Serena Black: How long have you worked for the Billiards Education Foundation?

Samm Diep-Vidal: I have worked for the BEF for two and a half years.

SB: How did you become director of the BEF?

SDV: I was appointed by the board of trustees.

SB: What is your favorite part of your job? Least favorite? Most difficult?

SDV: My favorite part is when I get to work directly with the youth, and when I get to announce good news to them. I have a hard time when I can’t get the support from the community and industry. Don’t get me wrong, we have a ton of wonderful long-time sponsors and supporters, but I feel we had some image hurdles to overcome when I started and though we’ve made a lot of headway, it’s still a work in progress. The most difficult aspect of my occupation is being the sole employee, and having to do just about everything by myself. It has taught me a lot about the various parts of an organization, from fundraising, to bookkeeping, to administration, to marketing. They all have their fun sides.
SB: How are your tournaments ran? Are there specific brackets or divisions or any typical styles of play?

SDV: We only organize one event annually, that is the Junior National 9-Ball Championships. This year will be our 27th year, and it will be held August 4-7 at the South Point Hotel & Convention Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The four divisions are:

18 & Under Boys
18 & Under Girls
14 & Under Boys
14 & Under Girls

SB: What inspires you to give back to and work with the youth?

SDV: I haven’t been playing seriously for that long, and can still recall my first lessons and tournament wins (from my past life as a player). I guess each time I see the excitement in the eyes of these kids I’m reliving my own fond memories and love for the game.

SB: What can the youth do to help give recognition to the sport of pocket billiards? How can we as a generation ensure the success of the industry?

SDV: Great question. The most important thing you can all do is to ‘pay it forward’ and to remember that everything you do and the way you conduct yourself is a reflection of yourself, your family, and our industry. Billiards already has a stigma and negative connotation, from the dark pool halls to the seedy movies about the lifestyle of the degenerate gamblers. The general public doesn’t realize how much dedication is required to compete in these events, and if many of them could just see you guys and see the passion and professionalism displayed I feel they would have a whole new perspective.

SB: What does is take to qualify for your tournaments?

SDV: We will be hosting nationwide qualifiers and junior state championships from now until June 30 to qualify for Junior Nationals. Complete list of events can be found here.

SB: Do you have any plans for the future of the BEF? The foundation is well known across the country. How big do you think it will become within the next five years?

SDV: We still have a very long way to go. If we could get to the point where we are self-sustaining and everyone can remember to include a line item for us each year that would be wonderful! Even five dollars a month helps!

SB: Is the foundation international?

SDV: No, nationwide.

SB: What are your hours when running a tournament? What are your hours on a normal work day? Do you work from home, an office, or otherwise?

SDV: Tournament hours are whatever they need to be. Anywhere from 7 or 8AM to 2 or 3AM. The tournament director is always the first one to arrive and the last one to leave.

BEF Hours: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Mountain Time, Tuesday 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, Friday 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM.

All calls are returned within 24 hours and I am often online after 10PM, and sometimes on the weekends, as needed.

Yes, I work from an office in my home. That’s why I’m at the mercy of my childcare providers and my babies’ sleep schedules.

SB: What is the most important feature or aspect for someone to acquire in this sport?

SDV: Probably “patience.” You need to be patient during the actual competition, and it’s important to be patient with yourself and your progress when training. It is not realistic to expect overnight results, no matter who you are.

SB: Do you have recommendations for someone looking to make a career out of the billiards industry?

SDV: Get an education. I’m not discouraging you or anyone else, but it is extremely difficult to make a career—a successful one—in this industry. It requires a long hours, a lot of hard work, tenacity, and a lot of luck (just being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right, and sometimes the wrong, people). I know all of this from personal experience. I cannot stress enough the importance of going to college and getting a good education. Everything else can only get you so far. Once you have your degree, you will always have that to fall back on if plan A doesn’t work out.

SB: What was the reason for creating the BEF and what are the foundations ambitions?

SDV: The Billiard Education Foundation was created 20 years ago as a way to award and administer academic scholarships for billiard student-athletes. Our mission is to continue to do so while building the next generation of players and consumers through youth clinics, programs, tournaments, and events.

SB: Is there anything else you would like to add regarding the BEF?

SDV: Please support the future of our great sport by supporting us! Volunteer and fundraising opportunities are always available for those who are interested.

Serena BlackSerena Black is a 16 year old up and coming pool player with the ambition to make an impact on this industry. She has received numerous awards in her three years of competitive billiards, and is eager to improve her game. She is trained by KJ Williams from the CueSport Academy, and is sponsored by Kamui Brand and Mezz Cues. Serena plans to attend Lindenwood University in the fall of 2016 to compete with their professional billiards team. You can follow her through her fan page on FaceBook.
Photo: Provided by BEF
Editor: Hannah Blue