Shane Van Boening Holds Pool School for Texas School for the Deaf

Shane Van Boening Holds Pool School for Texas School for the Deaf

Former U.S. Open champ Van Boening taught billiards to benefit the deaf.

Former U.S. Open champ Van Boening taught billiards to benefit the deaf.

In two separate “Challenge the Pro” fundraisers for the Texas School for the Deaf (TSD), former U.S. Open champion Shane Van Boening raised over $500 for the school, including a personal donation.  School administrator Keena Miller expressed to Shane how touched she was by a thoughtful note that was sent to the school, along with a donation from Shane’s grandfather, a former senior Billiard Congress of America champion.  After these fundraisers, TSD invited Van Boening to the school to meet the students.

On Monday, November 3, Van Boening visited the TSD campus to hold a mini “Pool School” for the students and faculty.  The Texas School for the Deaf, located in Austin, TX, is the oldest continuously operating, publicly funded school in Texas.  Although organizers originally expected about 20 students to attend, over 50 students packed the Deaf Smith Center, eager to meet the pool champion. 

Van Boening began by telling the students about himself and his experiences.  Although he was born deaf, his mother and doctor did not discover this until he was a year old.  He received his first hearing aids at 16 months.  That year, his grandfather, who owned a pool hall and traveled the country doing trick shot demonstrations, bought Shane a miniature pool table for Christmas. It turned out that Shane could play almost instantly. Shane’s grandfather said, “As soon as I saw him pick up the cue, you could tell he was a natural. I thought right then that he would be a champion someday, and I was right.”

Van Boening told the TSD students about his childhood, his family, and his experiences growing up deaf.  The students related well when he spoke about using the FM Hearing Assistance device that broadcasted the teacher’s voice to a personal amplifier. Although he had many stories for them to relate to, the students were most interested in his pool life, asking questions like what countries he visited, how much money he makes, and if they will be able to see him on TV.

Van Boening started playing early.

Van Boening started playing early.

Shane often says that playing pool is what taught him to speak.  At school he was a shy, quiet kid, insecure about his ability to communicate. But in the pool hall he was something of a novelty, so all inhibitions went out the window.  He often says, “I’m shy most of the time. But with anything that has to do with pool … I’m very confident.”  When asked why he didn’t share that with the students, why he didn’t say that playing pool taught him how to communicate and to have confidence in himself, he responded, “My purpose in going was to show the students that they can achieve big things.  Being deaf doesn’t keep them from doing that. But I didn’t want them to think they have to hang out in pool halls in order to do that.”

Shane’s ability to turn off his hearing aids when he plays is always a hot topic among players who admire his ability to concentrate at the table. The students found it very amusing that his handicap was something that Shane’s opponents see as a great advantage. 

Shane proceeded to do a trick shot demonstration, performing many shots he learned from his grandfather growing up. Amazed by his trick shots, the students immediately set-up shots in an effort to mimic what they had just seen. After teaching the students about the different pool games and mechanics of how to hold the cue and aim, the students competed in a mini tournament.

The Texas School for the Deaf, located in Austin, is the oldest continuously operating publicly funded school in Texas.  Opened in 1857 with only four students, the campus now serves over 450 students ages 0-22 and provides outreach and educational resources for deaf students, their families and professionals in the field throughout the state of Texas.  With educational excellence and a strong belief in a culture and community that allows students to form a unique identity based on their individual strengths and talents, rather than their disabilities, TSD is an environment where students learn, grow, and belong. For more information about the Texas School for the Deaf, visit http://www.tsd.state.tx.us/.

Thanks to Van Boening and Slick Willies Family Pool Hall for their generous donation of the tournament prizes.

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