Local grad takes second run at international title
For 1994 Spirit Lake graduate Justin Shaw, the game of foosball is not confined to the walls of an arcade or the game room of a local pub. What is a hobby for most has become a passion for Shaw – he participated in the World Cup of Table Soccer in Turin, Italy two years ago.
Though Shaw and his teammate Ryan Moore were knocked off the bracket in the single-elimination round in Turin, the pair hopes to score well this week at the International Table Soccer Federation World Cup in Hamburg, Germany.
Shaw first began playing foosball in his late teens. He would walk to Murphy’s for a few rounds of the game, after finishing his shift waiting tables at what was once known as Mrs. Lady’s Mexican Restaurant in Arnolds Park. Later, while he was attending Huron University in South Dakota, he met Nathan Winters who challenged him to a game of foosball.
“He knew I was really competitive, instantly,” Shaw said. “He got me to say I was pretty good at playing foosball and he pretty much kicked the crap out of me.”
From there, Shaw began to compete in Sioux City, Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Des Moines and Sioux Falls.
“Gas was about a dollar per gallon then, so I started bouncing around and playing foosball,” Shaw said.
Shaw estimated he has been playing competitively for 15 years now.
While the Spirit Lake grad counts himself among the top 20 players in the United States, he credits his teammate, Moore, as the greater talent. Shaw said Moore taught him a great deal about the game.
“He showed me things instantly, things that I had worked so hard to do for years, and he’s showing me options to my options,” Shaw said. “He’s a lot of fun to play with, his two rod is on a different level. Nobody has a two rod like his.”
In laymen’s terms, the two rod is the goalie position.
Shaw said he prefers to compete in doubles matches.
“I tend to do better in doubles,” he said. “Singles turns very chaotic. The most amped up player usually wins that one.”
Shaw explained the first team to reach 3 or 5 points wins the match, depending on the competition event. Shaw is listed as an elite competitor by International Foosball Promotions, with 3,261 singles division scores and 4,939 in doubles. Competitions have several divisions, including senior, junior, men’s, women’s, team and wheelchair divisions.
“Some of the best players I’ve seen, two or three of them have spina bifida,” Shaw said. “They can’t really use their legs but there’s really nothing with their hands. They’re pretty mean competitors.”
Shaw’s parents, Robert and Kathleen, have had the opportunity to watch their son compete in several venues.
“Whenever he’s fairly close, we try to go,” Katheleen said. “It’s real nerve-racking. You want to help but you can’t. It’s kind of like watching wrestling.”
She said she never expected her son’s love of foosball would take him to international competitions.
“I told him to follow his dream and I guess that was his dream,” she said.
Kathleen plans to travel with Shaw as he competes in Hamburg. He son arrived April 11 to help set up the competition space for the championship. He said this can often become a 60 hour commitment during tournaments.
While he loves the game, Shaw said he has no current plans to make foosball his full-time career.
“I’ll just keep doing what I do,” Shaw said.