In an athlete’s career, there’s a period in time when they are at the peak of their ability. For most sports, this typically falls around the age range of 25 – 30 years old.
This is mainly true in sports where physicality plays a large component, something that isn’t necessarily the case in snooker. Most people would assume that with a low requirement for physical attributes, snooker players should be able to play at an elite level for a long period of time and even get better with age.
Why then, are there so few snooker players that you’d consider to be ‘older?
It’s an interesting topic so below I’ll cover the question – why do snooker players get worse with age?
Why Do Snooker Players Get Worse With Age?
In any sport, players have an ability curve. Beginners learn, compete and quickly improve. You’ll then enjoy peak performance years (often demonstrated by the 10,000-hour rule) before finally starting to decline into the twilight years of your ability level.
Steve Davis is the best example of this, he’s one of the most decorated snooker players in history, yet set a record a decade ago for becoming the oldest player to win a game at the World Championships to reach the last 16.
For a player of his caliber that dominated the snooker scene in the 80s, you’d think it would be an expectation to win a game at a championship and not a newsworthy story!
With snooker though, there is minimal physical activity so why is it that snooker players seem to get worse with age when fitness, strength, or other attributes are not necessarily important.
Snooker players get worse with age for 3 key reasons:
- They practice less
- Their physical fitness and attributes decline
- Their mental dexterity declines
Below we’ll cover these in more detail as they don’t all necessarily apply to every player, yet, there certainly is a trend.
1. Less Practice
Busier schedules and more commitment means older snooker players have less time to practice. Without an adequate amount of practice time, their skills begin to weaken.
The more time snooker players devote to other paths like family, education, and alternative career choices, the less time they have for snooker.
Older snooker players may practice less as they get older, eventually showing in their competitive matches. When a professional snooker player does not put in the time and effort required to be “the best,” they will no longer have that title.
One of the main reasons that these players have less time to practice is because of their families. As snooker players begin to have families, they turn their dedication from their game to something way more important: family!
Having a busier schedule means that there is less time for snooker practice. As they pursue careers and education later in life, many snooker players have less time for playing their favorite sport. Less time for snooker means that older snooker players cannot practice, learn new techniques, or stay up-to-date on the latest techniques and advancements in the game.
A lack of time plays a major role in the amount of practice snooker players can get. Whenever snooker players fail to have adequate practice, their skills will immediately begin to worsen. Once their skill, motivation, and competitive nature decline the player will eventually retire.
As snooker players get older, they no longer have the same dedication to play. Many young snooker players have the motivation and more importantly the ambition to practice and refine their skills.
As the saying goes:
“The wolf climbing the hill is hungrier than the wolf at the top of the hill”.
As snooker players get older, it becomes easier to skip practice.
Losing your dedication happens for several reasons, such as a sense of accomplishment, which leaves them feeling satisfied. Or because the player is feeling burnt-out. This overall lack of dedication can cause older snooker players to worsen with age. The same drive and motivation they initially had to practice for hours are lost.
2. Decreased Physical Fitness
As your physical fitness declines with age, health becomes more important. Playing snooker takes a huge physical toll on your body, so mindful players must retire early to save their bodies.
It’s not that the practice is physically exerting but to practice at an elite level you do need to spend focused time at the table which takes its toll over the years.
As snooker players get older, they will develop problems with eyesight, endurance, and strength. Practice can become more fatiguing and just because snooker looks easier than many sports or games, it doesn’t mean the human body is any more equipt for longevity.
Stability is critical in snooker. Unfortunately, many people develop balance issues with old age. Shaking hands is one example of a stability issue that is incredibly problematic for snooker players. Playing snooker requires stable hands. If your hands are shaking, you may have trouble hitting the ball.
Balance problems become more common as you get older because of bad posture, health issues, and much more. Having a good balance is critical to proper form. Without proper form, you are increasing your chance of getting a serious injury while playing snooker. Good balance is important for proper form.
Worsening eyesight is one of the main reasons that snooker plays get worse with age. Any damage to a snooker player’s vision is extremely problematic because they require such sharp eyesight.
Eyesight is not unfixable. However, it continuously worsens with age. So, despite wearing glasses or getting Laser eye surgery, there is a chance that a snooker player’s vision will worsen.
Some snooker players fail to maintain their physical strength as they age. Snooker is a physically intensive sport that requires aggressive core movement. Failing to maintain adequate physical fitness can result in many complications aside from losing and winning.
Many people develop health problems with age. Although these health problems can have nothing to do with snooker, they may impede one’s ability to play.
Just because you have a health problem does not mean you cannot play snooker. Many people with health problems play snooker, even at later ages. Accommodating health problems is essential for snooker players.
3. A Decline in Mental Dexterity
A decline in mental agility is one of the main reasons why snooker players get worse with age. This decline in mental strength causes players to run out of endurance and accuracy.
Champions usually reign around their twenties, with a player’s accuracy beginning to deteriorate around thirty. This gives them a great ten years of prime snooker-playing life.
^ prime snooker years being in terms of playing at the highest level possible. Former professional players can still dominate amateur leagues and competitions for the love of the sport.
Endurance decreases with age, sometimes unintentionally. Snooker games can last anywhere from fifteen minutes to fifteen hours. Players must be prepared to play long games that can last hours.
These long games are mentally tolling. Age can significantly impact a player’s ability to withstand these long games. The drive and determination to push yourself become more difficult the older you get.
Inaccuracy becomes a major issue for snooker players as they age. Staying sharp and focusing on the game becomes difficult when other factors like family influence life. Even the slightest miscalculation can lose a game.
This article is not to be taken as a guarantee or a rule. While an obvious observation is that snooker players get worse with age – otherwise you’d see more older professional players – it doesn’t necessarily mean that some can’t improve as well.
The reason most snooker players get worse with age is that snooker players lose some of the mental focus, dexterity, and hand-eye coordination as a result of aging. This impacts aim and consistency meaning it’s much more difficult to compete at the highest level.
The average age of the top-ranking snooker players is between 30 – 40 years of age which means that the prime years are definitely higher than in some sports, though after the age of 40 this declines considerably with most players retiring from the game before the age of 45.
This statistic would indicate that players feel they are getting worse or less consistent after the age of 40 and most of the factors listed in this article will contribute to that.