Simon Adams is this year the South African participant in the PDC World Championship (2023/24). International
he is little known though he already plays darts for more then forty years and was quite successful in South
Africa. Adams sees himself as semi-professional and works as Coach for the ADG=African Darts Group which was
founded by Devon Pertersen to promote the sport not only in South Africa but on the whole African continent.
Before his World Championship debut he agreed to answer me my questions.
Simon, you are internationally not very well known - did you ever before play in an international tournament?
No, not to the extend of the PDC WC. The closest I came to an international event is the qualifier that has been organised by the African Darts Group where players from around the African Continent competed for the spot that I was fortunate to win.
What was you most important success in darts so far?
Besides winning the ultimate prize in the world of darts I had some successs at the age of 14 winning the Senior Singles Championship of the Provincial DARTS Association as well as the Senior Doubles Championship at the age of 16 with my than partner Sullaiman Hasson from East London, South Africa. I have experienced a few successess in a team event by winning the National Inter Provincial Championships with the Eastern Cape Team and alway been ranked in the top 20 players in South Africa achieving a career best ranking of 6th in 2015 but never been selected for the National Pro team although i have met the criterion for selection. I have always knocked on the door of winning but never pulled it all the way like this time around. I guess it is my time, my turn to win.
You already play darts for many, many years. When did you start playing and how did you get into contact with the sport?
I started playing in an official league match in 1979 at the tender age of 11 turning 12 towards the end of that year. My late Dad Samuel Adams had his club practice at our house one evening and I was beating all of the guys in his team repeatedly and -as they say - the rest is history. No development program just raised by a bunch of darts players. Navigate yourself through that one, hey, I had to grow up very fast and learned so much from being in the company of your elders. Let us just say I was the kid that was not sent out of the room when the adults spoke like in our culture because the elders I was with really showed respect for my capabilities and not my age and they were very protective.
Did you have any role models?
Oh yes, there was plenty going around. The Late Norman Goosen, the President of the Provincial Association, and my Club Captain - great family man and administrator. My Soccer coaches, teachers and later my team mates Geoffrey Gamiet, Raymond Lottering, Roger Young, Alister Abrahams and the legendary Laden Gamiet at Saints Football club. These were educated, ambitious, great leaders and human beings that really helped to shape my life. Always remembering the late Harry Ellis from Port Elizabeth, paid forward into my life - gave me my first set of 24 grams 90% tungsten tear drop set of darts upgrading me from the brass Jim Pikes feathered flighted darts. Oh man, how much I was influenced by the behaviour and action of these individuals. Please forgive me if i do not mention any international dart players because my exposure to these icons was non existent. I had no access to these visuals or world exposure growing up in Apartheid South Africa. My boundaries were the township I lived in.
Where is darts played in South Africa - in clubs or pubs?
Clubs have different venues these days. some are still played in pubs and community sport centres
Is darts popular in South Africa?
No, it is not popular and not even part of our governement top 16 priority codes*.
Is it a widespread sport or more played in the big cities?
Well, all nine provinces in South Africa are represented. Mainly played in the Big Cities like Gauteng, Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth. There are about 5000 players in South Africa 50 percent are in the Western cape mainly in Cape Town followed by Gauteng, Johannesburg area, Kwazulu Natal, Durban
And do there exist darts associations or darts leagues where you live?
Oh yes, there are three associations in the district and of course our African Darts Group Franchise The Dolphins
The official national darts organisations used to be or still is Darts South Africa but Devon Petersen founded some years ago with the African Darts Group another organisation which is recognised and supported by the PDC - what was the reason?
There was always a need to create more opportunities for local dart players in South Africa and Africa that Darts South Africa was not able to provide. Devon Petersen and his African Darts Group is filling that gap and now we are competing with the rest of the world.
You are involved yourself in the ADG - in which function?
Yes, I am part of the DG TEAM in my capacity as Director of Development of the Devon Peterson Darts Academy.
One can read your are a semi-professional - would it be possible to earn your living with darts in South Africa?
Yes it is possible now with the ADG creating this opportunities but it is still in it's breakfast stage. It will get better and get to the level where players can do this on a fulltime basis.
What is you profession?
I call it an occupation rather than a profession. I am currently between jobs - just a witty way to say I am unemployed. I got retrenched in March 2023 but I held sales leadership roles in companies like Coca Cola, South African Breweries, Diegeo Brandhouse and Coega Dairy and of course I have spend 16 years working for Government in the department of Education Sports Arts and Culture
One can also read you are a darts coach - whom do you coach and what do you coach?
Now - the jobs that I had my occupation really prepared me for the work that i am doing as a Darts Coach. Although you can lose your job you can never lose your gift. Just during the past year we started a school darts league with 30 local schools and about 132 boys and girls. I coach the coaches and I coached the Academy team that participates internationally. This is better than all the jobs i ever had.
Would you say from your long experience that darts coaching should include mental coaching as well and how would that look?
Oh for sure. Many of the young players come from communities riddle with social skills, single parents, single parents with bad habits, poor living conditions, lack of proper diet, very challenging environments. Focussing on the mental aspects will help these youngsters to manage their emotions, replace negative thinking patterns with positive creative thinking, solution finding behaviour, improved relationship skills and reduce stress and anxiety. Set attainable goals, plan on how to achieve, commit and stick to it, that is discipline applied. Create a safe environment to explore themselves. Listen, probe, show interest, see them, give them a voice and create meaning and purpose. Explorer hopes and dreams and show them what the future can look like but they will have to make the move to put it in motion.
As you are a person of colour - is it more difficult for persons of colour to get into the sport and to be recognised?
Oh I really have to be careful on how to respond to this one because race and racism is a very uncomfortable and sensitive conversation to have but my reality is that race and racism do exist but very well camouflaged and suppressed. Man, we are South Africans. We are champions of race discrimination and racism, we were raised to look at things in colour. Our challenge for the past 30 years is to uneducate ourselves, to educate ourselves and that for us is a challenge.
There are more White People playing darts in South Africa in comparison with players of colour. We live in a country where the majority is Black but less then 5% of the 5000 dart players are Black. Unfortunately or fortunately one cannot apply a quota system in a sport like darts because the numbers or the averages in your performance do not lie. Players are selected on merit of their performance. Yes of course I am mixed race - if I and a Black player end up at the same level the chances are that the Black player could be selected becasue the mandate from the darts authorities is to recruit and empower more Black players into the sport but since the call for this action is just lip service from the authorites - making it political football of a much needed action.
And is darts in South Africa more a white men's sport?
No I do not think that is the thinking, not in a sport like darts
You qualified by the PDC World Championship qualifier winning the final against Stefan Vermaak(to whom you lost on the African Darts Series in a final as well). How hard was it?
Oh Man, Stefan is my boy. Always difficult to play against a fellow team mate. Lost many a times to him but this time it was something that was just meant to be. Always hard. Never easy.
Who would you say are the best players in South Africa?
Well currently the young man from Cape Town Cameron Carolissen is the man to beat. Very consistent in his performance but constantly challenged by Stefan Vermaak, Dameon Steffens, Grant Simpson, Vernon Bouwers, Charles Losper, Deon Oliver and Graham Filby all - previous winners and current contenders.
And are there talented youth as well or is it difficult to interest young people in the sport?
Oh yes, there is Kendrick Koordoom, Tyler Shears, Caleb Cockrell, The Moodley Brothers Heyden and Jeydon from the Wizards Franchise in Cape Town and of course Diego Finnis and Ishaam Darling from the Dolphins Franchise. The Devon Petersen Interschools darts league is the platform created to reach more youngsters boys and girls from the ages 13 to 18.
Before you travel to London the Grand Final of the ACT will take place in Cape Town - will you take part in it?
Yes of course. That will be great preparation for the world championship. I am looking forward to it.
You still practice. Would you tell us what and for how long you practice?
I must say i am spending more time at the oche than before. Because of my degenerative hip I do 2 hour long 20 minute sessions every day.
Will you do something special to prepare for the World Championship?
Just spending even more time at the oche. Very painful because of my condition but very rewarding.
Did you ever before play on a big stage in front of a huge crowd?
No never. It will be my first time and i am really looking forward to the experience - does not matter the outcome.
Do you look forward to it and are you perhaps a little bit nervous?
Yes I am nervous indeed but I am going to make the most of this experience. I will have a story to tell and others to inspire and empower.
What darts do you play?
24g Winmau Simon Witlock darts
Have you ever before been in England?
Oh yes, once when the Laureys Foundation invited me. Once when I won an incentive at work and recently in August when my eldest son got married. Oh I took a team to Gibraltar in November 2022 to participate in the JDC WC.
Will you be accompagnied by family of friends and how important is their support for you?
No but my son will be there because he lives there now, My wife and younger son will support me from home.
What for you is the best and most interesting in the sport of darts and what kept you interested for such a long time?
I was always better at darts than playing Rugby, Soccer, Cricket or table Tennis. And my love for people and this need to empower. Look, one cannot throw stones at police vehicles and get a few rubber bullets in my backside like I did in Apartheid South Africa. Now i must use my skills and knowledge to build and bind. Never there was a darts development program for a hotshot 11 year old like i was so I work hard to ensure there is one now.
* In the sport priority code the sports are listed which are nationally recognised and supported.