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Stephen 'stickyfoot' Steighner

Sept 1, 2009 by Scott Rodriguez

Ever since Steve's been playing, he's been winning. He's dominated at every level of this game, and has just recently made the jump to the elite status of Pro Master. He's one of Denver's best players on, and off, the table and he was nice enough to take some time to give Colorado Foos an interview:

So when the new IFP points come out, you'll be a Pro Master....the newest around here since Grant Nelson I think so it's been a while. Congratulations, that's huge! Are you proud of that or what??

I am proud. I've kind of taken it for granted that it would happen eventually if I kept going to tournaments, but now that it's actually happened it's really cool. There haven't been that many masters out of CO recently, and I'm really happy to be the next in line. It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was parading my CO state beginner's singles trophy around Fort Collins. It's been quite a ride.

I always thought a player needed to tour a lot to win at the highest level but you pretty much don't tour at all anymore and just rape bitches once a year when CO State rolls around. Lol what gives? Do you think people can win without touring experience or are you just the exception?

I think people need experience at big tournaments, and to test their skills against players that they don't get to play on a regular basis. I think it really depends on the player as to how often you have to play to win consistently. I've been to 7 or so majors, every Colorado State, and a couple of out of state tournaments... so I've pretty much seen what's out there in terms of talent. I think a player needs to get used to the high pressure finals type matches in order to be successful on tour. I was lucky enough to get plenty of those types of matches under my belt in my first couple of years playing. Now it's just a matter of getting it done when I step up to the table.

What kind of table time are you putting in before big tournaments?

Usually I put in a couple of months of fine tuning and playing a couple times a week. This year I hit Eck's 9 or 10 times before state. My game is so simple that it doesn't take me nearly as long to "tune up". We are very fortunate to live in a state where you can always find someone better to play against, unless you are Rob :)

You had a wrist injury on your shooting hand leading up to state, but you pulled it together and still played at the same high level we're used to seeing from you. Did it bother you at all, or did you man up and just ignore the pain?

To be honest I was really worried about my wrist before the tournament started. Two weeks before State I wasn't able to open a car door with my right hand. I thought I was going to have to show off my rookie roller all weekend. I was pretty lucky though, a couple of weeks of ice and Advil and I was able to play. Other than the first day of the tournament, my wrist didn't really affect me at all. It was priceless seeing City's face when he saw my wrist all wrapped up on Thursday... he thought he was in for a long weekend.

It's pretty much common knowledge around here that you have one of the best head games in Colorado. You never seem to get rattled even if you are struggling. Do you agree with that, or do you just handle your frustrations internally?

I pride myself on winning the head game. In my opinion, this game is more mental than physical. If you compare my physical skill set to Robbie, Adcock, Pat Davis, or Ditto... I just don't have the skills these guys have. Every amateur out there has a good roller, and a workable 5 row. This game isn't about the mechanics. If it was, I wouldn't love it like I do.

Your 5 bar is one of a kind. It started out as the simple sit still lane/wall stick series, but over the years, you've added lots of subtle variations like hesitation walls and sneaky brushes. Did you sit at home and come up with these options on your own, did you see another player use them (maybe Spear?), or was this a gradual evolution of trial and error at tournaments?

The basic series came out of my hard practice when I was moving up from Rookie to Semi-Pro. I set up a video camera to record my passes. I worked on making my wall and lane look exactly the same. I think that's something every lower level player needs to do at some point... see what your game looks like from another perspective. It's amazing how many things you'll find yourself doing that you just wouldn't see standing over the rods. I definitely took as much as I could from Spear's 5 row. The hesitation wall, some of the hitches that seem to work every time, etc... I've also taken some of Gummy's passes (all from watching on tape). Mares and Washum have awesome 5's, but I really couldn't emulate what they were doing when I was learning my series. After getting the basics down it really becomes a mental game with your opponent... and that's when the game gets fun.

City's awesome in the pits, but I don't remember you guys playing together at a big event before. How was that? You two tore it up in Pro doubles and made a good run in Open Doubles at CO State were you guys even challenged?

City and I tried teaming up for expert doubles for CO State '07. That was a disaster. Early in the tournament we were playing a team that wasn't on the same level as we were skill wise, I honestly don't remember who they were. After about 3 or 4 points had been played, and we had a couple of rags go against us, City was ready to jump across the table. Looking back it's hilarious, but at the time I remember thinking "How did I end up with this guy as my partner". Needless to say, we lost the match. Later in that bracket, we had battled a ways through the loser's bracket to meet up with Bear and Ditto. The match was going well and we built a 4-0 or 4-1 lead in the third game. I crumbled, couldn't finish the deal. We both had our major blow ups in the same bracket, so it was an obvious choice to partner up this year!

I've got to say one thing about City's head game; he doesn't even remind me of the player he was 2 years ago. We had a few times this year where the old Dan would have blown up and disappeared for a match or two, but this year he kept his cool and battled like a pro. He gets a lot of flack for backpacking wins, but he's the real deal in goal... I was proud to have him on my team.

Were there any big pass/shot decisions that you still find yourself regretting from CO State?

The biggest was the in the 2nd place match against Robbie and Kane. we had lost the first game, and squandered a 3-2 lead in the second. At 4-4 I make the steal off of Kane's 5 bar and call a time out. This could have been the turning point in the match. I made a big error in my selection of passes to get the game count to 1-1. I regret it just because it would have made for a much better match, but I learned a lot about my opponent with that missed opportunity. Those are the moments you have to put in the foos rolodex for the next time you face someone.

Mark Kraus had a monster run in Open Singles. I've been playing him at Eck's, and his game was definitely improving. Did he catch you off guard when he put you into the losers, or was he just playing at another level?

Mark deserves all the credit for that win. He just plain out hustled me. Mark's always been a very solid singles player, playing the game to his strengths which are his defense and 2 bar. He won because he worked harder and played the match the way he wanted to play it.

Is there ever any girlfriend drama when you play with other chicks asides from Julie in events? Lol

Haha. If you know me at all, you know that drama is not something I'm very good at. No, Julie is totally cool with that kind of stuff. I'm lucky to have her in my life and supporting me in my passion for this game. We did get to play designated mixed this year... man I am not made for that event.

You've been bringing home titles for a long time, and always place right behind the top Masters in Open events what's it going to take to pull down an Open Title? Do you think you have the dedication to put in the extra training for that or do you think you have all the tools already, and it's just a matter of time?

I'm a realist. There are a few guys out there, maybe 8-10 that I'll never beat constantly no matter how hard I practice. Three of them were at CO State. I imagine that it's within the realm of possibility to win a title here or there if I have an amazing run, but that would take a tremendous amount of dedication.

When I was a rookie I thought the pinnacle of my game would be to win a Worlds Semi Singles title. That was my only goal. There were no pro events at the time, so I thought that if I could win that title it would be the height of my foos career. I put everything I had into winning that title before I turned pro and was lost to the small fish/big pond scenario that every new pro goes through. That all changed with the introduction and prominence of the pro events, as well as the increased popularity of Mary's tour with the 5 ranks vs. 4 in USTSA. I've squeezed a couple more years of titles out of the small pond, we'll just have to see how it goes in open. I can tell you this: If I go to a worlds event after turning master it will be to win. If I make the choice to continue touring, I will only do so if I think I've given myself every chance to compete at the very highest level.

What aspects of your game do you think are lacking at the master level?

To be honest, I probably need to have a slightly higher scoring percentage on my 3 bar. I can get away with just trying to poke it in there at the lower levels, but to win an Open title I'm going to need to make every possession count. That's the one thing that would take some practice time to get to the next level, and I'm not sure if I'm going to put that time in.

Usually after a big time performance at a state tournament you go into foosball hibernation for a few months. Can we expect the same this time? Any non-foosball things you're looking forward to doing for a while?

Yeah, for the last couple of years I've just basically come out to play State. This year was a little bit different, I had a chance to watch a few matches over the weekend, and I really enjoy watching the game. I'm thinking about hitting Super Doubles this fall. I'm going to try to stay a little bit more active in the foos scene this year. I'm thinking about trying to raise my goalie game... I've said that before, though. We'll see.

Thanks so much for taking the time to sit down and answer some questions, Sticky, and congrats again on making the leap to Pro Master!