I was very lucky to have Canadian darts star Jeff Smith take a bit of time out of his busy schedule to have a quick chat with me. Here is how it went down.
DBC: 1. I think as a whole dart players are known for being more approachable than other sports, but with you it seems to go to a whole other level. I mean I wouldn't have been surprised to see you responding to tweets between throws in your Lakeside final. How important is it to you to be engaged with your fans, and how much of it is 'strategy' and how much of it is just being a Canadian guy from New Brunswick?
Jeff: Without the fans, there would be no money to drive the sport. I've always been a people person, and try to represent myself as well as my sponsors to the best of my ability. East Coast Canadians are known as friendly people though .
DBC: YoYou seem to be getting a lot of good support from your sponsors, and in turn doing a good job of representing them. (I have purchased two shirts so far from Projoy that I am very happy with, and I 100% found out about Projoy through you), but as far as your major sponsor Winmau, how does the gig all work?
Jeff: I've had some great sponsors along my path to date.. but Winmau along with British Darts, and Projoy have been awesome for me. All are very supportive, but also I feel offer the best bang for your buck when it comes to quality and prices. But it really is a true honour to see your face on box that has got Winmau's name on it.
DBC: Your darts seem to be very popular as well, which must be exciting. Are there any plans for other Jeff Smith dart designs? Would you want there to be if Winmau was open to it?
Jeff: I'm sure other designs will come down the road, but as of now the current design feels like I've been using them for the last 10 years. I wanted something different but for a traditional throwing style. The colourful coating is a stand out, but gives them a nice grip also.
DBC: It looks like you've maybe been doing a little coaching with Dawson Murschell, who certainly impressed a lot of people recently in Las Vegas, including PDC boss Barry Hearn. How did this come about, and what is it that you like most about Dawson's game?
Jeff: Yes I've been not so much coaching, as just offering guidance on how he can help himself.. All the stuff I learned as I went. He came from Canada's youth program like myself, and I admire his passion and dedication to the game.
DBC: What do you think is the number one thing people get wrong when trying to get better at darts? (bad habits, bad practice, misconceptions etc.)
Jeff: For me its the way people practice. 5 hrs of bad darts is still bad darts. Practice in short sessions. (5-15 mins). And practice on parts of your game that needs it.. No sense in beating that triple 20 to death, when its double 9 you struggle with in a game.
DBC: ..and for me who is making the jump from mostly league play to my first real tournament in September. I am going mostly for the experience, but do want to play up to my own capabilities. The biggest thing standing in the way of that is going to be nerves. What would your advice be on staying calm cool and collected while on the oche?
Jeff: Nerves was my biggest hurdle. But its what keeps you coming back to conquer them. Only way you beat that, is practice and prepare right. Then keep putting yourself in those situations, until you find yourself getting comfortable. I do miss those days.
DBC: Right now you are playing at a pretty high level. Is practice right now just a matter of maintaining that standard, or is there room for Jeff Smith to get even better as a dart player?
Jeff: My practice routines don't need any adjustments.. balancing my schedule between work, family, darts is my biggest hurdle. So its a struggle to improve much more in my current situation.
DBC: You've also been playing a fair bit of soft tip of late. How did soft tip get you hooked?
Jeff: Soft tip hooked me when I seen the money driving behind it. I play TOC sanctioned events, obviously to qualify for that $1,000,000.00+ cad event in October. The system in total pays out over $5 million usd, to me that is worth expanding your playing horizons. Not to mention I can now play players from all over the world any day of the week
DBC: OK I just had to double check all those zeros. Clearly steel tip tournaments in North America are not getting anywhere near this in terms of prize money. Is there any hope of this getting fixed? ( It isn't like darts isn't a popular sport, so where are the sponsors? )
Jeff: Steel tippers in North America just hate to pay to play, right down to local leagues. Soft tip pays put huge pots, because every game played cost money to use it. Theres too much emphasis on the fun part of the game in North America for sponsors to ever take it seriously. To bring in the big money involves TV, but until we have something marketable standard wise.. likely not going to happen on our own. The US Masters is a great start though.
DBC: Recently in Las Vegas I thought that the Canadian darters held up fairly well. In your opinion what is the state of Canadian darting and what would be needed for it to truly flourish?
Jeff: There are many great players in Canada, but unfortunately theres no justifiable money in it to play cross country. Over the last 4-5 years, theres been only 1 person (men's side) who has spent mega money to get the #1 spots and its invites. I tried this year, and achieved NDFC #1 but the scheduling of majors on regional tourneys has meant no Lakeside this year.. Unless I come through BDO Rankings or the Qualifier. So we need our organization more accountable when scheduling our events.
DBC: Will there be another Canadian World Champion in our lifetime?
Jeff: Its hard to say at this point, as the standard continues to increase.. but there are some great talented young players coming. It will be up to them to show the dedication required.
So there you have it! What do you say darters of Canada,up for the challenge?
Thank you all as always for reading and a big thank you to Jeff for taking the time to do this.
Please check out Jeff's sponsors Winmau British Darts Projoy