By Simon Cromie
The Crucible can often feel like a cauldron, a hotbed of pressure and nerves, but if there’s one person who knows what it takes to overcome that tension it’s Terry Griffiths. World Champion in 1979, Griffiths has turned his hand to coaching in recent years, keen to offer his experience and expertise to the top players of today.
Griffiths lists Crucible semi-finalist Barry Hawkins among the flock of players eager to improve under his tutelage.
“Barry lost five times on the spin in the first round here,” Griffiths says. “Since then he has got to six quarter-finals in a row, and that is difficult to do. In my time it wasn’t as hard because there weren’t as many players and they weren’t as good. In this era now, the standard is so high.”
Griffiths interviewed by Hazel Irvine during last year’s Crucible 40th anniversary celebration
Griffiths, as a player, was renowned for his cool head under pressure, and his smooth and elegant cueing style. He won the World Championship on his Crucible debut in 1979, and believes this experience of winning major titles helps in advising the players he coaches.
“I’ve been through everything that my players are going through, so I think that helps a lot,” he says. “I think the main thing is that the players understand that I know exactly how they feel mentally when they’re out there.
“When they come in at the mid-session interval I try and work with them. If they’re happy with how they’ve played we talk about football or something. If not, I’ve got to find a way of getting them out of that bad place. The players like me to be with them, just to be able to change their thought-processes.”
The Welshman has coached others such as Ding Junhui, Mark Allen, and Ali Carter. “In the quarter finals this year, I had coached six of the eight players at one time or another,” Griffiths proudly states. “That gives me evidence that I’ve done something good with them.
“I don’t think I do that much for the players. I can add maybe two and a half to five percent to their game, and with the top players, that’s all they need. It seems to go well, the players enjoy it, they have done better and earned more money the majority of time. That’s all I’m there for really, apart from just enjoying myself. I haven’t told them yet, but I would have worked for nothing!”
Griffiths, age 70, rarely longs for his own playing days. “I don’t miss it,” he insists. “People say I retired too early, but I don’t think so. I always wanted to be a coach, because personally, I thought that if I had a coach when I was playing professionally, I would have done better. I don’t regret anything in life.”
The Llanelli man is hoping that Hawkins can go all the way and win a first world title, and believes the world number six has what it takes.
“Barry’s played very well this year, probably as well as he has ever played here,” Griffith says. “He played very well against Ronnie in the 2013 final, but Ronnie was a bit too good for him in the end. At this stage of the tournament, you’ve got to watch what you’re doing, don’t practise too much, and try and get some good sleep. There’s a lot more to it than playing snooker, that’s for sure.
“People make a big deal about coaching, but the truth is it’s just one person speaking to another person. As Socrates put it: you can’t teach anybody anything, but you can make them think.”