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Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

The student news site of Pleasant Valley High School

Spartan Shield

PV student takes on international billiards tournaments

Billiards+player%2C+Sam+Henderson%2C+lines+up+for+a+shot.
Tracy Kennis
Billiards player, Sam Henderson, lines up for a shot.

Playing billiards is hard. It requires hitting the cue ball into the object ball and hoping the object travels to the pocket. It’s hard enough to hit both of them square enough to go straight, but experienced pool players must also hit them at angles and off rails into pockets. 

For junior Sam “Ryno” Henderson, this is his life. Henderson is a pool player who competes worldwide while attending PV online. He plays 8 ball, 9 ball, 10 ball and one pocket against adults. With multiple sponsors helping him to cover various expenses, he is living his dream at only 16 years old. 

Henderson attended PV through his seventh grade year. He did well in his classes but faced the challenge of juggling school and pool. Most pool tournaments last from Tuesdays through Sundays. But in 2020, when COVID hit, online learning was introduced, providing Henderson an opportunity. Since then, he has chosen to learn completely online.

Henderson started playing pool at a young age, and it was love at first sight. “It was one of those things where it just caught me when I was about eleven years old. I never wanted to stop playing,” Henderson said.

Henderson has played four types of pool in his amateur career, but is most talented in the traditional 8 ball game. He has won many professional tournaments playing 8 ball, including a $4,000 cash prize.

All of this young, raw talent spurred excitement at the tournaments he attended. Eventually, he was approached by marketing recruiters and offered sponsorships. He now represents 11 different companies, which all help with the cost of equipment, traveling, lodging, uniforms, entry fees and more. 

Teacher Jason Franzenburg has played amateur pool in the Quad Cities for 20 years. He knows Henderson well and is complimentary about the young player’s skill set. As a former high school multisport athlete, Franzenburg has a special appreciation for the difficulty of playing pool at such a high level. “The mental game in pool is really tough. The mechanics are important but the mental game is huge,” said Franzenburg.

In the coming months, Henderson will be traveling to Austria, where he will showcase his talent on an international stage. He looks forward to this new experience and is preparing in every way possible, including in the ‘classroom’. 

“I’m also taking German because I’m going to Austria in October and they speak German there. I want to be able to learn a little bit of it,” explained Henderson. 

Henderson is an incredibly talented, young athlete and an inspiration to pool players. Henderson has valuable advice for pool players of all ages. His biggest suggestion to those learning the game: “If you don’t put chalk on the end of the cue, you’re not going to be able to make good contact with the ball. It’ll end up what we call a miscue. And you’re going to end up failing and it won’t be good,” Henderson explained. 

As arguably the most successful high school athlete at PV today, Henderson continues to fulfill his passion for the game, superseding expectations of his age and experience. Henderson is an incredibly talented athlete with the skill set to go far in his passions. Pleasant Valley is lucky to have him as a student.

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About the Contributor
Jessie Clemons
Jessie Clemons, Sports Editor
Jessica “Jessie” Clemons is a senior at Pleasant Valley High School. She is the Sports Editor for the Spartan Shield. At school, Jessie participates in softball, basketball, and track and field. She has been privileged by participating in nine different Iowa Girls High School State Tournament events, where she has been awarded 1st Team All State- Shortstop for softball. Outside of school, Jessie enjoys watching Suits and Stranger Things with her twin brother Justin. Who, she is thirty seconds older than. Jessie’s future college plans include playing softball at Iowa State University and studying biology. After college, she hopes to become a Physician’s Assistant.
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