By R. Alan Richardson
By day, she’s known as Mrs. Chapman; an unassuming, mild-mannered geometry teacher at Morgan County High School and single Mom of one. By night, she is transformed into a pool-playing competitor you might not recognize.
She recently earned a spot in the prestigious American Pool Association’s (APA) 8-Ball Doubles Championship in Las Vegas with her partner Jeff Powell. It was played at the Westgate Hotel and Casino. She said, “We had a blast. It was a good experience that I really enjoyed.” She is currently trying to qualify for the next Vegas event coming up soon.
Chapman teaches math, geometry and special education at MCHS where she has been teaching for six years. She calls Milledgeville home, but her home pool hall is in Ivey (Wilkinson County). She is originally from Danville where she attended Twiggs Academy before earning her associates’ degree from Georgia Military College. After transferring to UGA, she received a bachelor’s degree in anthropology where she pursued a job in archaeology. She served a one-year stint doing archaeology surveys in the Smyrna area of Atlanta doing digs for the DOT when roads were to be extended or built. She said, “We would go out and dig holes every 30 meters to make sure there were no major finds. I also worked in North Carolina where an airport runway was being expanded. There was a major find there and we went in to try and salvage it before it was completely lost. It was a neat job.”
She decided at that point to pursue a Master’s degree in the field at Ole Miss, but after two years changed her mind and decided to go into teaching instead. “During that time at Ole Miss, I broke my ankle and had to have hip surgery (three times) from doing all the walking. Not only that, it was really hard to find a job. I decided on teaching and got my degree from Georgia College and State University after that. I’ve been at MCHS now since 2012 and love it here.”
Playing pool became a hobby for Chapman when her brother talked her into joining an APA team. “It was during the time I had broken my ankle and I couldn’t do much else. We played some on Saturday nights, but it was nothing major. Now I play three nights a week; 8-ball on Wednesday, 9-ball on Thursday, and doubles on Friday.”
With all of her other responsibilities as a teacher and single Mom, we asked her how she finds time to do it. “I have a wonderful support system. My Mom, Aunt, and ex-husband have been great in helping me find the time to pursue it. They keep my son on those nights to help me get out and join my team and teammates as soon as I can. They are great.”
Chapman says that pool and geometry have a lot in common, and she tries to bring those ideas into her classroom teaching when she can. She commented, “It doesn’t matter if it’s pool or geometry. Angles are angles. If you hit the ball dead on with no English, it’s coming off the rail at the exact same angle. Now if you put top right or bottom left English on it, the ball changes angles. I can use the pool table diamonds to calculate those angles or use the stick as a measuring device and how far it is from the felt to help me calculate those angles. You can talk about tangent lines and circles and how the ball will always come off at a 90 degree angle, but it’s never perfect; at least for me.”
She continued, “I would like to do a project with my kids concerning angles and pool next year. They love playing online pool so possibly a pool challenge. They may not play in real life, but the online game is the next best thing even though I’m terrible at it. I would like to incorporate some videos of pro or amateur matches that are shot from above to get them thinking about all the angles, take some screen shots, and discuss how they would use the angles. I have a shirt that says, ‘It worked in my head’. Every shot works in my head. The execution is the hard part.”
The pool-playing geometry teacher told us a little about how the games are played in leagues, divisions, city events, and even in Vegas. The APA uses a handicapping system like golf or maybe even horse racing based on your ability. Right now she is rated as a three or four out of seven where a one is a beginner and a seven could run several racks of balls in a row. The system allows players of different levels to compete against one another where the lower ranked player has a chance to win. Example: When a three is facing a seven in eight-ball, the three only has to win two games while the seven has to win six games for the win. In nine-ball it’s a little different. It doesn’t matter how many games you win, but how many balls you make. Example: If the same three is playing a seven, the three only has to make 24 balls while the seven has to pocket 55 to win the contest. The nine ball, when pocketed, counts as two balls. It’s an interesting way of making the games fair.
Chapman described her contests in Vegas like this, “My partner is a seven and I had to go in as a four. Due to that, we were ranked as an 11 total compared to our opponents’ 10 ranking. We had to win five games to their four. We went Hill-Hill (which means next team to win a game moves on) and lost. We should have won and really didn’t play that well, but it was all worth it.”
The evolution of her pool game had its setbacks. She played some during her pregnancy, but after her son Joey (7) was born she had to take a hiatus. “I stopped playing until this past September. It’s something I truly enjoy and I do that is just for me. It’s not for anybody else and is the only thing in my life that I do that is just for me. Everybody needs something like that. I’ve enjoyed it so much since I’ve gotten back into it. It’s my release and a passion. When I went on my hiatus, I forgot how much I enjoyed it.”