Feb 9, 2011 by Scott Rodriguez
Colorado is a hot bed for competitive foosball, but every now and then, a new player comes along with the perfect storm of talent, discipline, and pure passion to elevate their self from good player, to savvy tour champion. Having just started playing the game a few years ago, Mark Brubaker sheds his Beginner status, speeds right on past Amateurs, and emerges as the new kid on the Expert block. He took some time from his schoolwork to talk with COFoosball.com.
- Your mom is one of CO's nicest players, but when she gets on the table, she's a beast and plays with a ton of passion. What was it like growing up with her and her sister being a fooser? At what age did you want to learn the game? Do you guys ever duke it out at home? Have you ever been pissed losing to her, or vice versa?
My mom is the sweetest most selfless person I know, but she’s not a pushover by any means. Growing up, that beastly side came out from time to time when someone crossed her. I remember one day she picked me up from grade school and on the ride home some kid threw a snowball at her van. She didn't hesitate to throw it in reverse and slowly chase this kid for several blocks before cornering him in a driveway. I thought she was going to kill this guy, but apparently she had other plans. All she simply wanted to do was teach this lil guy some respect for others lol. It was pretty cool growing up around foosball. My parents always had people over to jam. Over the years I messed around a bit on the table, but never took it seriously until about 3 years ago when I was 19. My mom tried to keep me away from the scene as long as possible. She didn’t want me getting involved in the party scene that can be associated with foosball. Whenever I'm home we always play a ton. We never get upset at each other per se, but we both have a strong will to win, so it can get pretty intense.
- You're balancing college with touring and succeeding in both - what's that like? It can't be easy! Would your mom be upset if you decided to forgo college for foosball like some of the other foosers on tour? Are you tempted to do that ever?
It can be challenging at times. I just try to make ample time for both. When I won worlds, I didn't spend any time partying. If I wasn't in a match, I was up in the room doing homework. My mom would definitely not be pleased if I quit school to pursue a professional foosball "career." I often think about how awesome it would be to drop everything and travel the world playing foosball, but I keep plugging away at school with hope to set something up for the future. I’m currently taking my last semester until I have my AA in Outdoor Education. Come summertime, I'm definitely going to take some time off to travel and play before continuing on to get my BA.
- Every CO fooser knows how amazing Traci is when it comes to support at tour events. Who do you think was happier when you won a World Title - you or your mom? What was her reaction when you won?
Ha that’s easy; my mom for sure. I was in shock when I won—emotionless. Watching the video, I can hear my mom in the stands hootin and hollerin. I looked up at her and she was in tears :)
- When can we expect to see Team Brubaker winning a Mixed Title?
I can assure you that it’s in the works. We’ve got some work to do, some kinks to iron out, but before long we will become a force to be reckoned with.
- For every up and coming fooser with your success, there's 100 that struggle and never make it to the next level. Why do you think you've jumped up in the ranks so fast?
Ha, it’s in my blood :) Honestly there are many factors that contribute to my success. I've been dedicated and determined to win an open singles title at worlds since day one. The biggest contributing factor to the enhancement of my game is everyone else. Anytime anyone has anything to say regarding the game of foosball (regardless of their rank), I do my best to listen intently and figure out what I can apply to my game. It's said that foosball is like the game of chess at the speed of tennis. I spent many hours studying videos and picking people’s brains with the intent of applying everything I saw and everything people had to say to develop my hard skills—the tennis aspect. Since I began to feel comfortable with my physical ability, I turned my focus to the game of chess—the mental aspect of the game. I've weaved in a multitude of manipulations into my 5 and 3 bar in order to make the defender react how I want them to. So now, when making reads, I try to mix it up between passing and shooting through what they're blocking, and making them try to block what I’m passing or shooting. What I’ve come to realize is that once the hard skills can be executed mechanically, foosball is all played in the mind.
- What kind of drills and practice routines do you do to keep your game sharp?
I've got A.D.D. when it comes to practicing. I usually only spend a few minutes doing one thing before I get distracted and practice something else. When I do make time to practice intently, I go over a multitude of things. Ball control is huge. I'll practice tic-tacking between all the men on each rod. I'll practice weaving the ball between each man on the 5-3, 2-3 and 2-5. I usually stay on each drill until I can execute each flawlessly several times in a row. On my 5 bar, I practice hitting 4 basic passes on 1 tic, 2 tics, and so on until I can execute all 4 passes on any tic up to 10 or 15 tics. I practice my 2-5 passes sporadically. I spend a little time shooting from my 2 row and only practice shooting on the 3 when I need to fine tune something. Defensively, I practice calculated movements to train myself to dial in specific man placement. Whenever I get the chance, which is rare these days, I'll try to make some local tournaments to keep up on the competitive aspect of the sport.
- There are a lot of new players wondering how to get into this game, and they never know which position to pick. As a new player, why'd you decide to become a forward?
Most new players tend to get stuck in the pits right from the start. They learn that position well before dabbling with the forward position. When I started playing at the park tavern, there were already beginners that had been trained as goalies, so I'd usually play front. I loved it! That’s where all the action was. I hated playing goal; it bored me to be stuck back there.
- You have a pretty fast paced game, but can still slow it up and be methodical. What foosers have had the biggest influences in your game?
Honestly, it's tough to pinpoint any one person. Whether people realize it or not, I'm constantly keeping my eyes and ears open as to how I can improve my game. My game is a hodgepodge of most everyone’s game from Colorado and a few people from the pro tour. Tony Spreedeman definitely influenced the majority of my 5 bar, however I’ve sprinkled bits and pieces from other players that I thought would fit well with what I was already doing. My mom taught me integrity on the table and the importance of spending time with God while I play. I’ve learned that hanging with God while playing brings me peace of mind; a calm, cool, collected composure and the ability to harness my anger on the table, in a positive productive way. My fast paced transition must be hereditary. Ron Olsen has spent a lot of time on the table with me teaching me a variety of hard skills. Ryan Moore has influenced my mental game a lot. Whenever I have a question for him, he usually gives me some kind of philosophical answer. Robby has had a ton of insight towards my game. Knapton always challenges me to step it up whenever I play him. We usually have some good tips to help each other improve.
- What kind of partners do you like playing with? Can you play with anyone, or is chemistry important to you?
I like to play with anyone that is going to fight offensively and defensively every ball regardless if were ahead or not. For me, that is a huge factor in team dynamics. Also a partner with a good, positive attitude is a must. I don’t like playing with people that tend to check out when things aren’t going in our favor. I can usually battle tough regardless of who I'm playing with or against But if I'm in a funk, I'd like to know that my partner can pick up the slack when needed. Being that I've yet to develop a strong defensive game, for now I prefer to play with a solid goalie. I believe that defense wins games. If my goalie is struggling, it's nerve racking when I have to get back there and try to keep us in it. It's super cool to connect as a team with effective communication displayed by passing effectively and creating solid zone defenses. Lately, I've found myself testing the waters, playing with most anyone that wants to play. I'd like to start developing a solid team with someone in order to function together as a whole instead of two separate parts. I think that'll be the deciding factor in winning higher lever brackets.
- There was a mini controversy regarding you still being an Amatuer at TKO after having just won a World Title in AD. You placed well in lots of events at TKO, including another AM title…what do you say to those people who think you shouldn’t have been in AM events any longer?
After recently winning Amateur Doubles at worlds as a beginner, I was bumped up the Amateur level. I wasn’t purposefully sandbagging afterwards as some may have thought. In fact, TKO was my first and only tour event as an amateur. A decision was made by the board that the Amateur division is meant to strictly serve rookies, and therefore deemed it necessary to bump me to the Expert level. So to those who felt wronged by me beating you lately, I apologize. Now it’s time to move on to bigger and better things. Hopefully I can remain consistent in my rate of progression and win higher ranked divisions in the near future.
- You beat the 2nd place team in Pro Doubles at TKO. What does it do for your game and confidence, placing high against stronger competition and beating players higher ranked than you? Do you consider yourself an equal on the table?
Did I? Ha, that's cool, I didn't even realize that. My confidence has grown by leaps and bounds after winning worlds with Erik Allen. It is definitely a confidence booster to beat higher ranked players. Anything can happen on the table, so I never give up even if the odds are stacked against me. Rank wise I don't consider myself as an equal to higher ranked players off the table, but when it comes down to playing a match, it doesn’t matter who my opponent is. If I’m playing smart and consistent, I think I’ve got as good a chance as any to beat higher ranked players.
- What was it like going up against CJ and Dean in the finals at TKO? Did you think you had an advantage having already played them so much?
We all play each other so much, we know each other’s games. I don't think I had any advantage; it came down to the sheer will to win. My 5 disappeared for a few hours that day. I’m surprised we beat them in two games. I only caught 3 passes the entire match and my D was Swiss cheese. CJ lit me up on the 5. Thankfully Lindsay was a brick wall and scored a few from the back keeping us in the match. I stuffed a few of Dean’s two row shots, and I scored 5 of 6 loose balls I caught on my 3 row. It’s always fun playing those guys: good competition.
- Do you get worn out at tour stops playing so many events? Are there any tips you could give players who are worried about burning themselves out?
Yeah, definitely. Come Sunday afternoon I'm usually pretty worn out if I've been playing aggressively all weekend. The best advice I can give is pay close attention to your food consumption and get plenty of rest. Don't eat too much weighty food, but don't eat too little either. It’s important to keep your energy up by eating healthy, light, and often. Fruit and protein bars are great. If you’re hungry, but worried about whether something will be too heavy, I think it's always better to eat to keep your energy up, as opposed to being weak and shaky from not eating. Red bull is not a substantial energy supplement for long term use. Rest is huge. I'm worthless if I don't get at least 6 hours of sleep which can be tough with all the other temptations pulling at you at the end of the night. Also, I like to soak in a hot bath or hot tub each morning to relax my muscles and get loose for the long day ahead. As Robby says, you've got to be the travel agent, the coach, the trainer, the nutritionist, and the player. There are so many aspects of the game that all need equal attention. Another thing I'd say is don’t bring anything to a tour event that you’re not already conditioned to do beforehand. For example, I rarely shoot from the 2 row. In St. Louis last year, I played goalie wars the first night, and for the rest of the weekend my arm was so sore I could hardly move it.
- What's been some of your favorite foosball experiences so far? A particular game that you still remember, or a big point…or maybe a loss you still haven't gotten over??
Winning AM Doubles at Worlds with Erik Allen was by far the best memory so far. The finals match was nothing to write home about. I was nervous, shaky and tense most of that match. But the entire bracket leading up to the finals was incredible. Erik and I both played lights out. I played smarter than I ever had before or since then. I was able to analyze every current and past possession offensively and defensively and use that knowledge to capitalize on even the smallest patterns, tells or preferences of the opponent. We only lost one game that whole bracket!!
Two games in particular definitely stick out from the sea of others.
At Nationals last year I played singles against an old school kat. I beat him 5-1 the first game scoring 4 of those points intentionally from the 5 row. The second game was his drop. I stole his pass and crushed another 5 bar shot. I handed him the ball and he immediately threw the ball at me rushed around the table and hit my hat off my head. He made a huge scene and stormed out mid-match. Needless to say, I won that one due to forfeit, but I thought this guy was going to kill me! He was huge!! His arms were bigger than my head. Strangely enough, I stood my ground, calm cool and collected, but inside everything in me was screaming RUNNNN!!!
At worlds Dean and I played Spreedeman and Atha first round of open dubs. We two beginners had these masters on the ropes 4-1 in the first game. Tony kept squeezing walls past me even when it seemed like I was totally covering the wall pass. The next 5 bar possession he got I was determined to block that nasty wall so I compressed the bumper. I must have been too amped up because I lifted the table on him one handed! Tony looked across the table as if he was moments away from diving under the light and choking the life out of me. Instead he called a time out, lubed the bumpers???, and came back with the meanest, most ferocious 5 bar shot I've ever seen. He kicked it up about 5 notches and came back and won that game… and the next two. Almost had ‘em.... : )
- So far, each of your tour stops yield better and better results. Realistically, how long do you think it'll take for you to dominate Expert events like you have been Amatuer events? Before you answer that, just remember your Daddy (me) and a bunch of other Denver players are sitting there! Baller…Moose…Micheals…Lopez…Roger…etc...
Ha, I’d say that all you guys can beat me nine times out of ten, thankfully I don’t have to see you on tour. I'm not going to limit myself to any given time frame. Hopefully I can consistently progress at the rate I have been lately. My goal is to win an expert level event before the end of this year. Is that feasible? Yes. Realistic? Maybe, only time will tell. Regardless of my or my opponents rank, I’m going to fight every possession of every ball in every match and may the best man (or woman) win.
- What improvements do you think you'll need to make in your game for that to happen?
One of the biggest things Robby was teaching me at TKO was T.O.P. If I can get a handle on that, I can take control of the game more effectively. Consistency is another hurdle I need to overcome. My mental and physical game fluctuates so much from match to match. Once I learn to play my top game all the time and get "in the zone" at will, I know I can hang with the top experts and most pros as well. I mostly want to learn how to improve my goalie game in order to make some noise in singles as well as doubles.
Thanks for taking the time, Bro! Congrats again on another title and high places to add to your resume!
Thanks Scott for taking the time to interview me. I appreciate all the props, support and insight into the game that you have given me these past few years. I look forward to more practice secessions in the future, and the opportunity to further pick your brain. Hopefully we’ll see you back on the tour.
Congrats on all your success thus far, Mark. Can't wait to see where you go from here!
Good Spree story
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