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Shelly Langley

March 31, 2010 by Scott Rodriguez

Colorado has the lucky pleasure of being home to one of the top female masters on tour. Not only is Shelly a brick wall in the pits, she�s also one of the nicest players in the tournament room who is always doing whatever it takes to promote the game. We had a chance to catch up to her for an interview in between winning titles...

So, how and when did you first get into this game anyway?

Well I joke a lot about living in such a small town (150 kids kindergarten through Senior) that you either played foosball or went parking (definition for the younger generation... makin out in the car) soooo I played a lot of foosball!! On a serious note though, my mom put a foosball table in the restaurant that she owned and we had a little 3.2 beer bar that had a foosball table. So whenever I was 'working' or hanging out that is what we did most. I was 11 the first time I played.

What was the learning curve like for you? How long did it take you to get good at this sport?

I still don't think I'm "good" at it yet. I have dedicated a lot of time and effort to defense and the offensive goalie area. My five is ok, but I am still streaky with my three bar...it�s pretty frustrating sometimes.

I didn't play with anyone serious until after I was married, Jack had asked me what I liked to do for fun and I told him I used to like playing foosball. Several years later when JC was 5 we took a night out and walked into a bar that was having a tournament. He talked me into playing and I got second, it was pretty funny cause I only had a push shot...no five... lucky D and some stubborn desire. Mean while he was talking to the tournament director who filled him on the foos scene in Denver and the tour.

I started out playing in three DYP's a week, one at the Lamplighter in Littleton with the Warman's who helped me out a ton, one was at the Underground with Spear and the other was at a little arcade in Wheatridge. In my opinion then and to this day, that is the quickest way to learn. Everyone teaches you "something" just in their effort to win. Some of them were assholes (they became my first targets) and others were awesome. My first tour event was the '89 Kick Off in Houston, and I was so thankful that Gus Trevino befriended me. We became extremely good friends and remain so to this day even though he is retired from foos.

I also met Todd Loffredo, Gary Edgeworth and Liz Hill that weekend. Gary and I went in the loser�s first round of expert mixed and came all the way through the losers in a race to 7 to take 4th. Liz and I were both at our first tournament, I don't know how, but we got second! After that tournament I was so lucky to have Gus, Todd and Gary take me under their wing and "school" me... no mercy EVER. I asked Todd if he would teach me ...I got the "well... never really taught a girl much, but you can hit the ball...so I will try" It was brutal! But he took years off my learning curve. It really wasn't until after Gus retired that I got confident and brave enough to start using his series....which by the was the only one I had ever seen use it. To this day, we spend a lot of time talking about and teaching me more options, I won't pretend I have them all yet, but I figure when I really need them I will use them.

Do you think Colorado will ever see another female Pro Master?

Of course we will, Traci is on her way without a doubt.

Do up and coming female foosers come to you or other top women Masters for advice, or do you think they prefer men for mentors?

I'm sure I will take some heat for this, but yes a lot of women come to me and I will teach them everything I can. I used to get so upset that when I was learning most people would brush you off or give you bad advice. I swore I would never do that to anyone. I always seem to learn something or even remember stuff I have forgotten as I pass things on. I figure the better everyone gets the harder I have to work and the better I will become. I think a lot of women go towards male mentors, because a lot of the women won't help them much and because there may not be good enough women in their area.

How does your family deal with your constant touring? Looking back would you say you have successfully balanced family, work and foos?

My family is incredible! If it wouldn't have been for Jack pushing me, I don't think I would have ever done this. I was reluctant to not be with JC all the time as I was a stay at home mom in the beginning. Jack explained that it would be good for all of us, if they had some one on one time, and I had some individual time. Smart man!

My rule of order for my life has always been God, family, work/foos. There were several years preceding the last 10 that I missed a lot of tournaments to obtain that balance.

Has your husband ever been jealous or anything...going away for weekends where the guys out number the girls 20 to 1? :-P

LOL, my husband is the most amazing man I have ever ran across. After my layoff to add Lacey to our family money was tight and I had just started playing again after a year and a half. Todd had went to work on a construction job for Jack (now that is a very funny story in its self!!) money was really tight for us at that time and Todd asked Jack if I was going to '93 nationals. Jack told him we really couldn't afford it, Todd said well she can room with Gus and I, because I wanna play mixed with her. I about fell over when Jack approached me with that solution! I said don't you love me??!! He explained that if he thought I would ever cheat on him, it could happen anytime anywhere. So needless to say, they became two of my favorite roomies....I laughed at them till I cried several times!

I know JC and Lacey play a little foosball, but they don't have the bug for it you do. Is that something you really wanted them to get into growing up?

I have had the unfortunate experience of watching too many awesome kids being thrown into foosball competing against adults with their parents or mentors railing them for their performance. It makes me sick to see that. I am all for kids playing against their own age until they get their feet under them.

As far as my kids it was always there for them if they wanted to play, but I didn't want them to play on tour until they were older.

One of the things I admire most about you is the fact you speak your mind without holding back so let's get to the good stuff! As a mom, what did you think about Mary's decision to ban Ryan from her tournaments until he got his High School diploma lol?

LOL you know me well... First off as a mom, damn straight, no holds barred to stubborn teenagers! As TD/mother I know there was a lot of debate as to whether or not it was allowed, in my opinion the rules clearly state all decisions by the TD are final and they can refuse the right to serve anyone they choose. I was most impressed by the end agreement of her keeping his winnings until he produces a diploma!

Do you have any players you HATE losing to? Especially girls...I want some good catfight drama! I remember you and Traci having some good battles on the table every CO State....What about Tommie? Lol

There were several years that I lost just because of bringing that emotional factor into a match. I hated losing to Tracy, Tommie, any girls, lower rank, higher rank, cocky guys, bar hacks... you name it. I mean I HATED it!! I talked to Todd and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever heard. He asked me if I was supposed to be playin the person or the game?? He told me once you shake their hand or tell them good luck or whatever, that is the last of the person, then it becomes the game on the table. That little tidbit took me past my plateau and on another climb.

Have you ever let the heat of the moment get to you, and found yourself acting unethical or unsportsmanlike?

HaHa...you know I have! I actually have never had a technical called on me until a few years back when I was playing a CO state open with Steve Steighner. Gabe and Mike Bowers were givin us hell, and Gabe of course can bring a 'different side' to the game. He flicked a hunk of grease Steve, and I said "Hey! That�s Bullshit!" Well needless to say Council nailed me. Lesson learned! It doesn't happen too often anymore but occasionally if someone is cheating and won't stop, or really mouthy, I fall in a bit. If I feel like I have been cheated in a match, I will call it, if they rectify it and stop it all�s good. If they don't it probably comes down to "paybacks suck huh", or a ref ;)

Have you ever had a partner act unethical at the table?

Ahhh that is a great question. I of course have, I did play with Nathan Winter for a couple of years ;). It has proven to be even harder to focus on my game then when I am trying ignore the opponents. I think it's important to try to maintain team chemistry, and if it gets real bad I have talked to my team mate and said stuff, like just focus on the game, or don't fuel the fire, stuff like that. Needless to say there are a few bad apples that I just won't play with, my morals can't handle it.

I�ll ask who the bad apples are in private.

Would you say women are more, less, or equally competitive on the table?

Not at all! There are some women who are playin to pass the time while their boyfriends/husbands play, there are other women who don't want to mess their hair or break a nail. I have nothing at all against that, each to their own. Then there are some women who are vicious on the table. Especially now, it's not easy being the one with a target on your back.

Do you have any wins that you cherish more than others? I know winning Pro Doubles with Stayce has to be up there!

OOO ya there are quite a few. Probably one of the first I can remember is '93 nationals, open mixed with Todd. That was the year he tripled.

Of couse Pro Doubles with Stayce was incredible, we also placed 5th in Open doubles at that tournament, and won women's doubles. It was crazy!

What's it like touring oversees and representing the US?

You know, as a promoter and a player, if there was just one thing I could bottle up for everyone that loves the game, it's the experience of playing over there. I love this game, and even though we are the "enemy" over there it is stunning to see 1500 people screaming in the stands that don't even play!! It makes you feel what it is truly like to be a professional athelete! I know over here athelete is stretchin it, but over there, there are FANS of players and teams!

It is so amazing to be on a team of people you usually compete against. You all come together to help each other win, even the men and women's teams do all they can to support each other. Everywhere you go in uniform people are pointing and saying "babyfoot!!" and givin you the thumbs up (sumthin else if they don't like us!) And when you get into Nante, and there are billboards, posters, postage stamps, coaster, placemats, you name it with the American Team on it, it just gives you goose bumps.

Sometimes when I hear people complaining about the tables, I just want to take them over there and show them how bad it can really be! We really do have the best tables out there even when they are at there worst!

Give the readers a crazy story or two that's happened to you on tour...there's bound to be quite a few!

OK... but just remember, what happens in Vegas... stays in Vegas!! LOL Actually Renny kinda told one of them already. We were at worlds, Todd and Gus won dbls, and Todd won singles. Well, we decided to celebrate...a LOT! I laughed so much and so hard that night, my sides were killin me the next day. To start out with Gus, Joe Levstik and I were really tipsy and walked in the room they were sharin with Steve and Todd. They were both sleepin and Todd was dead to the world cause at that time, he would fast for most of the tournament. Well, he had these knee high tube socks on, and was layin on stomach on top of the covers. Gus goes...what the "f"' is that?! It was a BIG wad of money in Todd's sock. Well, Gus reached to touch it and before he was within 3 inches if it Todd starts wigglin his leg...and mind you he was snoring at the time. In our less then sober state it became a game to see who could touch it without him movin, it never happened though, we were laughin so hard we woke Steve up... but still not Todd!

Another good one was when the Warman's rented a super nice, huge motor home and we all pitched in to go to a tournament in Houston. Needless to say the ride down alone was crazy enough, but...even better was at the end of the tournament. I don't think I had ever seen Todd drink much at all or even ever at that time. Anyway, I was rooming with him and Gus, Kathy Warman finds me and says ... "OMG you have got to go get Todd, get him something to eat and help him get packed cause we are leavin as soon as everyone is done tonight (more like 2am)." I was like "why do I need to get him??" She said, "well, he is pacing around the walls in the tournament room mumbling and stumbling, drunk on his ass, he was even biting the fringe off from some girls coat!"

So, being the good "sober" friend... I got him a What-a-burger with everything on it (my first mistake), found him, convinced him to follow me to the room.... at one point I turn around and he has just vanished!! I was like what heck...I mean it was just a common hotel hallway! So I start retracing my steps and find him stuck with his head against the wall in one of the little door alcoves!! He was like WOW! Where did you go!!! I finally got him to the room, sat him on the bed and gave him the sandwich from hell. All the sudden he starts yelling uh oh uh oh....I'm going to need some help in here! You have no idea how much I really can't clean up after someone who has barfed...I mean I gag so much I can't even walk!! So, I reluctantly walked in there and he has eaten the whole middle out of the burger and has mustard, mayo and ketchup from one ear to the other...even in his ears!!

If that wasn't all bad enough... Here comes Gary and Gus... I had one apple left and said who wants this, Gus said he did, then Gary said, give me a bite 'F'er' welllll, Gus said no and man was the brawl on... when it was over and done with the mattress was against the wall and it looked like a tornado hit that room!!

That�s too funny...hopefully Todd doesn�t mind you airing out his dirty Whataburger past!

Hypothetical Question: Liz Hill, Moya Tielens, Cindy Head, and Stayce Fowler are all in their prime and hungry - who do you think dominates?

Hummm past performances recently, it would be Stayce. Liz is for sure hungry and has a ton of talent, but it's so recent since she has been back that the match up is hard to tout yet. Cindy is so aggressive on the table she is always a force to reckon with.

Are there some great Pro Masters that you just don't have any chemistry with in Mixed? Or at that level, everyone plays well with everyone?

Oh yeah, and not to say they are not great players, but even in open doubles teams, there are greats that just don't do well together.

What do you look for most in a partner?

Desire and attitude.

Who do you hate blocking?

I hope this doesn't sound egotistical, but there is not one person that I hate to block. That is the thrill of the game for me, figuring out as soon as I possibly can what their strength and weakness are. What trips them up, or makes them want to fire quick. You have to suck them into your world before you get sucked into theirs back there. Playing the really intelligent players to me is not just about each block but about building a defense that by the time a point is crucial you have only left them a couple of options.

Have you ever wanted to slap someone at the table? Lol

OMG!! I don't even remember how many times....

I was hoping for some specifics, but I understand the need to not name names :P

Do you think you could win Open Doubles with a top forward like Rico, Ryan, Tony, or Billy? Or is that an event where you are going to have to switch it up some...so that's why men always play with men?

I think I can and have ;) but only at regional tourney's ;). On tour, yes I think I could, for some reason, my five bar D works pretty good, and there is always the underestimation factor you get on the three. Not that I would expect there would be a need for me to have to play forward with any of those you mentioned!

Do you see IFP equal to Tornado yet? Have they pulled ahead?

IFP has honestly ran a better tournaments than Tornado for several years IMHO.

You've been playing this game for forever...what keeps your passion for it alive all this time?

At the end of the day, I answer to me. If go through life dormant and don't continue to challenge myself, physically, mentally and intellectually then what a waste of life it was! My passion is fed by not knowing or yet finding what is over the next hill for me in this game. I guess when I think I have reached my highest potential, and can't grow anymore it will probably cease to feed my soul the way it does now.

One of the greatest people I know, Dave Council, asked me one time what drove me to be successful... LoL I couldn't answer him on the spot because I never really thought much about it myself, but that made me realize that I should have an answer. After a lot of thought, what drives me is refusing to fail, it's not the fear of failure, cause I really don't look back, and losing is not failing, it's part of learning how to win.

Are there any changes you'd like to see locally or nationally?

Locally, I think everyone should try to respect the folks that are trying to keep the tournaments going, you know, the easy things... show up on time, start as soon as you can, don't whine. Help promote to kids, friends family... whatever it takes to keep it going! We are a crowd of primarily over thirty folks, where will that leave us in 20 years?

Nationally...I would love to see a player�s organization. that has strict sanctioning rules, to better take care of the players, for instance major manufactures having to schedule through the USTSF, so they are not hurting the game or the players. A standard points system that involves the local promoters to make sure that the players are properly ranked for tour. If I never have to listen to one more person behind the desk of a tournament disrespect the players or the sport it would make my day. That is the one thing I can't tolerate. I really miss the old days where manufacture understood that a tournament was a promotion to sell their product...kinda like free advertising, cause the players covered most of the prize money themselves. Nowadays one of the manufactures is out to make all they can off the tour, with as little output as they can muster, the other one poors a ton of cash into it and doesn't get the support that warrants imho... OK well maybe not so humble opinion!

Is there anything you still want to achieve in this game?

This may sound weird, but there is probably as much to achieve now as there was when I started. As a player...I have never won a world title in a main event... I have gotten like third or better for several years. Always a brides maid, never a bride though :( . As a promoter, there are so many things to do and change, more kids, more fans, more sponsors, for a start.

That wraps up all my questions...but wait - there's more! :-) Here's some question from your adoring fans: Dave Michaels asks: Where/When did you pickup your placement for your series on the 2? You're one of the only people I know that use that placement. When do you decide to switch from your set series to your rolling series for shooting.

I picked it up from Gus Trevino, I used to watch him pass to Todd like they were of one mind.

My shot/pass selections depend a lot on who I am playing with, how they are fairing up front. I can usually pick apart the D if I have to score. The reason I like the series is because you pretty much can't block all the shots in the series as well as all the passes. My decision to switch up the timing is totally based on how the forward is reacting when I toss the ball over.

Mark Brubaker asks: What�s going through your head when blocking a roller? What are you keying in on? When and why do you decide to not move for a ridiculously long amount of time?

The roller is probably my favorite shot to build a defense for, my first task is to figure out if you like pull or push, which one you hit best and if you have any tells between them. Can you go long... if so, can you go short? Sometimes, I can tell what you like just by watching the reaction to a quick reverse. LOL I guess my response to why I don't move for a long time... is why don't you shoot?!? In all honesty it's like a reset button on a computer, if I can reset what you think you see or want, you have to take what you think is there ;)

Dean Jones asks: What got you into promoting... and what does it take to play at the level you have achieved? What are your do's and don�ts on tour?

I started promoting because I love the game, and I spent a few years watching terrible promoters/TD's screw the players out of money and out of their time. I seen so many players that may have been great, walk away over the way they were treated or being abused.

The biggest thing I think it takes is dedication and tenacity. I prolly can't even count the times I was so disappointed that I swore it was my last tournament...but then my competitive nature drove me straight back to my table to fix what was broken. That will always take you to another level.

I don't drink while I am playing

Don't think everyone is there to wait on you showing up to the table

Don't stay up all night

Don't room with people that cramp your style ;)

Don't stand on your feet when you can get some time off... that really tends to wear on you

I don't bitch about how long it's been since I played last, honestly it bugs me as much as anyone else, but getting stressed about it does nothing for my game

Don't say... OMG! I just got slopped out (my pet peeve)! I'm a goalie at heart, and I know if that ball goes in no matter how it goes in it's my fault.

Do make sure you drink plenty of water. I don't know how many times I have or have heard about headaches that are caused by not drinkin enough water.

Do scout your opponents if I haven't already had a chance to study their game

Do make sure you are staying warm, but not wearing yourself out practicing or playin pick-up games

Do make sure you are eating so you have energy when you need it deep in the brackets

I always make sure I make every effort to watch the Jr. matches and support them.

Moose asks: When are you going to play with me at Ecks?

Whenever you ask!!

Thanks again Shel for taking the time to answer these. Colorado is lucky to have someone who puts so much effort into promoting this game. Good luck on getting that World Title! :-)