Snookered players turn to Hill

THE best snooker players in the world are 'going to Hill and back' in their search for glory on the green baize.

Derek Hill from Friskney, has masterminded world championship victories for both Ronnie O'Sullivan and Graeme Dott.

The World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association have made him an Honorary WPBSA Coach - the only non-professional to receive the accolade.

Affectionately known as 'Big Del' (6ft 10in tall), he has helped maximise the potential of around half the players in the world's top 40.

Del and wife Maxine moved from London to Friskney 24 years ago, after he suffered a serious back injury.

He discovered his gift for coaching when he began helping Skegness professional Graham Cripsey - reaching 34 in the world.

"I was quite naive about snooker before I met Graham, although I had played the game for years and made breaks in the nineties. Almost subconsciously I was receiving an apprenticeship about the game from him, learning all about the technical side and the psychological aspect of snooker."

Fourteen years ago Del went to a Blackpool tournament with Cripsey and met a mercurial 16-year-old with phenomenal natural talent - Ronnie O'Sullivan.

He guided the 'Rocket' to 20 ranking tournament wins - and first world title - until their split almost two years ago.

Del was soon approached by top cuemen - not least Graeme Dott.

"I have never approached any player to offer my assistance. I'm just a snooker fan with some talent for coaching and when these stars ask for my advice I really feel honoured," said Del.

This A-list of stars also includes Stephen Hendry, Jimmy White, Peter Ebdon, Nigel Bond, Paul Hunter, Stephen Lee ... All have become acolytes of the Hill mantra: Application, preparation and motivation.

Del believes the key lies in 'memory and patterns' and has devised a set of disciplines which co-ordinate shot practice which become embedded into the memory, giving players a fail-safe when under pressure.

One of his favourite memories is coaching the English pro team of O'Sullivan, White, Lee and John Parrott to victory in the Nations Cup.

Del hopes to spend more time in the amateur game and has been approached by the EASBA to be team manager and coach of the England set-up.

Del and Maxine have three sons, Jack, Sam, and Tom.

What the stars say...

l Graeme Dott: Del helped me to reconstruct my game to such an extent that I won the world championship, which was my first major tournament win. I owe so much to the big man.

l Ronnie O'Sullivan: Nobody could have anyone better than Del in their corner. He's a top man and a top coach.

l Jimmy White: Del is the only genuine coach I have ever had. He has forged a new regime of practice for me and I've been buzzing. It's just a case of taking my practice form to the match table.

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