The Big Interview with KIRK SHEPHERD

Unicorn Darts prize winners:
Kevin Brown, Matthew Connor, Mark Scallan
All win their choice of Unicorn Darts.

kirk

From Joseph Brooks, USA:Kirk-Greetings from the States. Belated congrats to your runner-up finish in the PDC Worlds in 2008. John Part is obviously a tremendous talent, but you gave him a great run for his money and the World Championship. Given the obvious emotions involved with competing in the Finals for the PDC World Championship, what have you done build and maintain that level of proper darts? How exciting was it to be moved up from the Global team to the Contender team with other greats such as Bates, Osborne, and McGowan?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Joseph, first of all thank you for your message. To maintain the level of top flight darts I have made just a few changes. I gave up working after my 2008 run to practice every day, hour after hour, like the top professionals. I also have taken trips up and down the UK to practice and get advice from the more experienced players like Chris Mason etc. Shortly I will be taking a trip to Unicorn to meet the 'Uniboffin' to get my game up and running again like it was. Also I have come to terms with trying to not put too much pressure on myself and have learned to ignore harsh comments made by some of the public and instead to listen to players who have been there at the top. To be moved up to 'Contender' was very exciting and honourable, being in a category with some of darts top players. I am very thankful to Unicorn who believed in me when no one else did and gave me the opportunity to play top flight darts.

From Simon Smith, York: If you could change anything in darts, what would it be?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Simon, thank you for your question. If I could change anything for myself in darts, I think I would change my attitude as I feel that sometimes I can be to arrogant and cocky. But others disagree and think I need that arrogant streak in order to play darts. On a whole I would like to see qualifiers come back in the PDC for the World Championships as I think this gives the people who are not fortunate to have sponsors or money to have a chance at the big time.

From Matthew Connor, USA: What are some of the strategies you employ to overcome any frustration you may feel from a bad game or practice session? How do you avoid getting down on yourself?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Matthew, thank you for your question. First of all every player has bad days where they can't hit anything. I always find the best policy for me is to dust yourself down and get on the practice board the next day and put the things right where you were going wrong, until you can't miss. Try to learn from every game you play, why you lost and how to put it right next time. To avoid getting down on yourself practice with another player and try to help and be there for each other. Donít beat yourself up if things donít go your way. After trying and trying always remember you can achieve anything if you want it enough and you only get out of life what you put in.

From Jordan Ward, Dorset: Do you think that karate training in self-control and concentration has helped your darts career?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Jordan thank you for your message. I think the Karate helps me a lot mentally, in terms of concentration for darts. Also I used to fight in front of a lot of crowds for myself and for Kent, so you have to be confident and not let the crowds get on your back, so I'm sure the training helped me with my darts.

From Mark Scallan, Manchester: My question to you is after your appearance in the world final, did the players attitude towards you change, ie was there a lot of jealousy, with you getting success so early? if so how did you react to this?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Mark, thank you for your question. Good question! I did notice straight away changes in some of the players and the public's attitude towards me. When it was players I'm sure it was jealousy and at first it did get to me because it was not fun and from some it was nasty. Without naming names or going in to too much detail I was dubbed 'one trick pony' from many players as a laugh, all the way down to anonymous emails flooding in, through to death threats. At first this would really get on my back and in the end I had to close down the message board on my website. Nowadays amongst the players when they have a little dig I just simply say come back and judge me when youíve made a world final.

From Lewis Whybrow, Blackpool: What did it feel like to have been offered a sponsorship from Unicorn?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Lewis, thank you for your message. When I was offered sponsorship from Unicorn it was a great feeling to be on a team with some of the world's best players and it gave me the chance to play darts at a professional level. To be part of the team with the greatest darts manufacturers in the world is great. They have been great to me and looked after me from day one and I am grateful Unicorn gave me the opportunity to play darts when no one else did. I could not afford to play darts at the time as I was scraping by on minimum wage - 5 days a week, 9 hours a day.

From: Charis Mutschler, Germany: Hi Kirk, as you are one of the young players in the circuit and you already proved your talent what do you feel are the biggest problems to overcome to settle in the PDC circuit? And do you think the problems wouldn¥t be as big in the BDO?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Charis, thank you for your message. When moving to the PDC you cant go in to a competition being scared thinking, "I donít want to draw him" or when playing a match thinking, "I'm not going to beat him". You have to have bags of confidence and not be worried about anyone. You have 3 darts in your hand just like the other player and it's what you do with them. I think this would be the same wherever you play darts in any organisation.

From Frazer Gunn, Edinburgh: You have recently become a Father and it must have been a real challenge for you combining being a new parent and trying to maintain the high standards that the PDC require. How many hours do you practice for each day and do you change your practice routines on a regular basis?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Hi Frazer, thank you for your message. Becoming a dad is a challenge trying to juggle regular practice times with feeding etc. I still fit in roughly 3-4 hours a day but divide it in to separate sessions, an hour on, an hour off. I also prefer to practice with a good practice partner - The only time I play the other half is when we play to see who does a job in the house or strip darts! I feel its better to play with someone who is better than you to improve your game. I work on every area around the board finishing, 501, doubles etc. When playing in the spare room I make sure I throw every dart like itís a match but I have the radio blaring out.

From Andy Fairclough (Superstars of Darts).: Kirk, what are your ambitions for the rest of the year, given you have a mammoth amount of money to defend in the 2010 World Championship?

KIRK SHEPHERD: At this moment in time my ambition is to do well in Players Championships to get into the World Matchplay and World Grand prix and also to do well in the UK Open at Bolton to get some ranking money. I'm not thinking of defending the 50k, I'm concentrating on picking up money asap to keep me in the top 32 and then when Ally Pally comes round again to look for a quarter final spot at least.

Do you think that following your success in the 2008 World Championships that people then expected too much from you too soon?

KIRK SHEPHERD: I think many people expected me to be doing well and I must admit I thought I would as well, a lot better than what I am doing. It can be extremely frustrating knowing how well you can play and not producing the results, as I know I have it there.

What changes have you made over the past year or so to try and improve your darts or professionalism. Have any of the pro players helped you? If so, who and how?

KIRK SHEPHERD: Yes, I have made a few. I believe in professionalism 100%. I'm now in bed early and eat sensibly before a competition. I hardly go out like I used to do. I was quite fond of nights out on the town and weekend benders with the lads. I've had to cut this down massively. It's no good turning out to play darts and not feeling 100%. I've also tried to keep fit as you can be at a venue for 9.30 and and still playing in the evening. The image of darts has changed form the days of drinking till 3 in the morning and I believe now you have to be fit as a dart player.