Pool champ Eric Naretto

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Crediting pool with saving him during a dark period in his life, Eric Naretto has risen through the ranks of the sport through a combination of fascination and dedication.

2023 was the best year as an amateur competitive pool player for Eric Naretto, who credits the sport with helping him develop into the person he is today.

Naretto, 35, of Pontiac, Illinois, placed third in Skill Level 7, the highest level in 8-Ball Classic at the 2023 American Poolplayers Association national championship, and he was the runner-up in 9-Ball at the 2023 Midwest Billiards and Cue Expo championship. The accomplishments capped three days of intensity, drive, anxiety and little sleep, he says.

“To do those two things in the same year … it’s pretty spectacular for an amateur player to play that well, consistently,” he says.

Naretto has played competitive pool since he was a teenager, and is also an instructor, league operator and tournament director. His resume includes several wins with the American CueSports Alliance. In singles, he was the 2017 ACS Illinois state champion and the 2016 ACS Iowa state champion; on teams, he won the 2015 ACS Midwest doubles championship and 2019 ACS Midwest team championship.

His 2017 title is his most cherished moment, Naretto says.

Back in 2009, Naretto explains, he had announced to his mentor that one day he’d win the title. Eight years later, he was about to leave for the tournament when he found out his mentor was in the ICU. “I had to make a decision to go to the state event or go to the hospital to see him. I chose the state event, because I knew in my heart that is where he would have wanted me to be,” he recalls. “I won that event, he did survive the ICU visit, and I got to bring home a state championship to him. I will never forget that moment.”

Naretto was first exposed to pool around age 10, when he started watching games on ESPN after church on Sundays, and then started spending hours playing with his best friend on tables at a local bowling alley.

His focus turned serious as a senior in high school, when he was shut out from playing baseball — a sport he’d tied a school record in — due to what he described as “small-town politics.” At 19, he joined his first pool team and hasn’t looked back since.

“I have a special connection with the game that saved me from a very dark period in my life,” he says.

Naretto became an ACS pool instructor in 2011 and 10 years later joined the Professional Billiards Instructors Association. He became a master instructor through both organizations in June and then launched G-1 Billiard Academy, offering one-on-one lessons on a 9-foot table and a 7-foot table in his basement. He recently added video tutorials.

Last year, he taught more than 70 students — or players who “give me the honor of joining them in their journey to become better pool players,” as he puts it — from as far as Kansas and South Carolina. Some have won state championships and regional championships, he notes.

What sets him apart from other instructors is that he’s a teacher by profession, says Naretto, who has a degree in K-12 education from Illinois State University and teaches physical education and health at a junior high school. “The ability to instruct is very important,” he says. “However, the ability to teach concepts for understanding is the definition of a good teacher.”

Naretto says pool is akin to chess, with offensive and defensive moves in different areas of the table. “You also have the feature of physics to figure out,” he says. “How do the balls come off the cushions when shot at a specific speed? Why do players shoot some shots soft and some shots hard? The answers to these questions, and more, I find exciting and intriguing to figure out.”

So what are his goals for the future? “To be recognized as one of the best billiards instructors in the world,” Naretto says. “I know I can do that.”

The above appears in the April 2024 issue of the print version of Fra Noi. Our gorgeous, monthly magazine contains a veritable feast of news and views, profiles and features, entertainment and culture. To subscribe, click here.

 

About Elena Ferrarin

Elena Ferrarin is a native of Rome who has worked as a journalist in the United States since 2002. She has been a correspondent for Fra Noi for more than a decade. She previously worked as a reporter for The Daily Herald in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, The Regional News in Palos Heights and as a reporter/assistant editor for Reflejos, a Spanish-English newspaper in Arlington Heights. She has a bachelor’s degree from Brown University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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