Playing any sport professionally takes a great deal of dedication and time, and that is why age limits are leveled for young persons to become professionals. There are many reasons that this is deemed so, for instance for the protection of the minor as young people are considered vulnerable in a cut-throat professional world.
Also, young people should be devoting their time to studying and not practicing their snooker skills. So, the question arises just how young is too young? In 2012 the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) took the bold step of removing the minimum age limit of sixteen. This led to a Polish youth, Kacper Filipiak joining the professional tour at just fifteen.
The European Under 21 Championships
Previously the European Under 21 Championships were pretty strict on allowing youngsters of sixteen and under to play in the tournament. But when the ban was lifted in 2012, a fourteen-year-old player reached the final of the tournament, once again raising the question was it right to remove the age limit.
When young Kacper Filipiak joined the professional tour he impressed, his playing was good and he actually defeated players such as Stephen Maguire and John Higgins. And it led to Ronnie O’Sullivan predicting that the young player would one day become World Champion.
But it was a different matter under the pressure of the professional circuit, and young Kacper struggled with the constant pressure, winning just seven frames from the sixty-eight he played. And his downturn in level of performance put his prospect of retaining on the pro tour in significant doubt.
How Old Should a Professional Player Be?
The rigors of playing on the world tour obviously proved too much for the young Polish player. It is one thing entering a knock-out competition over seven days but playing week in and week out on the pro tour takes far more out of a person.
Professional snooker players have been quoted as saying the mental strain of a whole season on the pro tour is the hardest thing to cope with. And it is well documented that children under sixteen have not developed fully both in body and mind.
So, is it right that young Kacper was allowed to turn professional? Or should a line be drawn of a minimum age of sixteen like many other professional sports?
The Arguments For and Against
On one hand, the old argument that if somebody is good enough, they should be allowed to play is tempered with the stresses involved in playing professional snooker. And the counter argument is that at such a young age, the pressure and effects of losing games could be psychologically damaging long term.
This is true, snooker is emotionally draining when players have lost form and are losing on a regular basis, and for a young person this can be so detrimental in many ways. The debate still rages and there are lobbyists on both sides of the argument, but there seems to be no definitive answer. Perhaps it should be looked on a player by player basis.