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Ryan Knapton

June 24, 2009 by Scott Rodriguez

Ever since breaking on to the Denver scene, Ryan's game has always mimicked the elite players. After a great showing in Vegas 2009 (1st in Amateur Doubles and 6th in Amateur Singles), Knapton recently followed it up with a dominant performance at Nationals in Atlanta (1st in AS, 2nd in AD and 2nd in SPS). He took some time out of his day to sit down with CO Foos and talk about his recent success.

First off, congratulations on your newest title and other top finishes at Nationals way to represent Colorado! With you and Robin dominating so much recently, maybe the Jims of the world should take notes and move to the middle of nowhere if they ever want to cash in something lol. How'd you get into foosball living in Breckenridge anyway?

Thanks X. I got into foosball completely by accident. A friend basically forced me to play on his team while we were at a bar, and in one game I went from hating foosball, to being amazed with it. The forward on the opposing team kept scoring, and I literally had no idea how the ball was even going in. Previously I had never seen anyone control the ball like that, so I thought the game was pretty dumb. Seeing someone play it on that level instantly changed my perceptions. I still don't know if it was a euro-toe, rollover, or backpin that he was using but seeing that it played like that is what got me hooked.

You've posted some rad pics of yourself snowboarding do you think you brought anything from that sport to foos like determination or focus?

Those would be big ones for sure, and I'd say yea, snowboarding competitively for over a decade definitely helped with getting decent at foosball.

In one aspect you have the general learning process, which itself becomes meta-learning when you really learn how to learn something well. A specific example of this would be something like: learning how to find the right people to learn from. So instead of me having to go through the torture of �learning� a bunch of worthless garbage from bar-hacks who use to be able to destroy me on the table, I went right to the best I could find. This happened to be the Inside Foos videos, where I basically just ended up copying most of what was working for Billy Pappas.

Also with snowboarding, visualizing is important. So before you do tricks in the pipe or off jumps or whatever, you have to be able to visualize in your mind how the trick will work like where's the position of your shoulders, how bent are your knees, where's the pressure on your feet, where and when do you move your body, and what will you be looking at during the trick. If you don't know this stuff and you hit a decent sized jump, you'll most likely just end up hurt. The same goes with anything like that, so with foosball I think I'm pretty good at mentally visualizing certain mechanics of the game like the right stance and grip, and exactly how the player figures interact with the ball and such on my passes and shots, and then, from being able to visualize it so well, it really makes execution easier.

Something else I don't think too many foosers know about me is that for a couple years I was one of the top 20 or so Rubik's cube solvers in the world. I went to Words in 03 and Nationals in 04. I'd say cubing is actually a lot closer to foosing because the process is really the same. You have all these algorithms (which would be like learning a shot) that you've memorized and practiced, then learn what the situation looks like on when to use those, and hopefully at that point when you attempt to use it, the execution of it is flawless.

It's pretty rare that I'm shocked by hearing something from a relatively new player but wow that's some great stuff right there. That explains a lot about your game!

The first thing anyone notices about your game is your sweet looking 5 row. Why did you choose the stick series, and how'd you get it so good so fast?

I chose it only because I was too crappy to control the ball if it was moving around. Lol. I grabbed Pimp (Darryl Papineau) after my second tourney (he won it), and asked him to show me how to pass. I already knew the difference of the stick, brush, and chip series, but I couldn't do any of them. He suggested the stick series I'm sure because I couldn't even walk the ball up or down the 5 row yet, and showed me exactly how to practice the wall and lane options.

I got good at them by practicing them in super slow motion, but yet trying to make them perfect. At first I'd try to do 10 in a row of both wall and lanes. That actually used to be super challenging. Then I'd do them in sets of 25. Now I do them in sets of 100. Same with shooting now, 100 at a time, and in a good practice session I'll do 10 of those. I can still literally feel how much smoother, more efficient, and accurate my shots are on the last couple hundred, than the first couple hundred. I think to have a really great shot, you probably have to put in some extra effort like that at some point in time. And then that of course helps tons with playing a four-day tourney and not having your arm seize up which use to happen to me. I remember only shooting push-side rollers on Big City at a Rocky Mountain Open event, and he yelled at me something like, �why would you shoot a push-side on that defense!?� I didn't say anything to him lol, but it was only because my arm seized up and I couldn't go pull side.

Also, I got good quick because my goal was always to be the player at weekly tourneys that had improved the most over the last week. When you start from being the worst there is, well that is actually pretty easy, just show up extra early and put in some practice. For pros and anyone who's been playing for years and years, I doubt that would really even help, but doing that as a beginner and still doing it to this day has definitely helped out with getting good quick.

You've been butchering people up front, but you still stick with the simple style of play have you been tempted yet to mess around with other passing series and shots?

Nope, I'll be sticking with sticks and rollers. On the stick series you'll see more options with some hacking, ticking and wall bounces when the tables are brand new and the timing is the same as I've practiced. And with the roller I've been working on extra options with that too like walking the ball around, extra flip setups for different reads, and 7's on purpose. So I'm by no means getting bored with keeping my game simple with sticks and rollers.

After playing all the badass Colorado players, do you ever feel sorry for all the other Amateurs on tour?

We have it good here in the aspect that if you want to play against some of the best, and get good quick just go to Ecks on Fridays and some of that talent is bound to wear off on ya.

I guess I only really feel sorry for the beginners on tour who show up and pay quite a bit of money only to not even have a chance to really compete on a similar level since there is no beginner division at some of the tourneys.

I feel having won some beginner events like that was a good stepping stone to tour events and a great reward for having put in a lot of practice over the previous couple months. I'm still super proud that I was able to get those titles because it seemed to me that everyone I played even in those beginner event had way more experience and some were outright sandbaggers who I had seen had top finishes in beginner events from years prior Anyways, if it weren't for the beginner events, my main events would have been Rookie and I remember thinking I could never do well in those because people like Princess and Pickle were still Rookies, and I never thought I'd be able to play on their level.

Also, brand new women players I feel bad for on tour. Like up here at the MLT tourney, there are a handful of girls that got real good at this game over the past year playing with real shots, blocking techniques, clears and passes from the 2-rod, set pull shots or pull-kicks on the 3 rod so I think it would be super rad to suggest to them to compete at Colorado State, but I just can't do that because even with as good as they've gotten, they'd still get murdered in the Beginner and Amateur Women's events. Basically I'm saying there is a need for a Beginner Women's event because I just don't see how any new girl player can really get into this game when their main event of Am Women, they would be playing really, really good and experienced players like Dana Thompson, Sarah Maliepaard, Heather Genter, and Steph Walters, who are all still Am on the IFP. I don't know what any of their introduction with foosball tournaments was like, but congrats to all them for sticking with it. So I think if you want to get new players touring, or even just going to their one State tourney or whatever, there needs to a better incentive for them than �yea, come play foosball for an entire weekend. You probably won't win one single match out of all your events but um, eventually you will�. So I think the tour stops have to cater to the true beginner a bit better if we want the player base to grow.

Um was that a yes? lol

What's your mind frame heading into an event now? Do you expect to win? Do you let slop get to you? Do you get emotional? What are some keys for touring newbies looking to take home a title?

At the big events, now I just make sure I warm up before every match if I had not played for a bit. At the HOFC this year I saw how Tony Spredeman prepares himself before big matches, so I really tried to replicate that at Nationals, and it definitely helped with being able to start matches with the same energy level and focus that I usually finish with.

Mentally I try to focus on just giving an effort I can be proud of, so getting bent out of shape about slop, or riding an emotional roller coaster with whatever happens just seems like a waste of energy and a distraction that I'm able to avoid well. I've had some big wins with even being down 1-4 and just never gave up, so just staying in the game, without making any single point too important is probably the way to go.

Those are some great thoughts, Ryan. I always see players at all levels getting so cranky over slop and bad luck, and it really stifles their game because they are so emotional. Plus they never look within to see the real reason they aren't winning they just aren't executing well enough. I expect it with rookies and semi pros, but even some pros get bent out of shape. It totally keeps them from moving up to the next level.

You've got a lot of wins recently, which do you love the most and why? I know punking that Semi Pro team at TX State for a brand new table has to be up there they probably thought they were home free in that playoff! Lol

HaHa! I thought they were home free too! I had never beaten Teddy Sprouse in a match before, so I thought that was gonna go against in a big way.

I guess I don't really have any favorite wins, but I do have favorite losses. Like the loss to Terry Moore in Open Singles, Terry Rue and Matt Steward in Open Doubles at the Hall of Fame Classic, the loss to Tom Yore at Nationals, the loss to Ryan Moore and Rob Mares in Handicap at Colorado State, the losses to Trad Powell at both CO and TX State. All those matches I love because its obvious who should win, but yet I played well and gave �em matches that had to have made them at least slightly nervous at times.

I'm going to forget I heard about your best matches being losses continue...lol.

Back to the Sprouse / Rose, Shovlain / me match though I did really like that one for a reason other than winning the tables. Right after the match Chris Hagerman congratulated me and asked if I wanted some tips of course I did, and he showed me exactly why I should learn a pull-kick to add to my pull on the 2-rod. I had wanted to learn that ever since Stickfoot told me I should, but I couldn't ever square the shot off. He had some perfect trick tips for it, so I was finally able to learn it, and that pull-kick ended up being a big part of why I did so well at the National Singles.

In Vegas, you won a title just picking up a random partner on the spot. I also know you're still looking for a partner for CO State in a couple weeks. How is that possible?? Are you still flying under the radar, or are you just turning down weakos on the downlow?

Jeff Lee wasn't a random partner. I knew from his results he was capable of getting to the finals, and we ended up talking on the phone about possibly playing together, then eventually agreed to, at which point we ended up having a couple detailed conversations over the phone about our game plan.

Oh I heard some story that you just walked in with no one lined up and won it. The legend begins

For CO State the only reason I don't have all my partners locked down is that I've been giving the answer of �maybe� to most people. �turning down weakos�? Didn't you check if I wanted to play an event? HA! We gave each other �maybe� anyways, so maybe I'm the weako. I also thought Shovlain would be making CO State, so I thought we would team up for Rookie and Am Dubs, but I found out he's ranked too high for Rookie at this, and not even making the tourney so that's why I'm still thinking of who I'd like to play with in Rookie Dubs.

Lol touch�! Although I asked you about CO State before you got all these wins! I pride myself on scoping out new talent!

You started off as a pure forward, but now you're winning singles titles too which do you like playing better singles or doubles?

I use to like doubles better because I always played decent in those. I never want to let my partner down, but in singles sometimes I've played less than my best. Now I like both though especially since I've had a lot more practice in singles over the last couple months while Billy Sargent and Josh Derringer were living up in Breck. Having regular weekly foos session with those guys along with Jorge, Paco, Kyle Ireland, Matt Knebel, Nate Dogggg, and Scott Thomas helped my transition game a ton.

Well if you're going to learn a brutal singles game, those are the guys to do it with! Lol.

What do you most look for in a partner? Backpacks of the world need to know!

�Backpacks of the world need to know!� lol. Here's how it goes I guess:

- Am I afraid to play against you because you are that good? Well in that case I want you on my team!

- Are you gonna be truly disappointed if we lose? Cuz that can just happen and I don't wanna take the chance of letting anyone down.

That's really about it. I've almost always worked well with everyone I've played with, even at all the draws.

Do you think you can follow in Michaels and Rose's footsteps and make the jump to Semi Pro's fairly easily?

Yeah, definitely. Both Dave Michael and Darren Rose were a good inspiration this year with seeing them go directly from cleaning up in Rookie events last year, straight into destroying the Semi-Pro division at the HOFC this year. Darren even told me he liked it better this year with just being able to focus on the Semi-Pro events and not having to worry about some of the sloppy shit you see in Rookie events, along with the race to 7 on the losers side bullshit.

Around Denver, who do you hate playing the most (asides from Jake lol)?

I don't hate playing Jake Valencia. I'm actually looking forward to attempting to not making the same mistakes that I've made while playing him the last couple times.

I like Jedi and am not the least bit afraid of playing against him now, but at my first tourneys in Greeley it was annoying to get both destroyed on the table and verbally by someone who should know they are just playing a beginner. Who knows though, maybe some players like that end up being a driving force for players like me to get better though. Another guy was Jim, from that same Greeley tourney. He pulled the same shit and made me feel bad for even being there one time. That's bullshit to be nothing than kind to someone who shows up knowing they are just a donator, but wants to get better.

I also don't like playing tweakers.

And people who were willing to kick my ass all night long on the table while I sucked at the game but then won't play against me since I got decent. I remember one guy in Fort Collins who'd whoop my ass all night on Fridays at the Trailhead then once the tables turned he'd play complete scrubs on the crappy table one handed- just to show off how rad he was to them, rather then be involved in a decent game. That shits lame, and I've seen a good amount of it.

Who do you love playing the most who brings out your �A� game?

No one specific, but my �A� game comes out whenever I'm playing pro-masters in tourneys. I end up going into those games with the realistic expectation that I'm going to lose so my focus ends up being on just attempting to play a match that I can be proud of. As soon as the pressure is off like that, but yet still wanting to give 100%, well then good things happen and I'm able to execute and perform just like I've practiced.

Have you taken down a master yet? If so, how did it feel? If no .um hmm do you think you're close or do you think you'll hang out at the kiddies table for a while still??

I beat a couple masters at TX State. Tom Spear with Shrunk in the Open Doubles for 9-12 or better, while I was playing with Jason Shovlain as my goalie. Chris Reyes.in Open Singles in a 3/5. There were a couple other PMs a Rookie and I took out in the draw, but I don't remember their names. Although not a current Master, former World Champion Rick Martin (me playing with you in a 3500) at CO State. I was happy with all those wins, but by no means did I walk around acting like I play at a Pro-Master level.

Nice, those are some good wins!

What are your long term goals in this game?

Well, Big City has $5 of mine in his wallet that I lost in a 2/3 match to him right after a beginner and I destroyed him and Davin (and everyone else) at a tourney so I guess I'd like to get that money back and possibly $5 more, just for good measure.

I really don't have any goals with it though. As long as it is enjoyable to go to the tourneys I'll keep playing. Thanks again for wanting an interview, X. I'm stoked to have had some good finishes on tour this year and getting a chance to do this.