Interview with Bernd Roith

The German dart player from Tübingen in the South of German till last summer was more or less unknown though he already took part for some time at the tournaments of the PDC Europe and already had won against several well-known PDC players. But though he's got over 20 years of experience playing steel-darts he never played DDV tournaments and so never really attracted attention despite being able to keep up with the better known German top dart players.

In summer 2010 this changed all of a sudden when he qualified over the PDC European Order of Merit for the European Championship 2010. He for many rather surprisingly won his first round match against Denis Ovens. He was the first ever German dart player to reach the second round this PDC Major Event.
By this he almost was qualified for the PDC World Championship in 2011 and he drove it home during the PDC Players Championship weekend in Bad Nauheim in autumn. He met Dennis Priestley in the first round at the Ally Pally, to be sure a head scratcher for a debutant, and he failed.

As till now only a single Players Championship took place on the European continent one can't say how 2011 will develop in darts for Bernd Roith.
But he's got a PDC Tour Card as well though till now he didn't use it.

As Bernd Roith even after his two TV appearances still is some kind of unknown celebrity , I did an interview with him to get to know some more.

Bernd - your showing during last years PDC European Championship in Dinslaken probably was a surprise for a lot of German darts fans and then you even went on and qualified for the PDC World Championship - was it a surprise for you as well?

Oh yes - I was a little bit surprised at least relating the European Championship. Originally I hadn't even intended to play the last Players Championship in Haarlem before the European Championship - too far away and too expensive. But I had a very, very small chance to reach the top eight of the European Order of Merit and felt “forced”to take part - and it worked!

What is your explanation for this success?

Well, I played in Haarlem for my standards a really good tournament und reached on one day the third and on the other day the fourth round with wins against Colin Osborne and Paul Nicholson. That was a giant step for me. And on the other side some of the players in the same situation couldn't use their chances. That was all.

In the steel-dart scene you are more or less a dark horse - did you ever play DDV/WDF tournaments? Or DDV Bundesliga?

Yes, I play now for the second season in the Bundesliga as often as my schedule allows it. I play for Bad Waldsee. And last summer I play without any success the Swiss Open.

Was it the PDC Europe which brought you into Steel-dart of did you play in clubs but never in tournaments?

No, it was not the PDC Europe. I play steel-dart now for 23 years. 20 years active in different leagues. The problem here in the South of Germany is that the league in which I started to play never was a member of the DDV and because of this I couldn't take part in DDV tournaments. That was one of the reasons I started to play soft-darts as well at the end of the 1990's.

Did you play the PDC Europe Major League?

Yes, from the beginning. With the Jokerboys from Süssen.

You live in Tübingen a town one connects at least here in Southern Germany with academics and environmentalist. Does there exist a darts scene at all?

It existed one once. At the beginning of the 1980's the league I mentioned was founded. At one time around 40 teams played in it, today only 12 teams remained.
When I moved to Tübingen to study in 1989 around 4 - 5 pubs with dartboards existed, today there is only one where we practice.

And how did you get into contact with darts?

When I came to Tübingen I lived above one of those pubs with quite good dartboards. Two league teams practiced there, who played for beginner like me some kind of extraterrestrial darts.
That was a real challenge for me - one thing led to another.

One usually hears one needs a lot of experience in competition to play good on the big stage - are you an exception?

I collected quite a lot of experience over the last twenty years.

Do you like it to play on stage? Is it something special for you?

I wouldn't say I really like it but at least you've got enough room up there and always a chalker and caller who are always up to date so you can totally focus on your match. But of course you have to be able to blank out that there are some 100 people in the venue and that TV cameras are on you.

When you though about the World Championship and the stage in Alexandra Palace did you get nervous?

Of course thinking of all the people and the TV cameras gets you weak in the knees. It's really important to blank everything out when you are there.

With Dennis Priestley you had quite a hard opponent - did you feel anxious or don't you mind at all who your opponent is?

I don't think there are hard or easy opponents during such a World Championship. Of course there are differences in the averages and in the consistency of the players but in the end - might be there are some who can't win against but you can lose against everybody. I think every participant on a good day can pull a top match out of the hat.
You always can wonder about the form but you can't rely it's only on paper. Or - as Sepp Herberger would have said - the next opponent is always the most difficult.

For many dart players Dennis Priestley is some kind of an idol - for you too? Or have you got another role model in darts?

Dennis Priestley was and still is one of the most successful dart players of the world, what he achieved I would like to see someone else do it first! I've got the utmost respect for him.

Did the German players with World Championship experience talk to you and pointed you in the right direction?

Oh yes, from time to time they talk to me (lol) - but no - they didn't help me with advice. I never asked for it.

Does the crowd in any way affect you?

I've to answer that with Yes and No.

Did you prepare in any special way for the World Championship?

In a special way? No, I wouldn't say this. I practiced more and more the nearer the tournament came.

Did the German participants travel together to London?

No, the schedule of the PDC had "distributed" us in the first round rather evenly: Andre had to play at the beginning, Jyhan in the middle and myself at the end of those eight days. Beside this both are with family so they wanted to return back home after their matches as soon as possible. I myself had flown to London at the 21. of December I couldn't fly sooner because of work and holiday issues.

Were you accompanied by officials of the PDC Europe?

As far as I know Torsten Brock and Sebastian Meyer were in London. But both had returned already before my match.

Were you accompanied by somebody to support you? And is such kind of support really helpful or do you prefer to be alone during such a tournament?

Two long-time darts companions travelled with me to London: Karsten, together with whom I played for many years in a steel-dart club and Stefan, my team buddy and doubles partner in soft-darts for many years.
To answer the second question: I think both can be the case. To be accompanied by friends brings a little bit of positive distraction - otherwise I would think too much about the World Championship and the media frenzy which would result in weak knees. On the other side both know me good enough to know when they better have to leave me alone.

What and how looks your normal practice?

Since I've got a full time job (around five years) my practice usually is playing league matches twice a week. Additional I play smaller regional tournament when I find the time. Only before the PDC events I practice more that means every day at home or in my dart pub.
My focus is on all the doubles from double 1 to double 20 and bullseye around the clock. I try to hit every double with every three dart. If I don't succeed I've to hit the double twice. Sometimes it costs a lot of time and patience - I am not allowed to stop before I've fulfilled the task!
My second focal point are all the triple from the 10 upwards, especially those I couldn't hit recently. That of course requires you do some match analysis - that means you reflect about your lost matches, might be faults and not only think because you hit a 12-darter, a highfinish or some 180 you are already a Pro Player. You shouldn't forget all the rubbish you played in the other legs.
I practice by the way on a Bulls Advantage Practice board (before it was a Champion choice).

Do you occupy yourself with sport scientific methods or perhaps sports psychology?

Only elementary but I plan to do so soon.
Here in Tübingen we've got a sportsscience college might be that opens new possibilities.

Is there for you a difference in practice according practicing steel-darts or soft-darts?

Not really beside the adaption to the different darts. There is the weight difference from 19 g to 21/22 g and due to the different points the darts fly noticeable different. And of course every time one needs to get used to the difference of the oche length (DSAB against the rest of the world). But after ten years playing both it's not really a problem any more.

As your World Champion opponent you throw more slowly - is it your natural throwing “style” or did it develop over the years?

It is true my time for a throw is over the average. The throw itself is only marginal slower well- when you disregard speed darters like Van der Voort or Klaasen.

Do you work on your fitness?

Should you mean jogging or weight training my answer is no.

What do you think is your strength in darts?

My calmness and the capability to focus - that I at least in parts can focus totally on my game. My scores are all right - when it works quite consistently. I am quite happy with my doubles too though.

Which are the areas you think you should work at?

...they are very improvable!!!

What is your profession and how much time do you have for practice?

I work in a staffcantine - it was not enough for a decent job. The job occupies me so much there is not much time and power left for practice.

What about possible sponsors???

That really looks bad!

You got offered a PDC Tour Card now - did you accept it and which are the consequences?

When I got that right in case of doubt you can decline it. The consequences are clear: the PDC awaits of the holders to take part in tournaments in the UK as well. I've to wait and see how I can arrange this with my vacation.

Would you like to be a fulltime Pro and do you see a chance to get there?

Of course I would prefer to pass my time playing darts - especially tournaments here in Europe and perhaps all over the world then to cool my heels all day and ruin my back in the end. But that's not really easy.

How would you principally assess your chances on the Pro Circuit - are the British players just too good or can one reach their standard?

The advantage of the British players is in my opinion that they earn their living playing darts - that means they don't do anything else but playing darts at least a lot of them. Beside this from around 33 Players Championship a year 24 for are played in England. Plus eight UK Open qualifiers plus tournaments in North America, Australia, South Africa etc. which means that the British players meet at the least every second weekend, when they take part. Which most of them do. Beside this there are the Major Events and a lot of promotional and invitation tournaments in Great Britain and other countries.

What do you think would be necessary to keep up with them?

One should play a lot more pro tour tournaments. One should meet the challenge to find out how good you really are. One should play all the time against the Top Sports till it gets normal and one manages to win from time to time against one of those.

Would you say it is more difficult for players not living in the UK to gain a foothold in the PDC? That those players are at a disadvantage?

Of course it is more difficult, the reasons above suggest it. And beside all this the UK is around 10 to 20 years in advance relating sponsoring.

Did you set yourself goals for your dart career?

To play on till I drop. No, seriously as long as I am capable to win smaller tournaments and to defeat in the PDC from time to time in a good match one of the prestigious players I will not give up hope to reach a semi-final or a final of a Players Championship.

What do you think how good you can be? Do you think there exists something like a “natural” limit?

I am sure something like that exists so of course it depends how high you raise the bar. I think without going out a limb that in foreseeable future there'll be no player capable to throw 10 different nine - darters in a row. The human mechanics/musculoskeletal system just is not as accurate - even when you optimise equipment and throwing techniques. Even should a dart be released from the throwing hand without rotation and wobble the human body is not accurate enough to produce 90 perfect darts in a row. As you can see one can raise the bar very high but you can see as well at this example which in the end is the key and where in the end the personal limits are either out of talent or even out of age.
Utmost accuracy, focus and consistency are in my opinion the key for a good and successful performance.

What do you like best in playing darts?

I am not really sure - might be winning? And that it's never really thrashed out so you can always set yourself new goals.

Have you got other hobbies and interests beside darts?

I play the guitar, I am an enthusiastic film and music fan, and I like to be on the road with my bicycle.

Pictures with kind permission of Thomas Schröer/PDC Europe

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