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When players suit up for a season a few things go on in their heads. They may wonder who their coach is going to be, if they will like their teammates, and what position they are going to play.

Few players worry about there equipment (as from their ball), but the equipment is very important. Equipment:

  • Protects players from injury.
  • Allows players to play their best.
  • Is required to play in recreational leagues.
  • Stops annoyances from occurring (for example, gloves protect from the cold).

Soccer Equipment List

Shin-guards:

Protects players shins and ankles from the kicks that they will receive. It is recommended that you buy shin-guards with an ankle guard. Make sure that they shin-guards that you purchase are an adequate length; some shin-guards are too small.

Soccer ball:

Most players get excited about purchasing a ball, so you do not need to worry about this one. Make sure you check with your league before purchasing so you buy the right size.

Soccer Uniform:

Your uniform will be provided when you sign-up for a league.

Cleats:

Cleats provide the stability needed to play soccer efficiently. Although buying cleats seems like a nominal task, it should not be taken lightly. Every player favors a different type of cleat, and sizes vary widely. When buying cleats, utilize a specialists help so you can get the proper boot.

Leather looks to be the best type, though it is not as flashy as other material. Do not worry about the look of a cleat (although many professional players wear flashy ones) because it really depends on the player.

Soccer cleats for both men and women come with the same basic elements. They all have projections on their bottom parts for stability and traction and they are all designed to allow quick, fast movements or even sudden direction changes during play. Most brands concentrate on men’s soccer cleats, but because this is not a game that is limited to men, a number of footwear manufacturers also offer soccer cleats for women and kids.

Every kind of player deserves the best when it comes to play gear and the same is the case when it comes to soccer. Women players are just as deserving as men players and it is for this reason that the market also has very good soccer cleats for women too. Even though they use the same technologies, there are a few elements that set women’s soccer cleats apart from those for men. They are what makes it possible for players to tell the difference between soccer cleats designed for men and those designed for women.

Colors – Modern designs come in a wide range of colors to suit both genders. Whereas every player is free to select a color that matches their individual preferences, those designed for women will usually be in color schemes that are more feminine such as yellow, purple and pink whereas those for men are usually in green and blue colors. The colorful ones are very popular today because of how confident they make the players feel when wearing soccer cleats they love especially in expressing their personalities. There are so many other colors suitable for both genders including black, whites and oranges.

Sizing – Naturally, men tend to have larger feet compared to women in size and width. Women who prefer wearing men’s designs may need to go a size or a size and a half lower to accommodate the natural gender difference. Different brands design it differently and offer them in sizes relevant to gender. You will find most designs for women appearing smaller compared to those designed for their male counterparts.

Biomechanics – Usually men tend to place more weight, pressure and force on lateral forefoot and mid-foot especially when making rapid direction changes during play. This can result to increased risks of fractures especially on fifth metatarsal because of their natural built. The same effects may not be as extensive when it comes to women. For this reason, the biomechanics of soccer cleats designed for men may differ a little from those designed for women, especially in offering more support and stability so as to keep the chances of injuries minimal during play.

Women may be flexible in choosing soccer cleats they find most comfortable. They can choose to stick to those designed for them or choose from the men’s category. Men on the other hand are not as lucky and may need to stick to what is designed solely for them to have the most enjoyable and safe play possible.

Soccer is a game played by thousands and loved by millions. Every soccer professional chooses their cleats according to their requirement and condition of the ground. If proper cleats are not worn by the player it may prove to be a big disadvantage on his side because cleats provide proper grip and adhesion towards the ground. Soccer cleats are chosen on the basis of various factors, some of them are as follows-

1. ACCORDING TO THE PLAYGROUND SURFACE– If the condition of a ground is rough and not too soft then the player should use firm ground cleats with 12 to 15 studs in other to maintain friction and allow flexibility. Studs come in different shapes like conical, blade-shaped, etc. But if the ground surface is wet and muddy, then the player should go for soft surface cleats, so that the stickiness of ground does not restrict friction and provides sufficient traction. However, in soft surface cleats, the number of studs is 6-7, structured ideally. And, for hard and rocky ground surface the cleats having flat studs are preferred as they provide maximum grip to maintain balance on the hard surface.

2. ACCORDING TO THE MATERIAL– Soccer cleats are made from various types of materials like from kangaroo leather, goat leather, synthetic material, mesh, etc. Each one has its own advantage and disadvantage. The cleats made from kangaroo leather are usually preferred as they provide great comfort to your feet and are quite durable. But they are very heavy and expensive so you can also opt for goat leather cleats as they are less expensive and provide the same comfort, but are as heavy as the former one. Cleats made from synthetic material is used widely because they are light weighing and cheap, but they are not suitable for all the weather and are not durable as kangaroo leather cleats. Many companies have started manufacturing artificial leather cleats having water resistant quality and durability.

3. ACCORDING TO THE COMFORT– Selecting right cleat could be a challenging task as the main priority is the comfort. Cleats should not be too small or too wide. They should fit properly and not hurt your toes resulting in blisters. Choose the cleats that can balance your back and forth movements. Your cleats must have a large strike zone so can easily kick the ball. The insoles in cleats should be soft and bouncy enough.

4. ACCORDING TO THE BUDGET– The price of cleats differs from company to the company offering different types of quality and material. The quality of cleats is classified as top-tier cleats, mid-tier cleats, and low-tier cleats. The professional soccer player chose top-tier cleats as they are manufactured to cater the demands of the player. They are very expensive and cost around 100$-500$ depending on the manufacturing company. The mid-tier cleats are in great demand as they are available at reasonable prices and are as durable as top-tier cleats. The low-tier cleats are for the beginner. They are cheap and of inferior quality.

To what extent was appeasement “a policy driven by economic decline”?

During the 1920-30’s, Britain adopted a policy of appeasement in the aftermath of World War One. Appeasement is the policy of “settling international quarrels …through negotiation and compromise thereby avoiding war” (Paul Kennedy 1976), and was implemented with a general view to avoiding conflict in Europe.

The view of appeasement as a reputable policy was thrown into question with the publication of the book, “The Guilty Men”. The authors of the book believed the actions of Prime Ministers Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain were cowardly, and had inadvertently made the prospect of war more likely. The book has since sparked great debate among historians, who have highlighted a series of factors that led to Britain’s adoption of this policy. The relative importance of these factors can be seen through four key incidents in the build-up to the Second World War: the Rhineland crisis, the Spanish Civil War, the Anshcluss and the Sudetenland Crisis in Czechoslovakia.

Firstly, there had been many indicators that showed the extent to which British public opinion opposed war. The results of the Oxford University Union debate of 1933, the East Fulham By-Election in October of the same year and the Peace Ballot 1934-35 suggested strong anti-war feelings. Stanley Baldwin cited the events as an indication of public opinion as a whole, stating, “that was the feeling of the country in 1933-34”. By 1928 all men and women over 21 had the right to vote, meaning MPs were at the mercy of a far larger electorate. In addition, the rapid growth of the mass media meant that public opinion had a greater influence than at any other time in Britain’s history.

Secondly, many historians cite military weakness as a key reason for Britain’s policy of appeasement. The 10-year rule and the Blue Water Strategy held back Britain’s armed forces technically and the British Defence Budget fell to an interwar low of £103.3 million in 1932. As the authors of Baldwin: A Biography, point out, “Consciousness of Britain’s readiness for war…affected both Baldwin and the Foreign Office and…fettered diplomacy”.

Lastly, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 had wide-scale repercussions throughout the world, and Britain was no exception. The country’s economy nose-dived: key sectors such as coal, shipbuilding, iron and steel industries were badly affected and overall trade fell by 40%. Throughout the 1930’s, Neville Chamberlain placed the economy at the very top of the political agenda. As Robert Self comments, “(Chamberlain) was the most influential single force shaping British Defence policy during the 1930’s”. Chamberlain saw rearmament as something that would damage a fragile economy and could only be financed through reduced spending on other sectors.

Other factors have also been suggested as reasons for appeasement and while they should not be ignored, it is these three that hold the most importance. Of the three principal factors, there is no doubt that had Britain had a stronger economy, the British government would have had more options.

By the beginning of the 1930’s, Britain continued to hold onto a large empire, and it was thought that Britain could simply not afford to fight a war in Europe as well as protect its vital interests further abroad. The consensus within the country’s political system was that, “We have got all that we want – perhaps more. Our sole objective is to keep what we have and to live in peace”. A successful policy of appeasement in Europe was therefore the ideal strategy to safeguard Britain’s empire; however its role is largely insignificant in the context of the four crises, beginning with the Rhineland in March 1936.

The mere suggestion of war that arose as a result of the Rhineland crisis evoked post-war sentiment. The staggering human cost of the Great War had become a scar on the British consciousness, while many saw The Versailles Treaty as being unjust towards Germany. As Hugh Dalton, a leading Labour MP at the time declared at the time, “public opinion in this country would not support…the taking of military sanctions, or even economic sanctions against Germany”. This highlights the stance of Britain’s politicians who backed appeasement at the time; therefore showing public opinion was a strong influence during the Rhineland.

British politicians also had a fear of communism and saw a strong, stable Germany in central Europe as a barrier to the spread of this ideology from Russia. Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill were united in the view that “Hitlerism was preferable to Bolshevism”. Appeasement was a suitable option during the Rhineland as it essentially kept Germany in between Britain and Russia.

From a military point of view, the crucial factor in Britain’s adoption of appeasement, during the crisis, was the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935. As David Armstrong notes, “Abyssinia seemed the most urgent problem facing the country and there were already concerns that the British armed forces were overstretched in the Mediterranean”. However, Britain’s military weakness has been overstated during the Rhineland crisis. This is because of the fact that Germany only introduced conscription in 1935; therefore it is unlikely that she could have held off combined British-French military action.

Two years previous to the Rhineland crisis, the Cabinet Defence Requirements Committee agreed that Britain had not invested enough in rearmament since the end of WWI to be ready for another war. However, the Prime Minister at the time, Stanley Baldwin, was more inclined to agree with Chamberlain’s view that heavy rearmament would be financially disastrous for the country. It was thought that rearmament would drive skilled workers away from their respective jobs, which would weaken a British trade that was already in decline. Chamberlain clearly outlined his opposition to rearmament saying, “if we were to follow advice to the manufacture of arms, we should inflict a certain injury upon our trade from which it would take generations to recover.” In addition, many people began to see the potential benefit that could be gained from trade with Germany. Britain’s economic weakness, and subsequent desire to escape it, was therefore a highly significant reason for Britain’s inaction.

Finally, the failures of the League of Nations have been highlighted as a reason for the appeasement policy. Established in 1920, the League of Nations sought to settle international disputes through sanctions and negotiation. The League’s successes were few and far between and its failure to impose sanctions on Italy over Abyssinia exposed its shortcomings. The League came out of the Rhineland crisis with nothing to show, and at the Spanish Civil War a few months later in 1936, it was effectively replaced by the Non-Intervention Committee.

Public opinion regarding the Spanish Civil War based largely on the grounds of ideology, as opposed to any particular British interest. As Elizabeth Trueman says, “the majority of the public simply wished to avoid involvement in a brutal conflict that could easily spread outside Spain’s borders”. Some of the incidents that emerged from the civil war, such as the German Condor Legion’s bombing of Guernica in 1937, brought the horror of war back to the British public. As a result, the majority of British people supported appeasement, and more specifically the policy of Non-Intervention.

After the Rhineland crisis, defence estimates increased by £34 million and in February 1937 the Defence Loans Act authorised the Treasury to borrow up to £400 million over 5 years to help fund rearmament. This shows that military weakness did not overly influence appeasement during the Spanish Civil War, given that the strength of German and Italian forces at the same time were not significantly greater than Britain’s.

Lastly, Prime Minister Baldwin, and later Chamberlain, both used appeasement during the Spanish Civil War to keep Britain’s economy stable. The Non-Intervention Committee was essentially set up in order to ensure Britain did not become involved in an expensive war that did not concern her, politically, and threatened to spill into the rest of Europe. As Chamberlain himself said later in 1938, “our policy has been to maintain the peace of Europe by confining war to Spain”. In addition, there were several British business interests in Spain, as well as key shipping lanes. The Non-Intervention Committee was used by the government with the economy in mind as it guaranteed the country would not supply any costly resources to either side in the war.

The League of Nations had been so ineffectual at the Rhineland and in the Spanish Civil War that, by the time of the Anschluss on the 13th March 1938 it was, in the words of David Armstrong, “so discredited…that no member state referred the issue to the League”. The Anschluss shows that appeasement was one of the causes of the League’s failure, due to its waning power over the course of the crises, rather than a consequence of it.

British public opinion over the annexation of Austria showed really for the first time, a desire to move away from appeasement. While most, such as George Bernard Shaw writing in the Evening Times, believed that the Anschluss, “is an excellent thing”, the anti-appeasement view held principally by Winston Churchill began to gather momentum. A Gallup poll held in 1938 showed that more than half did not agree with Chamberlain’s foreign policy. Given that Chamberlain remained fully committed in the face of turning public opinion shows that appeasement was no longer a policy governed to any real extent by public opinion.

While the overall importance of military weakness has been overstated, during the Anschluss it was a prominent factor. Despite increased spending, 1937-38 was the time where the gulf between German and British forces was clearly evident. German military aircraft production reached 5,605 while Britain’s was at just 2,153. Chamberlain was aware tthat, “nothing could have arrested this action (Anschluss) by Germany unless we and others with us had been prepared to use force to prevent it”. These words are clear evidence of Britain’s lack of preparedness to fight a war. Chamberlain’s reference to “others with us” implies that only in the event of a combined stance against Germany could the Anschluss have been stopped.

However, the Anschluss is undoubtedly the most prominent example of the country’s economy influencing appeasement. After the steps taken to rearm during 1937, many economists within Britain began to worry about the rate of defence expenditure. The new Chancellor, Sir John Simon told the cabinet in March 1938 that Britain was, “in the position of a runner in a race who wants to reserve his spurt for the right time but does not know where the finishing tape is”, essentially warning that unless military spending was controlled, economic stability would be jeopardised. Chamberlain had to try and find short-term military strength, whilst guaranteeing long-term economic safety and this was part of his reasoning for reluctantly agreeing to increase rearmament expenditure. With the wary words of Simon his ears, it is clear that Chamberlain wished no further spending on the military.

During the Anschluss, it is clear that Hitler’s foreign policy aims of Lebensraum, uniting German speaking peoples and revising the Treaty of Versailles, became of increasing relevance, replacing any irrational fear of communism. It can therefore be seen that, by the time of the Sudetenland crisis in September 1938 fear of communism played no part in influencing appeasement.

While early indications of public opinion were positive in the aftermath of the Munich conference, (the majority of local and national newspapers supported Chamberlain’s policy and actions), it quickly began to turn. An opinion poll from 1938 shows that 72% favoured increased expenditure on rearmament, while the view that, as Labour leader Clement Atlee described it, Czechoslovakia’s “gallant, civilised and democratic people have been betrayed” became more popular. By this stage, however, Chamberlain’s determination to avoid a costly war through negotiation was so great that, despite increasing numbers of anti-appeasers within the country, his choice of policy was unaffected.

Compared to the British forces Germany was stronger in nearly every department during the Sudetenland crisis. However, there is evidence to show that Britain could have successfully fought Germany. German military strength was hugely exaggerated by British generals. As Alan Farmer points out, “Germany was short of tanks, fuel, ammunition, trained officers and reserves.” Also, for the first time since WWI Britain could have relied upon a system of Allies. Her closest ally France had the largest and best equipped army in Europe while Czechoslovakia, France’s ally, had a very resilient army and defensive line. Finally, the Defence Loans Act of 1937 had been designed so that military spending peaked during 1938. The fact that Chamberlain chose to ignore these reasons is evidence that military weakness was not part of the reasons for appeasement during the Sudetenland crisis.

As the threat of war increased, so did Chamberlain’s desire to avoid it. Of all the factors it is that of Britain’s economy which remained in his mind during the three appeasement conferences at Berchtesgaden, Bad Godesberg and eventually Munich. As Robert Self says, “Chamberlain’s resistance to rearmament stemmed from well-founded forebodings about the potentially disastrous economic consequences of such a course”. A month before the meetings, Chamberlain and his cabinet had agreed to increase rearmament expenditure to £2.1 billion. Spending on the sectors of social care that he had championed throughout his early political career had been put aside to fund rearmament. For this reason Chamberlain strongly opposed further expenditure that would divert funding from the sectors such as healthcare in which he had a vested interest, and so remained committed to appeasement over the Sudetenland.

The views expressed by the authors of the “Guilty Men” are, as Edward Ranson says, “certainly too simplistic” to be seen as valid. Appeasement was never a policy controlled by cowardice, but by the range of factors that has been discussed throughout the four crises. Appeasement helped lessen the chances of the Empire losing strength abroad, while the League of Nations’ failures prompted its use. Britain’s fear of communism was another influence but not to the same extent as anti-war public opinion and the fact that Britain’s military was not in a position to fight alone.

While these factors did influence appeasement, the constant fear of a weak economy being ruined by over-spending on rearmament remained throughout the crises and consequently appeasement was a “policy driven by economic decline” to a large extent.

"Why are we here?"

"To discuss education."

"Who wants to talk about that? Everything has already been said."

"Very little has happened."

"So why are you here?"

"To discuss the waste of children's lives." Every child grows up in school. "He spends 10 to 20 years in that environment. They are very meager. Something is wrong with the whole operation. "

"That's easy enough to say. What would you change?"

"I would emphasize education for growth rather than for knowledge." (Mann 1972).

From the moment we come into this world and take our first breath, learning is instinctive. As we grow, the world around us unfolds and new experiences ranging from intrigue and excitment, disappointment and fear, wet our appetites and feed our desire for more learning. As we grow older, life delivers a remarkable variety of complications and challenges and places us in environments over which we have little or no control. It is the way in which we fail; accept; conquer; or progress and learn that shapes our development. The society in which we live and the support we have available through our network of parental; family; peers; teachers; and mentors also facilitates our growth. Life long learning in a learning society is an aspiration which, as we will see later, is sadly not available to all, but those who grap it, regardless of the constants in which they live, win the opportunity to reach their full potential.

"Does some reader say, why should you touch this incident? And I answer, I have a library now of about three thousand volumes …; but in that first purchase lay the spark of a fire which has not yet gone down to the white ashes, the passion which grew with my growth, to read all the books in the early years I could lay my hands on, and in this wise prepare me in some fashion for the work I must do in the ministry …. I see myself in the far away time and cottage reading, as I may truly say in my case, for dear life (Robert Collyer b.1823)

Rose (2001) is seeking to demonstrate that the power of reading at such an early age sustained Robert Collyer through his childhood, into his working years as a minister and the hunger retained in retirement. The catalyst? Simply the moment when, as a child laborer in a linen factory, he chose to pick up his first book, 'The History of Whittington and his Cat'. This would suggest a strong argument to place the responsibility for lifelong learning in the hands of the individual, regardless of their circumstances. However, an opposite view is eloquently put by Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educator and political philosopher, who was born into poverty.

"I did not understand anything because of my hunger." I was not dumb … My social condition did not allow me to have an education. knowledge. "

The twenty century has heard many debts calling for education to be freely accessible to all citizens as an integral lifelong process. (Yeaxlee, 1920, 25). As we will discuss later, however, the issue of class status can have a significant impact on the individual's opportunity to reach their full potential.

Field (2000), identifies that the discussions concerning lifelong learning took on a global perspective when educational representatives of the inter governmental bodies of the United Nations Educational, Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ) commissioned Edgar Faure, the former French Prime Minister to produce a report entitled 'Learning to be' in 1972. This was the start of transformational reform in many European countries. The report highlighted that education should be structured in such a way that it is made easily available for all individuals, for their entire life and that this would mean addressing social concerns of health, culture, environmental considerations and inclusion.

At the beginning of this essay, two educational issues were disputed. The quest for knowledge, or the stimulation of growth? However, over the last thirty years a third element has crept in and clouded the direction and conclusions that our first two speakers may have followed. The impact of competition. The OECD began to influence a view that education should be tailored in terms of human capital, linking the need for Governments to invest in life long education with the output being the creation of a work, adequately skilled to deliver economic prosperity. If the economy prospers, so will the individual.

The European Commissions white paper on education in 1994, highlighted the threats and opportunities of globalization, rapid and unpresented development in information technology and science and the increasing role of Japan, USA and China in the world economy.

"Preparation for life in tomorrow's world can not be satisfied by once-and-for-all acquisition of knowledge and know-how ….. All measures must there before necessarily be based on the concept of developing, generalizing and systematizing lifelong learning and continuing training "(CEC 1994, p16, 136)

Another white paper produced by the Commission of The European Communities identifies that internationalization of trade and information technology will have major consequences for the skills needed in the global economy. The future and competency of individual countries and indeed, collectives such as Europe, will become increasingly uncertain if they are unable to upskill the population.

"Europe is faced with a situation in which its success in terms of economic growth is not matched by an equal capacity to create jobs" (EC 1996 p5).

Lifelong learning is seen as the answer to the problem. Programs such as Leonardo da Vinci, Socrates and Erasmus are designed to deliver inclusive educational policies and create opportunities for all areas of society to embark on the learning journey.

The UK Government white paper on Further Education, published in March 2006, accepted the main recommendation from the Foster report 'to help gain the skills and qualifications for employability'. It also stated, however, that 'this strong focus on economic impact does not come at the expense of social inclusion and equality of opportunity – the two reinforcement one another'.

Coffield (2007) held the view that Further Education in the UK has been driven to deliver only the former, to the cost of the latter. In his article 'Are we on the right Road?', Cofield highlights the positive improvements to education under the labor government, but then goes on to challenge the short-termism of their policies and the precarious journey the UK is currently taking which, without a change of culture, has only a slim chance of success.

Certainly the current UK government has done more than any other in terms of placing education higher in the agenda, by effectively doubling funding to the Learning Skills Council from £ 5.5 Billion in 2001-02 to £ 11.4 Billion 2007-08. This has engendered a diverse and flexible education system, responsive to educational needs and demands, allowing local innovation and second opportunities for the disabled, with significant provision in FE from level 1 to 3. There are a number of excellent partnership programs with employers and a network of Sector Skills Councils which meets the majority of employers' current and future needs. There are reported high levels of satisfaction amongst student colleges and there is good career mobility. There is also a marked improvement in the provision and use of adult and community education, helping to increase social cohesion. Fundamentally there is a wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm, passion and desire in the teaching profession which has delivered all of the above.

On the downside, however, there are real concerns being voiced from many quarters that the UK educational policies are underwritten by one sole overriding objective that, in order to maintain our competitiveness and prosperity in the world economy, the population must be 'given the skills and qualifications for employability '. The UK is performing poorly in compulsory education, ranking 24th out of 28 OECD Countries, with a participation of 76% of 17 year olds and 23,000 children leaving school in 2006 without a single GCSE. With the emphasis on the need for employable qualifications and schools being league tabled to deliver, systems of testing knowledge and performance goals, rather than learning growth in schools, are leading to lower levels of self esteem and reducing levels of effort by the less successful students (Black et al. 2002). At present 56% of 16 year olds are leaving school with 5 good GCSE's. That means that 44% are leaving falling short of the recognized benchmark that has been established to reach the minimum standard necessary for employability, or indeed indeed further hierarchal learning in Higher Education. However, a good plumber does not have to know algebra or the works of Shakespeare, so one could argue that the percentage leaving with 5 good GCSE's has little relevance to the standards of employability except for those entering white collar employment. We do not need all our dustmen to have 5 GCSE's. If they did, maybe they would be doing something else. Education only fails when an individual is cleaning a toilet, who has the capacity to be a rocket scientist. Coffield reports that:

"Educational policy continues to be based on three undering and damaging assumptions: first, that 'our future depends on our skills (Foster); second, that in all matters relating vocational education and the skills strategy it is appropriate' to put employers in the driving seat '; and third, that market competition is essential to make providers efficient and responsive. All three of these assumptions have been round criticized for almost 30 years, but they continue to appear "

Looking at these three issues in turn, in 2005, Tony Blair claimed 'A Country such as Britain in the 21st Century will succeed or fail by how it develops its human capital'. But this rather short sighted, one dimensional, liberalist view is driving education more down the road of exclusion, rather than inclusion, because it has the effect of measuring the validity and success of education only by its results. The increasing emphasis on delivery is causing pressures that are having a detrimental effect on the overall education system, which is evidenced by our standing in the OECD community. Even where the output is good, graduations in recent years have faced increasing competition from well educated and professionally trained graduates from countries such as China, India and as recent as Poland and are falling short of the standards they have attained. Coffield is scathing in his assessment of the treatment of teachers and the teaching profession, but despite the change of view from Tony Blair 'We will ensure that the work can implement what they are asked to do', to the view expressed by Gordon Brown, 'To build trust, we must also listen more, hear more and learn more', will result in more engagement of the teaching profession and more teacher and student led improvements in UK education over the coming months.

On the second issue of workplace learning and the role of employers, The Times Educational Supplement recently reported that 'Employers have failed to back the Governments drive for a better skilled workforce'. Employers have demonstrated that they do not want the responsibility by failing, in the main, to train their workers. Perhaps this is because there is a greater demand at present for unskilled labor and employers in the UK now have the luxury of the overseas graduation market to pick and choose the best candidates. Furthermore, a survey of adult education participation produced in May 2007 by Niace, the national organization for adult learning, reports:

"With 500,000 fewer adults in study now, compared with a year ago, the survey suggests the Train to Gain scheme, which compensates employers for money spending improving the basic skills of the work, is missing the mark."

Looking at one of the UK's largest business operations, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, there is no overall corporate strategy to support the Governments initiatives, whether they fall under the guise of Train to Gain, Skills for Life or the 14-19 agenda. There is no work taking place at present to look at supporting the Business and Finance Diplomas due to be launched in 2008. Internally, training is left to local managers who are responsible for improving the performance of their staff, developing their skills and preparing individuals for future roles and responsibilities. With a lack of central co-ordination, this unfortunately results in huge differentiation in the quality of 'local' training and no synergy within the company. Here it would be difficult to see how this organization, which consist of approximately 30 different companies worldwide, (some of what have Investors in People status and others who do not) could have engaged with Government sponsorship without a more centralized, co-ordinated approach . To its credit, the Bank does offer employees a wide range of training support schemes, both internally and in support of external qualifications such as MBA's and degrees, but this is on the promise that individuals take responsibility for their own development and apply for the schemes that are available. The mantra 'if it's to be it's up to me' applies to the upskilling of the work in this organization.

Large companies like the Royal Bank of Scotland have no real incentive to further the education of their employees; by paying well they will always get the best candidates available in the market place and the competition for progress within the company will ensure that the individual takes responsibility for their own development.

More is certainly asked of us now than ever before, with objectives to achieve, efficiency measures, tight deadlines, high reported levels of stress, longer working hours and understaffing. As employers relentlessly seek to outperform their competitors and drive short term results, they appear to have put away the investment in training and placed the onus on the individual to develop themselves in their own time. I would argue that this complacency has filtered through to large numbers of employees, who have not thought to develop themselves, often using the excuse of not having sufficient time to do so. Could the distractions of multi-media, internet, game consol's and addictive, repetitive, non-educational television be to blame? Has the welfare state encouraged people not to strive for an education as they know that they will be looked after even if unemployable?

"If there is learning, there is also non-learning." "People often fail to learn, or actively resist learning …. Consider the smokers … If there is education, there is also mis-education." (Foley, 2004).

To gain more buy in from UK employers and employees, sometimes the Government should reconsider leaving the question of lifelong learning and training in the workplace to the sole discretion and complacency of employers. In this respect, they could take a leaf out of the book of the French government, who operate two tax exemptions schemes; the apprenticeship tax (0.5% of salary) for initial training and the training tax (1.5% of salary among enterprises having ten or more employees, 0.15% among those having less), used primarily to finance lifelong learning of enterprise staff. The focus has shifted from general education and cultural development of staff towards continuous education and training for employment. All companies benefit in proportion to the number of employees they have. The scheme has led to increased training expenditures that surpass the total amount of taxes paid by enterprises.

The third point regarding the need for competition to make providers efficient and responsive, by it's own inference, directs educational establishments towards being seen as successful educational providers. This perception can easily be manipulated by selecting only those candidates with the potential and motivation to succeed. Thus we have a legacy of schools expelling poor performing students to avoid an adverse effect on their league table results and Grammar schools and universities operating strict selection criteria that 'guarantees' their success, often leaving further Education to pick up the pieces. All the time league tables measure knowledge attainment rather than learning growth, this element of elitism in education is creating the legacy of widening the gap between the learning have and the learning have not's,

The point is argued more strongly by Paulo Friere who Pedagogy of the Oppressed is currently one of the most quoted educational texts (especially in Latin America, Africa and Asia).

Submerged in reality, the oppressed can not perceive clearly the order which serves the interest of the oppressors whose image they have internalized. Chafing under the restrictions of this order, they often manifest a type of horizontal violence, striking out at their comrades for the pettiest of reasons; the oppressed feel an irresistible attraction toward the oppressor and his way of life. Sharing this way of life becomes an overpowering aspiration. In their alienation, the oppressed want at any cost to resemble the oppressor, to imitate him, to follow him. This phenomena is especially prevalent in the middle class oppressed, which means to be equal to the eminent men of the upper class. Self-depreciation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from their internalization of the opinion the oppressors hold of them. So often they hear that they are good for nothing, know nothing and are intolerable of learning anything that they are sick, lazy and unproductive, that in the end they become convinced of their own innocence. "

This opens the question as to whether the class societies in which we live have been founded as a form of eco-system, whereby those at the top of the food chain, ie the upper class and some elements of the middle classes, can only exist comfortably as long as there are lower classes to serve their needs. Someone needs to be there to collect the rubbish and deliver the harvest. Disney eloquently demonstrated this type of society in the film 'Bugs Life'. Williamson (1998) quotes Salman Rushdie in this respect:

"Those who do not have the power of the story that dominates their lives – power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change – truly are powerless because they can not think new thoughts"

Freire puts it in his own omnisitic style:

"There is another fundamental dimension on the theory of oppressive action, which is as old as oppression itself. determination itself the luxury of tolerating the unification of the people, which would have unduly signified a serious threat to their own hegemony. According to the oppressors anyway, any method (including violence) which action, even in incipient fashion could awaken the oppressed to the need for unity. Concepts such as unity, organization, and struggle are immediately labeled as dangerous to the oppressors for their realization is necessary to actions of liberation. "

Today this is a global issue and surprisingly little has changed in peoples attitudes since the 18th Century which saw many examples of the unease felt by the educational middle classes, who according to Rose (2001) 'found something substantially menacing in the efforts of working people to educate themselves and write for themselves'. How true this remains in many countries in the world today and indeed, one couldgue, in the very fabric of our current state education system. Do we really cater for all and do all we can widen participation and include the lower classes? Class culture is still a feature in British society as well as on a world-wide scale, creating inequality, eroding self confidence, holding people back and depressing the further development of society.

Returning to Friere, however, he identifies that within each person lies an instinctive hunger and desire to better themselves and it is this overriding factor that links the issue of lifelong learning back to every learner and keeps the debate alive. To those that overcome all the obstacles, the world can become their oyster. Employment can certainly be one motivating factor to get people to make the most of educational opportunities, particularly those who are open to exploring future prospects and gaining new skills and qualifications that will enhance their lifestyle, self worth and identity. Coare and Thompson (1996) have collated a series of diaries from learners which explain that:

"a tentative first try at adult education has awakened a hunger for learning which may be fired by the thrill of mental and physical stimulation and new skills, or by the companionship and pleasure of learning as a group."

Lifelong learning, however, is not just limited to the world of schools, colleges, universities and the workplace. It goes much deeper and leader into the fabric of society.

"One of the strongest themes to emerge from the diaries is that lifelong learning requires a deep routed learning culture – embedded in institutions and workplaces, in homes and communities and in our hearts and minds – which will support people to overcome the obstacles preventing access to , or participation in, adult education. "

Coare and Thompson include the story of Sue Townsend, who encapsulates my generation when she paints a picture of a 15 year old who could not wait to leave school and become a sophisticated adult with huge dreams of living a comfortable, fulfilling life. Then hitting the ground of reality with the legacy of no qualifications; a resultant low paid job; an attempt to make up for lost time with night school; abandoned when falling in love and later in life feeling the pull of further / higher education:

"I sometimes think that learning is wasted on the young. They are contained in these places called schools at exactly the wrong time. Their bodies and minds are too fidgety to concentrate on things like demography of Bolivia. … We know many people whose lives have been completely changed since they became an adult learner. From those who have Learnt basic literacy skills, to others who have taken degree courses. harsh world out there. Jobs are going, more computers are coming. But the people who are studying Cantonese at night school are, I would say, in with a chance. "

The issue of lifelong learning domains discussion and debate concerning the foundation and direction of continuous education from the cradle to the grave. What's needed is a solid partnership between citizens, teachers, employers and government bodies, nationally and globally for all parties to be fully engaged in and take ownership of educational opportunities that further the development of growth first, knowledge second, put aside the obstacles of class and harness the benefits of competition.

The challenge facing education today is arguably not too dis-similar to the challenges faced by the UK National health service – the more investment, effort and advance that is made, the quicker the speed of intellectualization, development, global demand and human need. So the dichotomy in the question – is the learning gap closing or widening? Williamson (1998) quotes Richard Hoggart who noted that we now live in a society:

"which members are inadequately educated for its complexities, educated only to the level at which they may be exploited"

However, the demand and desire of humanity for humanization and the thirst for knowledge and growth, keeps the educational debate alive and it is through this debate that people develop new views and learn more about themselves in the world. The more we know, the more we realize we do not know and the greater our desire to grow. So much can be done to stimulate and widen peoples desire to learn and grow and break down the barriers that exclude people from learning. However, as Williamson (1998) puts it, closing the gap between the learning rich and the learning poor will need to:

"Lead to fundamental changes in the organization of society itself and its structures of inequality and power. New opportunities for learning presuppose a new kind of society to sustain them and the political will to open them up. courage to work for these ends, knowing beforehand that they can not predetermine what use people will make of their new knowledge and ideas. "

This represents an exciting thinking for those who may feel stifled and "oppressed", ie. all of us ants, but perhaps too scary a journey for the grasshoppers in power to take. What is very excited about lifelong learning, however, is that somewhere in the world right now, a youngster is about to pick up their first book and young mind 85 year old is about to log on to a PC for the first time in their life .

Although there are any number of different networking groups and events you can attend, some of the best networking can occur within your organization. To build your profile and reputation internally and understand "who's who in the zoo" it is worth investing time to get to know the people around you. Here are some suggestions of activities you could try to boost your internal networking skills.

Volunteer for the social committee . Every business (large or small) has a social committee (sometimes is it informal) designed to create fun activities to get to know co-workers. Invest some of your time to help the team create some fun and energy in your workplace. Organize a variety of events – some costing money, others that are free, some that include family members or partners and some that involved outside activity ie company picnic – you can all meet in a park, take your own food, provide sports equipment and plan to have fun. This activity also allows others to meet your extended family and help learn more about you. If you want to keep it strictly to those you work with, organize an event where you can meet people during the week and participate in an activity ie ten pin bowling or the movies. By choosing a week night it means people are not giving up their weekend. At Christmas hold an event to help a charity by collecting gifts or tinned food to donate to the needy.

Arrange a Lunchtime self-development session . Determine a topic you and your colleagues would be interested in, then simply invite someone into your organization to give a brief presentation allowing time for questions and answers. You do not need to pay this person; they may be an internal expert you invite. Choose someone who is an expert in his or her topic area. When organizing the meeting, set up the agenda so that there is time when people come to meet each other, allow 20 minutes for the presentation, 10 minutes for questions and a few minutes at the end to continue chatting to co-workers.

Start Friday night drinks after work . Suggest your team finish at 5.00 on Friday afternoon and all meet at a local bar or café. Invite other teams that you work with to join you. Meet from 5.00 – 6.00 PM so it is not a late night and still allows people to meet other Friday evening commitments. Pick a central location close to the office and make it a regular event. After a month it will gain momentum and people will know you are there and will join you when they leave the office.

Organize a lunchtime sports team . This is a great way to build teamwork internally and also get to know people from other areas within the organization. Put up a notice or send an email asking for interested parties and then form a team ie basketball, football, tennis, soccer team are all fun and easy to organize. Find an oval, park or gym close to the office you can use and set a regular time and day each week to meet. This is a great way to also get fresh air and exercise while networking. You might even like to get everyone to donate some funds and organization team t-shirts to wear, your organization may even have some you can use!

Hold a quarterly breakfast forum and invite the CEO . Make an appointment with your CEO's Personal Assistant and advise them you would like to invite the CEO to a quarterly breakfast where they can meet the team and also answer questions they might have. Once you get approval from the PA, book the next quarter's date and find a suitable venue (preferably close to the office). Each person pays for their own breakfast so it does not cost the company any money. Make arrangements with a café close to the office or in-house catering if you have it, and start at 7.30 and finish by 8.45. This allows people to meet, ask the CEO questions and get involved in discussions.

Seek out (or start) a mentor program . Identify people you would like to learn from within the organization and approach them about being mentored for 6 months. If your organization already has a mentoring program, sign up and get involved.

Write for the company newsletter . Offer to provide articles or updates for the internal newsletter. This is a great way to work with the production team (who are often volunteers looking for content for the newsletter).

Get involved in a charity . Select a describing charity and organize events within the company to raise money for them. Your company may already have a chosen charity, if so; invite someone from the organization to update your collections on suggestions of how you can help even more. This can be a fun way to help others and also help you get to know those you work with. Make it an annual event if it is something special ie red nose day or Daffodil day.

Hold a 'brown bag' seminar at lunchtime . Invite everyone to bring his or her own lunch; you can invite a speaker to provide information to the team. The topics may be relevant to them for outside life ie health, fitness, family or some way to add value to the people you work with. The topics can come from our colleagues – ask them for suggestions. You can hold these on a monthly basis and allow time within the agenda to meet at least two other people from other departments. Advertise it on the notice boards, email and in the bathrooms (you would be surprised how many people read information in the bathrooms).

Organization cross-function team events . Get to know other teams within the business by holding a morning tea and asking the other team to explain what they do within the business and the challenges that they face, and then you do the same. This is a great way to find about others and also share what you are working on.

Start a book club . Find a few people who are interested in similar books to you, set yourself a book to read every two months. If it is an Australian author, invite them to join you at one of your meetings to explain more about the book and why it was written. Most authors love to meet their readers. When you get together, chat about what you learn from the book, what your opinions are on the writing style and what you liked most about the book.

Get in a project team . Seek opportunities to work on projects within your team and with other departments. Ensure you have your manager's permission to be involved. This is a great way to network and learn from others.

Offer to be the MC . If you have a conference or event, offer your services to be the master (or mistress) of ceremonies. This will help you meet other people within the organization, external experts that might be invited as part of the event and also help profile your skills.

Provide your business card to co-workers . When you meet someone from another department always offer your card. This will give them your contact information if they want to contact you again.

Make the most of getting to know those you work with, take time to learn what they do and how you can work together to achieve your goals.

Children at a very young age are very adventurous, playful and full of vitality and energy. They have the stamina that adults can not level up. For this reason, it would be best for us to train or expose our children into sport while they are at their best. As children are very flexible and easy to teach, they will absorb anything that is being taught to them.

If your kid is a boy, baseball or softball can be a good sport to start up with though girls can play with softball as there are women athletes playing this game. At a very young age you must introduce this game to your kids as a child play. Not as a serious game so that they will learn to love it as well as enjoy playing the game. You can already inculcate in them the basic principles of softball without them knowing that you are already teaching the basics of softball in a way that they will not get bored. Children have very short attention span, therefore, when you try to teach a child you must make your mentoring as interesting and enjoyable as possible.

When you can attain this, you are sure enough that the thing you have instilled in them will be deeply rooted, as it will become a habit. A follow up when they will mature will make their move perfect. Constant training will make them competitive and endurance will soon build up. Not to mention the skills they will be forming with them, as they grow older.

Another thing that will be a benefit for them is that they will grow up to be strong and healthy kids as they already have their own stamina and endurance to stress and other physical activities. Therefore training them while they are still young will give them the potential to become an expert or an ace in their field of sport when they become adults.

The only thing teachers must do is to make the training enjoyable and worthwhile, avoid strenuous and rigorous training at their early age. Since excess training is only intended for adults. Children should be handled with since our purpose is to make them love the game and enjoy it while they are learning the basic movement and techniques of softball. To inspire them to learn more you should appreciate their little deeds, as it will boost up their morale that yearning to play more will be the result.

So you got your kid enrolled in your local martial arts school, congratulations! This is the first step to a rewarding journey for both you and her. You probably have a few worries about what lies ahead but at the same time you’re probably really excited to see your child get into the martial arts. So what equipment, uniform and gear do you need to buy for the first class — and how much should it cost?

One of the great things about the martial arts is that it doesn’t cost much to get started compared to other activities. For example a set of good golf clubs can cost as much as $1000 or more. Starting soccer can lead to multiple purchases of a soccer shirt and shorts, socks and cleats, shin pads and of course a good soccer ball. Baseball and football have similar requirements. Dance and ballet can also become quite expensive with all of the different costumes and outfits for the various recitals. You want your child to look good of course so you’re willing to buy whatever is necessary. But you don’t know much about karate.

Initially for martial arts training you only need a uniform (often called a gi) and that’s it. Of course there are other things you could buy such as a gear bag or a club T-shirt but essentially your only piece of equipment to get started is a uniform. A basic uniform should cost around $30 to $40 and sometimes, depending on the school, your first uniform is given to you FREE as a bonus for signing up for the initial program.

“OK, this sounds good. All I need is a uniform for $30 and I might even get it for free. This is a great deal, what am I missing here? What lies ahead that will affect my pocketbook?”

Well, you’re right to be a little skeptical but honestly you don’t need much money for karate equipment. Your biggest ongoing expense will be the cost of your tuition which is currently (as of January 2008) at an average of around $100 to $120 per month for a twice a week program. Community center programs are obviously cheaper and large schools that are located on busy streets in nice areas are obviously higher because they have to be to keep their doors open.

Concerning the equipment, these are the items that you will need to purchase as your child progresses through the ranks to black belt:

· Better quality uniforms (these can range from $60 for a mid-level uniform, to $100 for a good uniform, and all the way up to $200 for a top of the line uniform – your instructor should offer a good selection to fit the different budgets)

· Sparring gear – your child will need hand pads and shin & instep pads, and in all probability a gum shield and some headgear. All of this should cost you $100 or less depending on the quality of gear you buy. Often your instructor will offer the whole package for a discount and you should definitely take advantage of this to save a bit of money.

· Training gear – Martial arts requires a lot of practice and your child will probably need to practice at home as well as in class. To facilitate this you may need to buy some focus targets or a kick bag (either a hanging bag or a free-standing bag). These targets usually begin at around $20 for the basics, and a good kick bag will cost a little over $100. However be warned you could easily spend up to $500 on this type of equipment depending on how much your budget is, because there are all kinds of really cool training gear available.

· Weapons – Depending on your school, there may be a weapons requirement and again this will be an additional expense. Basic weapons don’t cost very much however and you probably won’t have to put out any more than about $20 per weapon just to be able to participate in the class. As usual of course there are multiple upgrade options and if your child wants to enter into tournaments then a better quality weapon will be required.

· Instructional support resources – Many schools offer books and DVDs for curriculum support and although these items are yet another expense they are a one-time investment that can be tremendously beneficial to your child’s ultimate progress and development. These tools will help your child practice at home and can also provide you, as the parent, with the means to offer support and help to your child as she progresses through the ranks. The cost of these resources will vary based on the different curriculum that is being studied but very often there are some excellent resources to be found online, on your club website or on other style specific websites. Be sure to do your research in addition to purchasing the necessary content support.

All in all the gear, equipment and uniform cost of practicing martial arts is minimal because in most cases all you need for the first couple of years is a uniform (or two), some sparring gear, some basic training gear for practice at home, an occasional weapon, and some instructional DVDs or books to take your child’s understanding to the next level. The estimated cost of all of this equipment is about $400 to $500 over a period of two years to fulfill the minimum requirements. If you break this down on a per month basis then you are looking at less than $20 per month on average for basic equipment costs for the first few of years of training.

The truth of the matter is that like every good parent you will probably spend more because you will want to buy your child some T-shirts and clothing, a gear bag, additional equipment and so on. But these things will still be considerably less than that set of golf clubs! And what’s more, you can use these items as valuable incentives for your child as they successfully make it through the ranks of their training.

If you need more help with this or any other karate subject, please be sure to download my FREE Report “Beginners Guide to Karate”. You will find out how to download it at http://www.freekarateinformation.com

Good luck and best wishes on your journey in karate.

Are you a rugby fan? Then you probably know what Australia and New Zealand means to Rugby World Cup. What would it be like if both teams weren’t included in the world cup?

This is practically what HB Studios has done. What the company has done is take their previous version of Rugby 08 from the PlayStation 2 four years ago, and zapped it up with new graphics and changed a few minor items which no one will ever notice. They gave it a new name and released it onto the market at an unacceptable high price. Now who could be more devious than that? Seems like the latest NATO fiasco in Libya has taught them that the masses are easily duped.

If you like tri-nations, super 15, and other rugby games that are not in the world cup would you still be interested? Rugby World Cup 2011 contains none of these and only 5 modes. The world cup, single international tests, warm up tours, some international tests,, penalty shoot-outs, multi-player games, but only two people can participate. Half the teams don’t feature any of the current world class players, but faceless characters no one even knows. So in reality you getting half a world cup for full price. Of course, you can name the players through the games editor function, but with no faces to the characters, is that any fun?

The gameplay is equally pathetic. There are not enough options on the filed. You are severely limited in what you can do, leaving you frustrated and disappointed that you were caught yet again. If you played FIFA world cup you no doubt were dazzled by the fabulous gameplay that left soccer fans gaping in awe and admiration. Now why can’t rugby fans be treated similarly and get something worthwhile?

If you play the game in multi-player mode then it becomes a little more interesting. The controls respond adequately and the moves are easily picked up. If you love rugby then playing in this mode will give you hours of fun and enjoyment despite some of the flaws inherent in the game. You will be able to perform most major maneuvers like side-step, shoulder charges, etc, and most of your enthusiasm won’t be dampened after all. You can also choose to play online with players on the Internet, something which was lacking in the PlayStation 2 edition. The crowd seems a little pathetic. Lots more could have been done to improve the game, but once again, the developer put its own interests first, looking for a fast, easy cash cow and what better than to dupe the rugby world?

If you do get hold of the game and find it vastly disappointing, then don’t despair. Rugby Challenge is due for release soon and rumor has it that the game is awesome and features so much exciting choices you will forget Rugby World Cup 2011 as a bad dream.

Billiards has been popular for decades, in fact centuries. But it was a chap called John Thurston who really established the pastime as a mainstream activity for the well-to-do, way back in the late 1700’s, and whom was responsible for the on-going development of various versions of the game ever since!

But what exactly is ‘billiards’…didn’t the British play snooker?. Many people in the UK think of billiards as the game of English Billiards which is played with a white, spot white and a red, where players get points for billiards (playing one ball off another or into the pocket) and straight pots. English Billiards is typically played on a 12ft snooker table with napped cloth and flat faced rubbers on the cushions.

However, the term ‘billiards’ can be used to describe hundreds of different ball games played on tables around the world. In effect it is a generic term for all forms of table games with balls and rubber cushions. And for reference, yes much of Britain became fanatical about snooker in the 1980’s, but it wasn’t until the mid 19th century that snooker was developed in the jewel of the British empire…India!

So, for the sake of this article, I’m going to be writing about ‘American’ style pool and ‘UK’ style pool and how they differ, what makes one game better than the other and so forth.

So let’s get back to Mr Thurston and life in the 18th century!

Life in the 1700’s must have been interesting to say the least…Napoleon was Emperor of France, the Industrial Revolution was just beginning to rock and good King George III was on the throne in England (and so began the rise to fame of one George Washington!).

The world was beginning to change – the ‘New World’ had been well and truly discovered and with steps forward in technology, Britain was leading the world in trade and industrial development. But of course, those with the new found wealth needed something to spend their money on, and new ‘toys’ to use up their spare time to entertain other rich people…step forward Mr Thurston.

It was thought that Thurston had been a cabinet maker with a certain Mr Gillow who was thought to have been the first person to produce a credible billiard table in the UK. However Gillow had teething problems relating to the logistics of getting his new products around the country – the earliest railway was still some 50 years away and his factory was based in Lancashire in the north-west of England, some 250 miles from the mega-money of London!

But come 1799, Thurston had cottoned on to the growing demand for quality leisure time products and established his own factory just off ‘The Strand’ in the heart of London. In those days, billiard tables didn’t have slate beds, they had wooden beds that were of course susceptible to warping, cracking, shrinking and expanding…all in all, not a very good way to build a quality billiard table!

But if Thurston was to be remembered for anything, it would be his ingenuity. By the mid 1800’s, Thurston had firmly set the standard for building billiard tables, having invented the use of slate beds, and vulcanized rubber and the construction techniques for building a frame substantial enough to support the weight of these new table designs.

But Thurston’s tables weren’t limited to the UK. His tables were very soon popping up (if that is the right term for a 1 1/2 ton game table!) all over the existing and revolutionized empire. In fact, a certain John Moses Brunswick happened across a rather beautiful Thurston billiard table that one of his carriage clients had just imported from the ‘old world’ during a party in Cincinnati one night in 1845. Brunswick’s client had invited the Swiss immigrant to a party to celebrate his new toy and Brunswick was captivated by its unique beauty and construction. Little did he know that this was to be the catalyst for the biggest and most successful billiard company in the world…

As the Industrial Revolution drove the new economies, more and more people found the desire to own a billiard table. However at that time most forms of ball games on tables didn’t involve the use of pockets. In fact the most popular game(or versions of) was carom where points were awarded for canons and billiards (playing one ball off another onto yet another ball) with the first person reaching a predetermined total, being the winner. In India, coloured balls were added to the red ‘pool’ balls that made up the triangle and pockets were added to make the game of snooker. But in America, balls with numbers began to popularise billiard rooms around the developed cities of America and various games of pool were slowly being developed.

As with the technological revolution of the late 20th century, for those who dared, or for those who knew the right people, the ability to make lots of money was relatively easy. And with money came the desire to show just how much money you had by displaying your wealth through large houses, fine furniture and billiard tables.

By this time in the UK, companies such as Burroughs and Watts and E J Riley had began to cultivate their fanbase, building extravagant solid wood snooker tables from exotic mahoganies and oak, with some tables even covered in gold leaf and shipped to the far corners of the empire. It was a scene that would last up until the 2nd world war. However, both snooker and pool were not to be confined to the rich…

Of course, your working man was not going to have the money to buy a hand carved, eight legged snooker table, but he was the type of person to frequent one of the growing number of public billiard rooms opening around either country. In the US (having now overcome the difficulties of its civil war), there are records of billiard rooms with more than 60 tables! The growing J M Brunswick Co now based in Chicago was looking to buy up its more significant competitors to make itself even bigger. The company already had its own lumber company shipping barge upon barge of hardwoods to manufacture tables and cues. The public billiard room was becoming an increasingly popular social meeting area.

However the 2nd world war was going to be the catalyst that was to change many industries including the billiard industry. With the Britain of the mid 1940’s struggling to rebuild itself and even find enough food to feed everyone, the desire for people to go out and buy what in effect is a big boy’s toy, was not top priority. The big companies thriving in the first part of the century were looking to survive. Highly regarded companies such as Thurston, Burroughs & Watts, George Wright, Orme & Sons would not see the end of the century as independent companies, they would either go out of business, or be taken over by the few remaining organisations strong enough to continue.

Snooker would continue in billiard rooms around the UK, but typically the style of room would appeal to those with a low disposable income, with many rooms shrouded in darkness, smelling of spilt beer and stale smoke. The hard times of the mid-seventies would not help the industry, but the development of capitalist ideals in a country just off the coast of communist China would allow a new group of entrepreneurial businesses to relight the desire for millions of Britains to start playing snooker again.

However, just as many of the country’s billiard room owners were beginning to look for complementing sources of revenue such as juke boxes and cigarette machines, a new type of business was starting to develop, offering to site the very things that billiard room owners and publicans were looking for, for either a share of the profits or a weekly rental. It was the new ‘Operator’ that would have the biggest effect on snooker and pool in the UK over the years to come…

Back in the US, the ‘coin-op’ industry was in full swing, developing new products that could be ‘operated by inserting coins’ and a revenue share developed of the profits as was beginning to develop in the UK, however a group of pioneering companies had seen the opportunity to develop a coin-op billiard table that would be sited in pubs, community centres, clubs, canteens and many more other places that couldn’t utilise a full size pool or snooker table. Even better… the tables had been designed as boxes that could be easily shipped to site and set-up in minutes as opposed to the hours that a regular table would take to set-up. This was the opportunity that companies like Alca and Valley had been looking for and it wasn’t long before their reach extended beyond coastal USA.

By the end of the 1960’s and start of the ’70’s, the coin-operated pool table was beginning to be more widely seen. It was never going to break house records in terms of revenue generation, but then again, it didn’t have to be changed every six months like the amusement machines site owners were clamoring for. This meant that operators could easily site a pool table either in one place or many places for at least 5 years, whilst only having to periodically change the cloth and the balls as and when someone decided to pinch one of them!

Most of the tables were being shipped in from the US and as a consequence were rather expensive. It wasn’t long before a company in a suburb of Manchester decided that they could actually build these tables in the UK – but with a twist…

Hazel Grove Music were about to set in motion a program that could have and should have enveloped the westernised world, but for reasons we will come onto later, eventually fell flat on its face.

Hazel Grove or HGM as we’ll call them, decided that the big 2-1/4″ diameter balls that the Americans were using on effectively 7-1/2 ft tables, were far too big for the small roomed British public houses and so they developed 5-1/2ft and 6ft tables to better fit. However at the same time, they changed the way that the tables were sized and called these new tables 6ft and 7ft tables so that consumers would not feel as thought they were playing on kiddie sized equipment!

But they didn’t stop there… They also reduced the ball size to a 2″ diameter object ball and a 1-7/8″ cue ball. However they weren’t content with stopping there either! They also introduced napped snooker cloth onto the tables with flat faced rubbers. This was a major about-face to the way pool had been played. The American tables had heavy balls with wide pockets, perfectly suited to attacking pool. But the new HGM tables had tight pockets with smaller balls and a napped cloth – as such they were able to market it as a ‘purer’ form of billiards.

As with many things, just changing something is not enough – you have to have a ‘killer-ap’ that is going to knock everything else down, and Hazel Grove had it in the ‘Superleague’ concept!

Superleague pool tables would flood the markets of the UK, France, Channel Islands and Ireland. It was a classic idea – set the price of the item higher than you needed, then take a percentage of that profit to use as a prize fund to develop a ‘closed competition’. If you wanted to be part of it… get a Superleague table!

There were hundreds of locations that would never be able to fit a snooker table, but there were literally thousands that could and would fit a UK pool table. Operators were over the moon. Buy a table for say GB750 and site it for GB15 per week. You make your money back in year one and almost everything after that is profit…it just sits there making money! Of course, get the right site and you could work a revenue sharing deal which could be worth GB 000’s.

Pretty soon the small ball format had taken over and ‘English pool’ had developed with four major manufacturers establishing footholds in the industry, all located around the North West of England.

Billiard as a whole was riding a massive wave of popularity in the UK with snooker drawing millions of people via TV. Pool was able to ride on the coat tails of snooker with the public wanted to play some or any form of ball game on a table for entertainment. Some industry sources were to later estimate that at its peak, there were around 30,000 coin-operated pool tables sited in the UK!

But trouble was brewing for both disciplines – unless you were very capable with a cue, both games could be incredibly boring. For most normally talented soles, a single frame of snooker could last up to 2 hours! And the game of English pool had developed into a fudging match with either player trying to be the first to cover all the pockets (but without actually pocketing a ball).

Major competition in the manufacturing of these tables meant that it was getting increasingly more difficult for HGM to ask a premium price for their tables and it wasn’t long before Hazel Grove, like the world famous companies that went before it… ended up as part of another company.

In the meantime, support (albeit small) was growing for a reinstatement of the bigger American tables because people wanted fun. The general public was not prepared to pay good money to be bored and the quicker, easier American game must appeal to the public more than the current version.

However, the English pool table industry was still huge in comparison and those that made the decision on which version would go into which chain of public houses would more often than not, go in the favour of the small ball game to protect vested interests. It would be the end of the 1990’s before the big ball game would really see a pick up in support.

Surprisingly though, it wouldn’t be an American company pushing hard to re-establish the big ball game in Britain. The rest of Europe had pretty much taken the American game as its own following the occupation of US forces during the 2nd World War. It would be a Spanish company called SAM Billares that would begin the demise of small ball pool not only in the UK, but everywhere else it had been established over the preceding 30 years!

Whilst SAM would establish a hold on the commercial pool sector, that famous old company Brunswick would not be far behind in taking over the consumer sector. Whilst the small ball game has not yet gone away, the PlayStation culture of the 21st century has determined that people are not prepared to mess about for hours on end – they are prepared to pay higher prices for a better experience and that experience is the big ball version of pool.