, Linda, winter.

Roque said the love of the sport has never waned because, for him, it has always been a challenge.

“I want to improve. I want to win and get better. It keeps me motivated,” he said, admitting he has a competitive nature.

Roque also said he believes pool teaches life lessons.

“The first one is practice, deliberate practice and learn early the proper techniques. That’s true for all activities, all sports,” he said. “There are the mental aspects that apply to the other aspects of life.”

Roque, a student of Stephen Covey and his “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” is also working on his second book, “Seven Steps in Becoming a Champion,” which he hopes will be motivational to people in all types of activities.

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Source: The (Munster) Times, https://bit.ly/208UoT2

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Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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