by Dave Salter
Northern News Services
NNSL (NOV 06/96) - Around Yellowknife billiard tables you're more likely to see the smiling faces of children than the toothless grins of tattooed bikers.
The image of pool halls have certainly changed.
In fact, the North of 60 Billiards Association has created a youth division, which grants children under 18 full member status.
So far, the youth division has 22 members divided into three- or four-person teams. Action takes place Sunday afternoons at the After Eight Billiard Room and The Side Pocket.
League president Maureen Crawley says she's excited about the league's growth.
"The kids really seem to be into it," she says. "We're going to keep the registration open until Christmas for anyone who still wants to join."
According to organizer Pat Dartnell, the league features two divisions based on level of play.
"We wanted to make it fair for all the kids so we tried to make the teams balanced," she says.
"Each team will have strong and weak players so no team dominates. The whole idea is to have fun and develop the sport."
In an effort to foster growth among the younger set, the league is recruiting team coaches from the adult league.
"We've put a notice in our newsletter looking for coaching help," says Dartnell. "But we're already getting a good response and we should have (coaches) in place pretty soon."
The league also offers travel opportunities for Yellowknife kids.
Providing the players maintain good marks in school, they're eligible to compete in the Billiards Congress of America (BCA) North American championship in Las Vegas next summer.
Others have the chance to compete in the national junior 9-ball championship slated for September in New Brunswick.
Dartnell -- who operates After Eight Billiards -- hopes the creation of a youth division will help North of 60 Billiards' bid to become a member of the Sport North Federation.
The group will make their fourth presentation to Sport North during the Federation president's council meeting, Nov. 23.
The billiards association was refused membership status most recently in May. Dartnell says joining Sport North would bring much-needed funding for development to her sport throughout the NWT.