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Red Dragon’s free junior program offers kids a chance to excel at a sport

  • Attorney Roy Pastor shows a visitor some of the many...

    Attorney Roy Pastor shows a visitor some of the many photos on the walls at the Red Dragon Billiard Club and Training Center in Harvard, where he teaches kids to play pool, for free. (M.E. JONES/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)

  • Attorney Roy Pastor shows a visitor some of the many...

    Attorney Roy Pastor shows a visitor some of the many photos on the walls at the Red Dragon Billiard Club and Training Center in Harvard, where he teaches kids to play pool, for free. (M.E. JONES/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)

  • Owen Coughlin, 10, of Leominster, lines up a shot during...

    Owen Coughlin, 10, of Leominster, lines up a shot during a recent open house at the Red Dragon Billiard Club and Training Center in Harvard. It’s a private club where kids can come to learn and play the game, free, on Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 pm. (M.E. JONES/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)

  • Callie Romano, 7, of Groton, tries out her technique at...

    Callie Romano, 7, of Groton, tries out her technique at the Red Dragon, a private club in Harvard where kids can come on Sunday afternoons to learn and play the game, for free. (M.E. JONES/SENTINEL & ENTERPRISE)



HARVARD — Pool, or billiards, has a long and storied past, dating back to 15th century France, where royals reportedly played it as a lawn game. The present-day version is an indoor game with a smaller playing field. Specifically, a pool table.

Once a staple in every well-appointed mansion, pool tables are still popular in nightclubs and bars. But in-home billiards rooms are not a must-have these days and pool tables don’t fit comfortably in most modern living rooms. They are more at home in group settings — like at the Billards Cafe on Ayer’s Main Street.

That’s where attorney Roy Pastor often plays and where he once held practices for the youngsters he coaches in his Junior Program on Sundays.

Today, Pastor’s base of operations is the Red Dragon Billiard Club and Training Center, the private club he owns in the Harvard Plaza on Ayer Road.

Tracing the club’s origins, Pastor said it started as a serendipitous side effect of COVID-19.

His friend and client, Bob Hirsch, who owns the plaza that houses the Red Dragon, co-owned some pool tables with Pastor and another friend, he said. The tables were coin-operated and set up in area establishments, like vending machines, he said.

The arrangement collapsed during the pandemic shut-down when those places closed. The tables went into storage. Then, one of the Harvard Plaza’s tenants — a dance studio — left. They moved the pool tables into the empty space “so we’d have somewhere to play,” Pastor said.

The result was the creation of the Red Dragon Billiard Club and Training Center. The Sunday Junior Program continues there, “at no cost to them or their families,” Pastor said.

It’s a private club, not open to the public, a safe and simple place that’s all about pool and nothing else.

No commerce goes on there and alcohol is not allowed.

Pastor recently hosted an open house at the Red Dragon and invited a reporter in for a tour and a chat.

Sharing more information than one story could possibly cover, Pastor was particularly interested in talking about Junior Program, which, unlike club membership, is free. He never charges kids to play pool there, he said, nor does he charge to teach them how to play.

“It’s not about the money” anyway, he said. Membership fees only help keep the lights on.

Clearly, this off-duty enterprise is a labor of love.

Every Sunday afternoon during the school year, from noon to 4 p.m., he opens the Red Dragon’s doors to young people and if they’re interested, he’ll teach them how to play the game, which he said that almost anyone, kids and adults alike, can learn to play.

Pastor also coaches Junior League teams that play in competitive tournaments.

Upbeat about the game of pool, and as committed to it as he has been since it caught his fancy as a kid, Pastor sketched the positives, tossing out acronyms, league names, past teams he’s coached, rapid fire.

“I’ve been doing this for 21 years,” he said. “It’s a great place for the kids, and there’s pizza today!”

Billiards seems more like a specialty interest than a sport, like, say, football, basketball or soccer. Nobody “letters” in billiards, do they? Maybe not, Pastor responded, but there’s league play for those who want to compete and social interaction for those who just want to play for fun.

And it is a sport.

All sports are, basically, games, after all, requiring various skills, physical, mental and emotional.

For those who strive to play a game or sport, well there are rules to learn, techniques to develop, and tips and tricks that newcomers who stick with it will pick up along the way. Pool is no exception.

Pastor covers everything from the basics to advanced techniques, even math, but it’s not required.

Pool is not only a sport, it’s a super-popular sport everywhere in the country and worldwide, Pastor said. It’s low-impact, no contact, easy to learn at entry level, and certainly the kind of sport kids can play outside school. If they have access to a pool table.

There are seven full-sized, well-maintained tables in the main pool room at the Red Dragon, and another in a small anteroom set aside for private lessons or solo practice.

Key-card-carrying members drop in at any time. They can also sign up for workshops and competitions. Monthly fees range from $65 for an individual membership to $125 for a six-person family membership, the maximum offered. Plus registration fees. Adult lessons are available, at added cost.

The Red Dragon website gives an overview, with pictures and contact information. For details, including the fee schedule, membership perks and program options, the number to call is 978-707-9457. The email address is

On Sundays during the school year, kids can come to learn the game from Pastor, who is a certified master, or from one of the coaches he has trained. And it’s free, always, he said. The junior program is open to all who want to join, he said, with competitive opportunities offered as well.

An area attorney and partner in the Ayer-based law firm Lorden, Pastor and Lilly, Pastor made a strong, confident case for his favorite off-duty pastime.

But, it turns out, it is much more than that to him. Junior League competition jaunts have taken him all over the country and the world and it offers similar globe-trotting opportunities to others, he said, including coaches he has trained, and still does.

“In recent years we have traveled to Austria, Cyprus, Shanghai, Moscow,” he said. This year, the U.S. will host world competitions in Puerto Rico. Pastor said he was looking forward to that trip. That was before the latest hurricane hit the island, however, with devastating effects.

Tracing his interest in pool back to childhood, Pastor explained how learning to play at an early age — or any age — can be beneficial as well as fun, boosting self-esteem as skills sharpen, perhaps helping to improve hand-eye coordination. Even kids with challenges can — and do — learn to play pool, he said.

Pool, or billiards, offers an alternative to typical team sports, which some kids may not be suited for or don’t feel comfortable with. Competition is optional. It’s a case of “what’s not to like?” as Pastor sees it. In his view, if pool isn’t for everybody, it comes close.

That’s why he enjoys sharing the sport with others, kids in particular, as a teacher and coach. Most kids who learn to play pool end up loving it, he said, and he can teach almost anyone to play.

“I have been teaching and coaching pool, with some success, to juniors, for about 21 years,” he said. And for the past nine years, he’s had students from the program selected for the American Team, competing at the World Pool Association championships.

The championships draw the best players from 28 countries, he said. Families pay travel expenses, he said, adding that fundraising events may help defray costs — netting up to $8,000 annually.

Pastor emphasized that pool is a big deal all over the world, and that special places like the Red Dragon offer opportunities to get in on the ground floor.

For example, he said that Cue Sports International, or CSI, is an international league and tournament group that umbrellas many of the local league players.

Locally, he said, Women’s League players meet at the Red Dragon one evening a week. Three nights a week, leagues meet a the Billiard’s Cafe and there’s league play in Clinton, Maynard, Hudson, Framingham and elsewhere. It all wraps up with national championships in Las Vegas, Pastor said.

Students can also learn virtually, Pastor said, noting that the Junior Program has an online option.

Proof of the program’s success is all around him at the Red Dragon, where walls in the main playing hall double as gallery space, with scores of framed pictures. Past teams, local champions, distinguished visitors, and competitive teams have scored wins all over the U.S. and in other countries.

The pictures frame memories as well as images. Each one tells a story. Team photos. Solo, action shots. There’s one, for example, of the American team Pastor was with in Moscow in 2017. Several show some of his top-notch competitive players, one of whom is a pre-med student now, he said.

One picture shows Pastor at a young age in the late 1960s, with his “hero” back then, Willie Mosconi, who was considered the “best pool player in the world” at the time.

“My dad took me to see him,” he said. But when the elder Pastor asked the cue champ if he could take a picture — this picture — with his son, Mosconi was reluctant. “ He had a book out,” Pastor said, and he wanted payback. “Will you buy my book?” he asked. The answer was no. “We didn’t have much money” Pastor recalled. The interaction was disappointing.

Mosconi agreed to the picture but looked away rather than toward his young fan. That subtle slight taught the young Roy Pastor a lesson. “I have a signed, autographed photo in my office…that I paid for,” he said. “It reminds me not to be a jerk to people. Being kind costs zero,” he said.

The story may help explain what motivates Pastor, even now, to keep doing what he’s been doing for the past two decades, teaching kids how to play pool. For free.