During the lockdown, many players have taken this chance to improve their darts. We spoke with one player who has been getting renewed attention this lockdown for his superb online performances, Stoke On Trent’s Jake Jones.
Jake, who is currently playing the Unicorn the Challenge Tour, spoke with DartsInStoke’s Shaun Rogers for Darts World:
Q. Let’s start and take this back to January and Q School, what was your thoughts heading into
the event? Am I correct in thinking it was a last-minute decision to go?
A: Well it wasn’t quite a last-minute decision but I’d say in about mid-November I made my mind up that I wanted to pursue darts properly again and there was only one way to do that. My thoughts exactly were to just enjoy it and see how things go. I knew I had the game to get through but it was a tough task after having 5 years out of competitive tournaments.
Q. You did have some time away from competitive darts before this year?
A: Yes that’s right. Before December I hadn’t played anything competitively since the development tours and there under 23. I’m 26 now so that shows at least 3 or 4 years out of competitive tournaments.
Q. On day one you had Josh Howarth and then Wes Newton how did you feel day 1 went for
A: Well I wasn’t expecting much on the first day as I was out of tournament practice but game-wise I played quite well, and let Wes Newton off really. So mixed emotions about my first day.
Q. Day two you had a good run to the last 32 loosing to Dave Prins, did you feel more
comfortable on day 2 having got the first one out the way?
A: Day two started off well for me, I beat some very good and seasoned players in Kevin Mcdine and Mark Barilli to get through to the last 32 averaging a few 90+ averages but came up against a steady Dave Prins, like the day before I let him off with a lot of missed doubles but that darts and I knew I had 2 more days to do well and only needed one more decent run.
Q. Over days 3 and 4 you also seemed to be comfortable with your game with match averages
in the high 80’s and 90’s you must have looked back on the Q School experience and felt good
looking forward to the future?
A: Well where do I start with day 3 and 4. As I didn’t have a lift on Friday I had to drive myself so after day 2 concluded I left my car at the venue overnight right in front of the Robin park tennis centre doors. I come to the venue Saturday morning to start day 3 and found out that someone had smashed my car up and robbed my darts and other stuff out of my car so I had to play with a borrowed set off a complete stranger in the venue. I was devastated, to be honest, as I practiced so hard for 2 months running up to the tournament to just have it taken away from me. I didn’t feel comfortable at all the last 2 days with someone else’s darts even though I had averages of 95+ and a few high 80’s I still felt very uncomfortable and was gutted for a couple of days after Q school.
Q. You managed before the world went crazy to get in the challenge tour events 1-4 with a Last
16 finish on the 3rd event how was that experience?
A: Yes I played challenge tour 1-4 and had a very tough draw first round on the 1st event losing to an on-form John O’Shea with him averaging 103+. The 3rd event like you said was my best performance-wise as I played brilliantly all day finally losing to a great player in Nathan Rafferty. The experience none the less brilliant and intend to get a lot further when lockdown ends and the tournaments come back on.
Q. Did you attend any of the UK Open qualifiers if so how did you find them?
A: I did attend one in Nottingham and it wasn’t my best experience. I got there at 10 o’clock to find out that apparently I had not entered, upon showing them a confirmation email I was finally allowed to play. I played my first game at possibly 12 pm and my second game around 5 pm. The waits were ridiculous as there were around 200 players on 6 boards, but if you want to get in a professional televised tournament, days like that are rewarded brilliantly for the individual that gets through.
Q. Once lockdown happened did you see this as a time to get on the board and get focused on
A: Oh definitely, as soon as lockdown came and furlough came apparent it was an opportunity for me to get on the board and play like I’ve always wanted to.
Q. On average how many hours practice do you put in on a week?
A: Well at the moment I’ve been playing tournaments more or less every day/every other day and practicing constantly. I would say about 3 hours on average a day so about 21-25 hours a week.
Q. And what’s the normal routine?
A: Normal practice for me is match practice. There is no better practice for me than a match against someone. You can practice doubles all day long or you can practice around the board all day long but for me there’s no better practice than match practice.
Q. You have been tearing up knockouts and online events with 93+ avg games and some
excellent darts, how do you feel about your game currently?
A: My game is currently in such a good place. My consistency level is so good at the moment but, don’t get me wrong, I’ve hit a few 82’s a few 85’s recently but for weeks now my game is consistently around 93-95 average mark and on some occasions, 102-106 averages have been hit.
Q. What has been the most challenging aspect and the best aspect to you of playing players
online during lockdown?
A: The most challenging by far is trusting people online. There are so many people out there that just want to win, win, win. If you can’t win without cheating then don’t play. Simple. Some games I’ve constantly had to watch the board and caught a few people out and it puts you right off your rhythm. The best aspect I’d say is being able to still play competitively during such a rubbish time also meeting a lot of new people from all over the world who are genuinely top people.
Q. When we come out of lockdown and back into playing on a tour whatever that might look like what do you see for you and your game, where do you hope to take this good form have you set any plans for the rest of the season
A: I haven’t thought much about it yet as we don’t know how long or when all this will be blowing over, but one thing I can assure is that I will definitely keep practicing to keep up this consistent form I’ve been producing recently. What I do see personally for me is to be pushing up the challenge tour rankings and trying to get that elusive PDC tour card that everyone strives for. I know I’ve got the game for it. It’s about producing it consistently that matters.
Q. Like most players sponsorship to play in the tour is key are you looking for sponsors and if
any are reading what do you feel is your best attribute you can offer to bring them a return on
investing in you?
A: I’m currently looking for a sponsor and I’m not going lie, I’m in talks with a few management teams/sponsorship deals. My best attribute I would say is that I’m a dedicated, loyal, and determined guy who wants the best for me, my family and anyone who wants to back me. I’ll always try my best if I’m 4-0 down first to 5. I would never give up and always think I could win the game.
Q. You, like most players, work for a living and have a family to look after, how do you find
the balance between family time and darts time?
A: Like anyone who does sports at a high level it’s a hard task. I get up at 6:30 every morning and scaffold for 9 hours a day every day Monday to Friday. I get in at about 5 o’clock most days, shower, and then play with the kids until tea time. Then at around 6:30 pm, it’s bath time for my kids and bed for 7:30 pm. Then tidy up time and settle at about 8:30 pm.
It’s hard to feel like practicing after a tough day but what I’ve come to realise over the last 6 months is if you want something out of something as I do with darts then you make time. Even if I get on the board at 9 pm I will practice until near midnight to make sure I’ve done enough. It’s good that I’ve got good backing from my girlfriend and children who push me and get me on the board as well even if I feel like a lazy day.
Catch the quickfire round, of Shaun’s Q& A,with Jake Jones here