Steve Kent: First of all Steve whilst we are here, what were your initial impressions of the South West Snooker Academy when you first visited last year?
Steve Davis: Oh I was blown away. It was places such as this that you would have dreamed of years back.
There was always talk about having a certain level of playing standards around the country and there are some excellent clubs, but now we are seeing the next generation of training centres. And that is certainly something to be done if we want to keep up with China, for example, because they will certainly have them.
SK: Tell us more about the World Snooker coaches programme you are doing with Terry Griffiths. Has it been a success?
SD: I think it is very important that we have World Snooker coaches who have the accreditation to go around the world. Every sport has these and it is a necessary part of fulfilling the requirements for many things to do with UK Sport. There is a reason for having a coaching scheme, but more importantly we need to encourage a new generation of players. We can't just leave them to their own devices. If there is a young lad or girl out there at the moment looking for something to do with their life as a past time, we are in competition with all other pastimes; golf, video games and so forth.
We need people out there, effectively to champion the cause for snooker, encouraging youngsters in their local areas, possibly getting into schools, for example demonstrating snooker as a beneficial after school activity, which is very different from the old days where snooker halls were dens of iniquity. Things have changed now and snooker is considered to have social benefits as well.
This is a very important part of the snooker coaching scheme, and of course the other side is to make sure that we have coaches who are up to standard in teaching the game. It's a three pronged attack to build on what there was before. We have had World Snooker Coaches in the past but we need to move on another level and empower the coaches to go out there and sell themselves a little more.
The next step will be a steady in-take of coaches from this country, but the important step is to get this set up around the world. There are so many countries now wanting to play, and we need to make sure that they have a good standard of coaching as well. I am sure they are out there; I imagine if you go to China and Germany now, there are very interested people who have the enthusiasm and knowledge from reading books and the Internet.
Image courtesy; World Snooker
SK: The next big step would be to have official World Snooker coaches in China and holding courses there?
SD: Yes, there are some excellent coaches who are not World Snooker coaches. If you are a parent, you want to know the person you are going to has fulfilled some requirement, and then you have down the road of having official coaches. Whilst it would be nice to leave everyone to their own devices, like the PGA (Pro Golf Association) who have excellent coaches who are not PGA standard.
The differences between the snooker coaches and the golf coaches are that we are not asking for a playing standard from the coaches, because that is limiting. We feel there are some excellent people who have enough power in what they can deliver and enthusiasm, perhaps running youth club level snooker events for example. The standard of their own playing is not that important at this point in time.
SK: If you could give one tip to an aspiring young snooker player, what would that be?
SD: It would probably be the benefit of keeping your body still, which starts with your head throughout the shot. If you look at all of the players, there are a myriad of styles but the one thing that binds them all together is that all the top players will keep their head still on the shot. That would be my one tip to a young player.
SK: Do you agree with all the changes Barry Hearn has made in the past few years?
SD: Well I am biased because he is my mate, but I always qualify that I do feel from watching him in action over the past 30 years in other sports as well as snooker that he has the gift, he has the golden touch. When he makes a judgement on something, it is not guided by anything other than experience in the market place.
I feel he is trying to drag the game kicking and screaming into a new generation of entertaining people. From my perspective, the changes he is bringing in, not every player might like them but we have a sea change and it is only when we all pull together that this sea change becomes a huge global wave of success that grows and grows.
This is a good time for snooker; there are so many people in the world watching. You probably know this from the hits on your website that there are more people tuned into the World Championship this year than ever before. But harnessing that requires certain skills, and Barry Hearn has these skills which may have been lacking in the armoury of the previous incarnations of our board which were trying to run the game and be the players union. Now we have someone out there who has proven that he can do this job, and I think that if he can't do it, then nobody can. So we trust him to do this job and I don't think he'll fail because he treats it as a challenge.
SK: We touched on it earlier, but how do you think would be the best way to get more young people involved in the game initially?
SD: We probably have to rely on the clubs and the coaches. Hopefully the coaches really generate an interest in their area. Many players also play their part and help out in their own area. A professional player wants to be paid to get his cue out but to go down once in a while to his local snooker club and helps out with a Saturday morning coaching class can bring many rewards perhaps later down the line.
I do think we are getting to the stage now whilst the top players are probably saying “I will get my cue out when it’s time to play” it may be a bit more like roll your sleeves up and get stuck in. In the end we need to be pulling the same weight. I do think if we all do one or two things a year where somebody asks us to turn up to do something rather than saying “How much are you giving me?” then that maybe the way forward. I do think that getting more schools and councils to realise that snooker is a good pastime is the way forward.
SK: One of the benefits for the younger kids would be to keep them off the streets for example.
SD: Keeping them off the streets is a very important thing, and that was Paul Hunter's idea for his foundation. Think about it now it may have benefits, but like I said before we are competing with other pastimes that keep people off the streets as well.
SK: You've been given a wildcard to compete in the Brazilian Masters later in the year. Tell us more about that and how do you think you'll get on?
SD: I was the first player from the international game to go over to Brazil back in the 1980s. They played a game called Brazilian Snooker, on a small table, 8 foot by 4 foot, one red and the colours, and a different bunch of rules, and that was their game.
I went over to play against their champion in a TV challenge match and I won. That was quite an achievement because it was a completely different game. I went back the following year and played their next champion who was a very good player but who has sadly passed away now and he beat me. It was a popular game then. But in the twenty-thirty years since then they have embraced international snooker and when they finally got around to getting this tournament together they wanted a name they remembered from the past, so I got in by the back door which is lovely.
I'm looking forward to it; they know snooker for a long time and they know a good player when they see one. They have got a very good young player in Igor Figueiredo. He is an excellent talent, a big smile on his face and a great character. So who knows? Going to these places is quite exciting. It’s the first real time there's ever been a proper snooker event, the game we know, played there, so it will be interesting.
SK: I know it's a bit early to say but who is your tip for World Champion next year?
SD: I do feel that John Higgins is the one you've got to beat. All the time he's in the tournament, he's a danger to anybody and everybody, and I don't think this will change this season either. Until he starts to lose the grip on his competitive instinct, which doesn't look as though it is going to happen, then he's the one. And whilst there are a great number of other players who can at any time play great, it's John Higgins for me at the moment, and he takes some beating every time he comes to the table.
SK: Thank you Steve for taking the time to be interviewed and all the best for the rest of the season.
SD: Thank you.