From as far back as the 80s, pool has become a popular sport, played by many across the world. Traditionally a pub sport, pool is a strategic and mentally encompassing game that has seen many rules come and go during its various reincarnations.

In Wales and much of the world the ruleset is known as Blackball, played with seven red, seven yellow, a black, and a cue ball. Essentially – the player pocketing their colour balls and legally pocketing the black ball, wins the game.

In this country, the game is played to Blackball rules and governed by the Welsh Pool Association. The game is fiercely competitive and quick and can draw an audience very quickly. Yet, whilst it continues to be played on an amateur, international and professional stage, unfortunately, the number of female players has dwindled over the years.

This is something that Wales Ladies Squad Manager– Holly Heath – is hoping to change.

Usk-born Holly, is a highly decorated black ball player in her own right. Holly first started playing black ball at fifteen. Her evident talent and enjoyment for the game led to her selection in the county team at the age of nineteen, before going on to represent her country at twenty-one.

Holly continued to play for Wales until she was thirty-two. During this time, she and her teammates won the 2002 World Championships; an incredible achievement that remains one of the true pinnacles in the history of the Welsh Ladies as it is yet to be repeated.

After a ten-year hiatus, Holly returned to the game and proceeded to play for Wales in 2015. Within this time, she gained a clear understanding of the strengths of the team and the areas in which they needed to further progress. This ultimately led her to the decision to apply for the role of Wales Ladies Squad Manager last year.

“I felt like the team needed a fresh approach,” Holly said upon her appointment “the Ladies Squad have not won a Championship since 2002 and it felt like the time to try a different style of management. I am a positive person and hope to instil a new ethos into the team as a whole, we are one squad encompassing three teams.”

One way in which Holly hopes to achieve this is bringing the squad together regularly for practice and coaching days and socialising before their next big event – the Nations Cup, which is set to take place in Bridlington.

“By meeting up, I hope that we get to have some fun and get to know our teammates, understanding how different people play and everyone’s strong suits – each having something to offer.”

Beyond getting the team into the best possible position they can be, Holly’s biggest goal as a Manager is to put Wales Ladies back on the map! “There are not as many women playing these days,” Holly shared “but we have some amazing women players in Wales who deserve to be celebrated; men are massively represented in the sport and it's time to celebrate what we ladies have to offer.”

Currently playing for the Abergavenny County team, Holly discussed how there was evident talent amongst players and potential for many to move forward if they so wish. Holly also highlighted how pool is open to everyone at any level, at any age - “the age range is broad – the oldest in our squad is fifty-eight, it has no bearing on the game. It is a mind game and the more you play, the sharper your mind becomes.”

It is important to recognise that one of the biggest challenges with pool and playing in leagues, county and qualifying tours, plus on the international stage, is the time commitment and money, Holly acknowledged. Many of the players must pay for their own travel, accommodation and kit, as well as juggle their holiday time with their everyday jobs.

Without her ‘pool wife’ and righthand woman, Helen Hallwood, Holly said things would be that much more difficult. “I’ve known Helen for a long time, she represented Wales herself for many years and understands the challenges the ladies face. Helen arranges kit, transportation and accommodation for the squad. She is a key component to the success of our squad.”

As they look to the future, the first step to putting ladies pool back on to the map is securing sponsorship; an important aspect that would publicize the squadand help the current players. In return for financial support the squad would wear their logo on kit at all international events and promote the sponsor on social media, locally and abroad.

We will catch up with Holly after the squad compete in Bridlington for a review of their performance and hear about what is next in their calendar

For further information about the sport, getting involved, sponsorship or learning more, join the Welsh Ladies Pool Association, and/or Welsh Pool Association pages on Facebook.