Today we’d like to introduce you to Brian and Jill Frankland.
Brian and Jill, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
As a youngster in a small town in Illinois, someone gave my father a pool table as partial payment for some construction work he did on their home. He put that pool table in our basement. I was too young and short to hit the cue ball with a cue stick, so I rolled the balls for hours on end, trying to make balls with the cue ball while standing on a bucket. That was the start of a lifelong love for the game of billiards. In my high school days, I used to skip school with a buddy of mine, and we would hang out in the basement of his folk’s house playing pool all day long. Then we would hang out at the local bowling alley on the weekends challenging anyone to beat us on the pool tables. It was a cheap form of entertainment, because the loser/challenger always paid the quarters to get a new rack of balls. Girls, cars, jobs and life in general got in the way of my love of the game. But I found myself divorced and hanging out in a new town where I knew very few people. The local bar had some really good quality pool tables, so I became a regular and renewed that passion I’ve always had for the game.
One Friday night at the bar I was controlling the pool table from all comers, and this girl approached me and asked me to join an APA (American Poolplayers Association) pool team. I had seen the pool league before and I wasn’t really all that keen on the rules they played by, so I politely declined the offer. She then offered to pay my membership fees to join if I would just give it a try. Seeing as she was paying me such high respect to want me on her team that badly, I obliged and this began my love affair with the APA. I was quite skeptical the first night of league, but after a night of fun with my new teammates and now a better understanding of the rules they played by, it all made so much sense that I took over as captain of the team in week 2 and rarely ever missed a week of play in my 7 years playing in the APA Pool Leagues. Tuesday night was APA night. I was 25 years old and the thing I looked forward to most was my Tuesday night with the gang, playing pool each week. We had drinks, we had fun and we played competitive pool against some of the best players the county had to offer. And when our matches were over, we played pool amongst ourselves until closing time.
I had a great job in the graphics department at a printing firm in Champaign, IL. (Notice I said graphics and not computer graphics). I made too much money to be part of the new technology that was wiping out our craftsmanship jobs, and I could see my future in the industry was in jeopardy. I learned that APA had franchises for their pool leagues and I inquired about purchasing one. They told me about a new franchise market in San Diego, and I jumped on a plane to get my first taste of what San Diego was all about and whether that town suited me. I flew there on a weekend so that I wouldn’t miss work, and in the short span of that weekend, I immediately knew that San Diego was where I was meant to be. I sold everything I had, packed up my Dodge pickup and a U-Haul trailer and moved to San Diego to run APA leagues.
Could a graphic artist in the printing industry run a sales job for a pool league in a town where he knew no one? I certainly had no idea, because other than my personal items, I had never sold a thing before in my life. I did tell myself that if I ever thought I could sell anything in my life, it had to be something I believed in; and I totally believed in APA Pool Leagues. In my Midwestern town where I was recently divorced and knew no one, I immediately made friends in the pool world and I basically knew everyone that played pool in just a few short months. Could I sell pool leagues in San Diego to a bunch of people I had never met before? That was another huge question mark. But, I got out there and pounded the pavement and visited every location that had a pool table throughout San Diego County and introduced this pool league to anyone and everyone I ran into. I jumped in local pool tournaments to meet the players and have them get to know me. Before I knew it, we had more than 100 teams playing in some of the more popular pool playing locations in the county. Over the next 20+ years, we have seen that team count climb to more than 400 teams competing in 8 Ball divisions, 9 Ball divisions, Masters divisions and Ladies divisions.
What is it about the APA that makes people want to play in that league? It’s really simple. Teams consist of 5-8 players and most are friends and family that meet up regularly in a social setting to share in a game that they enjoy, regardless of how good they are. Anyone can play in this league. Beginners, average and all the way to advanced can participate in a handicapped pool league, and APA created limits on team strength so that anyone can play and anyone can win. Our focus is on fun, but while you are having fun, you can also win a trip to the APA World Pool Championships in Las Vegas and extend that fun. If you ask most APA members why they play, it’s because of the fun atmosphere and the lasting memories and friendships that are created on league night.
I met my wife, Jill, while I was in the beginning stage of developing this league in San Diego. She enjoyed every aspect of the league and she came on full time as a partner. We added a fully operational web site with up to date stats for teams and individuals and we’ve added local pool tournaments on the weekends to keep our players involved as much as they want to be involved. About 15 years into our pool league development, a highly respected local pool cue builder/vendor in the San Diego market approached me and out of the blue claimed that Jill and I were the most influential people in the billiard industry in Southern California. I was blown away by that. I moved to San Diego in 1996 not knowing a single person that had ever even visited San Diego, let alone lived there and 15 years later I was being declared the most influential person to the sport of billiards in Southern California. Mind blown! I do this job because I like to bring the same excitement that I enjoyed while playing in the league to anyone that likes to play pool and wants to be part of an amazing organization that gets together to play pool. Although it can be a difficult game to play – you take a round stick and hit a round ball into another round ball and try to pocket it in a round pocket, it’s also super FUN! And it’s always amazing to watch someone start in our league – not sure which end of the cue to shoot with – and gradually become a skilled and respected player. Watching these players learn to step up their game (and seeing what a great time they have while doing it) is one of the most satisfying aspects of my job.
Jill has created a very successful Junior program for kids ranging from 7 to 18 years of age. Many of these kids could barely reach the table the first year or two of our program, and now we have kids finishing very high at the APA Junior Championships held each year in Davenport, IA. The smiles on their faces when they win a match are unforgettable. Their respect for the game and for their opponents will warm your heart. Billiards isn’t just for seedy pool halls anymore. APA took a boring looking huge piece of furniture in every sports tavern in the country and made it a great place to gather and enjoy games together.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The biggest struggle, and a continuing struggle is getting more beginners involved. APA is unlike any other pool league out there in that beginners aren’t just welcome to play, but they are wanted and needed. Every other pool league known to man is designed with the highly skilled player in mind. APA didn’t want to be just like every other pool league. They wanted to create an avenue were the curious and the inexperienced could play and contribute equally to a team. While skill levels range in 8 ball from 2 (beginner) all the way to 7 (highly-skilled), there are limits on how good a team can be. It’s natural for one to become better with practice which means an increase in skill level. If a team’s players improve to the point they are in danger of exceeding the maximum skill level limit, they may need to replace a higher skilled player with a beginner. It’s kind of funny that a beginner level player is in such high demand. If they post on our web site that they are looking for a team, teams fight to get that player to join their team. Exceptionally talented players sometime have to look harder to find a team because higher skilled players aren’t quite as high a demand as beginners and novices.
The estimation is that there are more than a million beginner level players out there with the potential to play on a team. The trouble is most of those million people don’t realize there is a pool league here in San Diego that not only caters to their ability, but through whom finding a team where they can learn and play the game is easily done. We allow coaching and many of our experienced and skilled players are more than willing to help others develop their skills to become successful pool players.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with San Diego American Poolplayers Association – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
As APA Pool League Operators, it is our job to promote, organize and administer pool leagues throughout our franchise market of San Diego County. We are only one of more than 300 APA franchise markets in North America and Japan. APA is known as the governing body of amateur pool. The APA Mission Statement is: To create VERY satisfied and loyal members, teams and host locations that recommend us to others. It is our job to not only promote, organize and administer pool leagues, but to create an element of fun, teach all league members the rules that govern the league and provide as much information and knowledge to our league members to give them the best opportunity to enjoy their league experience. The competition among players can be fierce, but it’s also friendly. At the end of each match, we shake hands with our opponents, win or lose.
Part of our job also involves coordinating tournaments where our league members put their poolplaying and strategizing skills to the test and compete for cash, prizes and titles. In addition to competition, we also provide a rich social environment where new relationships are formed and new opportunities can be found. We don’t just look at our league as a pool league, but a fun social gathering and networking experience. I think the thing that makes me most proud of our business is how much loyalty and time our league members spend either playing in our league, or talking about it at home, work and on social media. They like to talk about who they beat in a match last night. They like to talk about this amazing shot they had never made before. They like to talk about the really cute guy or girl they met last night at league. We’ve had league members meet during league, fall in love and get married and raise kids. We create lasting memories simply by providing an avenue for people to meet up and play competitive pool. I think that’s what sets us apart from all others. The same experiences I had as a member in the league back in the Midwest is something I have brought to Southern California, and the reactions I receive from our members reflect the same enthusiasm I had.
22 years later, I see it on their faces when I show up on league night or run a tournament. Lasting memories are made when someone wins their first match or makes a new friend or learns something new. It’s an incredible feeling to have thousands of league members making sure nothing interferes with their scheduled night of fun with their teammates at an APA match. Another proud moment is to see the amount of women who make up our membership. We even have 2 Ladies divisions that meet up on Friday nights to play APA year-round. Most play in our coed leagues as well, but they like that one night to try to qualify for another of APA’s many National Tournaments. More than 30% of our league is made up of women. More than 70% of our league is made up players that are beginner to average level. This is what sets us apart from any other pool league. That same 70% cannot compete successfully in other pool leagues. Many of that same 70% fifteen years ago are now part of the 30% of higher skilled talent. Our league introduces new pool players to the billiard world. Not all advance in skill, but they all do want to become better players, while enjoying fun nights out with their friends, family members and coworkers.
We brought Lindsay Miller in to be our office manager 12 years ago and she’s been an extremely valuable part of the team. The players really respond well to Lindsay and that’s extremely important when trusting someone other than yourself to talk to your customers. Among the three of us, we manage all of the league business that takes place each day and plan and produce all of our local league tournaments. We’re a small group, but we have a lot of combined experience. The photo is of the three of us at our annual holiday “office party!” Jill is on the left, with Lindsay and Brian at OB Noodle House.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
We have some new tournaments we are putting together and we are looking at starting Doubles leagues. We don’t really have any big plans or big changes in store, as the APA product has been very finely tuned over the years. The founders of the APA, professional poolplayers Terry Bell and Larry Hubbart, sought out to create a pool league that allowed anyone to play in a handicapped setting that also gave them the opportunity to win. The computerized handicap system creates a more equal playing field between a high skilled player and a beginner, which hadn’t existed before. Slight adjustments along the way have been all that has been needed now that nearly every format is offered to our league members. APA did recently announce a new Captains Tournament at the World Pool Championships event which will feature $10,000.00 for first place. The event will only be open to those members of our league who are more than just league members, but organizers of their team. They’re the liaisons between the league operators and the members and the ones who make sure the team shows up to play each week at the right location. This big tournament was created to reward those members that contribute to APA league experience by continually acting as a team captain each session.
We will be coordinating a qualifying tournament locally with our captains for a chance to play and win some of the money being paid out at the National event.
APA’s World Pool Championships are in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest pool tournament in the world. Each year we qualify and send teams to compete in these huge pool tournaments. Last year, we sent five 8 Ball teams, four 9 Ball teams, three Masters Teams, four Ladies teams and 4 Scotch Doubles teams to the National Championships. Teams earning a trip to Nationals get travel assistance, and have their entry fee and lodging paid for by our pool league. APA also runs the biggest Singles pool tournament in the world – the Poolplayer Championships. This past year, one of our league members, John Pasquarella (Clairemont area), took first place in the highest skill level tier group of the 9 Ball tournament at the APA Poolplayer Championships and won $10,000.00 in cash and prizes. In 2002, one of San Diego APA’s 8 Ball teams won 1st place in the World Pool Championships and won $25,000.00. Of the 8-person team that shared in that $25,000.00 4 of those players were beginner level to average in skill. No other league gives beginners such an amazing opportunity in the most popular indoor sport in the world, which is billiards. While it is all fun and games, there is money to be won locally and nationally. We paid out more than $350,000.00 in cash and awards this past year in San Diego County and this year will be more of the same.
- Annual membership fee – $25
- Weekly league fee – $50/team (5-8 players per team)
- Address: 19848
San Diego, CA
- Website: sandiego.apaleagues.com
- Phone: 619-303-0183
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SanDiegoAmericanPoolplayersAssociation/
- Other: poolplayers.com
American Poolplayers Association