Graeme Dott has just set himself up as a snooker coach and has a new website, details of which follow this interview. The previous interview I did with Graeme focussed more on his playing career and aspects of his autobiography. In this interview he talks about his coaching aspirations, and gives his thoughts on the current state of the professional game in his own unique way; the Dotty rant! Who says the game lacks characters?
Last time we did an interview you mentioned that after your playing career finished you’d like to get involved in snooker somehow but you weren’t sure what. When did you realise it was coaching?
Not that long after. In the last couple of years I’ve started to get into it and I just think that in this stage of my career I’m happy to know about things I wouldnae have like to have known maybe 5 or 6 years ago. I think it would’ve pickled my head a wee bit with cue actions and things like that. Whereas at this stage of my career I quite like it and I feel as if I’m helping myself with it as well right now.
What do you mean by saying it would’ve done your head in?
I think it’s ok people thinking they know their own cue action, but there’s knowing your own cue action, and there’s really knowing it by looking at it in depth. A bit like maybe golf, Nick Faldo did it in golf maybe overanalysing (his golf swing), and I never used to like things like that but now I know my cue action inside out. And even when I’m playing other players I can’t help but constantly look at their cue action and what I think’s wrong with it and things like that, but 5 or 6 years ago it would’ve pickled my head.
You gained your coaching qualification from Del Hill at his snooker farm, what was involved in that process?
It’s basically a course and there’s a written exam as well. It’s the same type of thing the WSA’s would be I’d imagine but this is Del’s way of coaching.
So you’re not a ratified World Snooker coach, you’re independent?
No, I’m basically a Del Hill coach and if you say you’re a Del Hill coach it’s accepted in a lot of places, because Del did a lot of the WSA coaching before he left them so it’s virtually the same.
He coached you to the world title didn’t he?
Exactly, so there wouldnae been much point in me going to do the WSA’s coaching when I don’t really play the way that they teach. It would look a bit strange if I was telling somebody to do something when I don’t do it myself. I think Del Hill’s way is the way that I play and I think it’s the best way of teaching people as well.
What level of player are you looking to coach?
All levels. I would quite like to get some young Scottish players and get the standard back up to where I think it should be. But also I can imagine when I’ve stopped playing going to the Crucible with somebody and helping them there.
Are you focussing more on the technical aspect, the cue action, or is it mental coaching as well?
It would depend on what the person was looking for. I’m open to both. A lot of the professionals who were maybe looking for help might be looking for the mental side, which I could do as well. Whereas with the younger ones it would be mainly technique.
Do you see Terry Griffiths as a role model with the part he plays in a stable of players? Is that the sort of role that ultimately you’d like to be in?
I could imagine when I stop playing maybe doing that. I imagine maybe going to the Crucible and having say three players there. I would like that so yes, that’s what I could imagine doing. I couldn’t imagine me commentating, and I don’t really know anything else other than snooker so I think it would be useful with the knowledge that I’ve gained to pass it on.
Why do you not think you’d be a good commentator? I would love to hear you in the commentary box!
Well 1) I don’t think I’ve got the voice for it, I don’t know if people would understand what I’m saying and 2) I think I’m too honest (laughs) I’d probably say things I shouldnae say. I don’t think I’m cut out for being a commentator.
Well Ken Doherty is a commentator and he’s harder to understand than you!
I know, a lot of people have said that. You never know. You never know, but as it stands right now commentary is kinda hard to get into. Coaching is easy, I can do it myself, I don’t need to rely on anybody. I don’t know if I’d be any good (at commentary) but I know I’ll be good at coaching.
Well I hope you don’t rule it out because your straight talking would be great in the commentary box.
Have you thought what it would be like to be coaching a player you came up against in a big match?
No I’ve not really thought about it, it’s hypothetical but there’s certainly going to be a chance that before my career finishes I’ll end up playing somebody that I’ve been helping, but I don’t really see how it’ll make a massive difference.
Have you had a coach throughout your career?
Just Del, and that was kind of late on in my career. I was self taught all the way through until I met Del which was maybe in 2004 or 2005, something like that.
How long were you with him? Are you still with him?
No, I’ll do the occasional bit of work with him but I was with him when I won the World and we didn’t exactly go our separate ways after that but I just didn’t need to go and see him all the time. Occasionally I’d go back and see him if I wasnae playing very well but that was it.
What percentage of players on tour do you think don’t have a coach?
I think there’s probably quite a lot but it’s not only that, I think you could be seeing somebody but they might not be teaching the right things or are working on the wrong things. But I think there will be quite a lot of players that don’t have their own coach.
There’s a coaching tip on your website which says “9 times out of 10 the first shot you see is the correct one.” Can you elaborate, are you talking purely break building and potting a ball to get on the next ball?
I think it could be anything. Normally, the first shot you see is the shot you end up playing. If somebody plays a safety shot and the white is still moving, the first shot that I see is normally the shot that I play, 9 times out of 10. It’s when you see the shot and then you start thinking about it and start to change your mind and that’s when you end up probably playing the wrong shot.
Sometimes you need to consider the frame or match situation, like Steve Davis the other night if you saw it?
The last frame when he was a bit behind Steadman and started playing some really clever shots which you wouldn’t necessarily see straight away…
It would surprise you. Honestly it would surprise you how good the professionals are and how quick they see the shot. If Steadman is playing a safety and the white is rolling up, Steve’s already probably worked out maybe three different shots that he can play before the white has stopped.
You are prone sometimes into rushing shots particularly when you’re frustrated. How would you deal with a player you were coaching if they did the same?
I hadn’t actually really noticed it, that I was doing it so much! But now you’ve brought it to my attention. (laughs) Obviously as a coach I’d tell them not to do it, it’s not something you’d like them to do, but I’m glad you’ve brought it to my attention because I didn’t realise I was doing it!
Going back to cue actions, what are your favourite cue actions among your peers on the professional tour?
I know everyone usually says Steve Lee but I never really saw that as much as everybody else. Ding has probably got the best cue action, and you’ve got the likes of Neil Robertson and Mark Selby so I’d probably say those three.
What about the worst cue actions?
(laughs) I can’t really tell people they’ve got the worst cue action because it wouldnae be very nice! There are a few out there though.
Do you ever look at a player and wonder how he can hit the ball properly with that cue action?
Yes there’s quite a lot of that, but they obviously know what they’re doing themselves with it but there are quite a lot where you wonder how because they’re doing so many things wrong, but it’s repetitive and works for them. I mean look at Alex Higgins.
Where’s your game right now compared to when you won the world title?
It’s quite good. I mean I’m better now than when I won it but when I won it I didn’t think I played that well anyway. I think the best my game has been was probably 2010 and I don’t feel I’m too far away from it right now. I think if I could get there (the Crucible) I could do some damage but obviously getting there is quite hard with my qualifying match.
When you won the world title you had a defensive game but soon after became more attacking. Was that a conscious decision?
Yes because the game’s changed. I think the game that I had then was good at that time, well very good at the time because I was very hard to beat, but I don’t think I’d be winning as many matches as I am now, with that game. The game’s changed, you’ve only got to see the likes of Judd Trump coming through and Ding and the young kids today. In 2006 if I got 40 odd in front and ran out of position and put the green safe, I think I’d win that frame maybe 85-90% of the time because I’d be in control of the frame. If I do that now, I get 40 in front at the Crucible and put the green safe it’s still only 50/50 that I’ll win the frame. It’s changed so you’ve really got to try and attack.
You think it’s changed that much just in the last 5 years or so?
Massively. The standard is getting harder and harder with more people hitting bigger breaks so if you get the chance you’ve got to try and win the frame from it, I think. I think that’s the only reason I’ve managed to stay high up the rankings.
Now you’ve had some experience of the new tour structure with the flat 128 draws what are your thoughts?
I’ve been the strongest against it from the start. I don’t like it! I don’t think it’s good for the game. I don’t see anything at all in it that’s good. When I was against it initially you were getting some of the… I’ll call them clowns from the likes of forums saying he doesnae like it because he’s now going to be in the same round as everybody else and he’s scared to play them and things like that, which is a load of rubbish!
The same players are winning the tournaments, and the rankings are virtually the same from us all being in the same round as it was when we were seeded. What I’m genuinely trying to say is that it’s not good for the sport. I don’t see how snooker’s going to be going on in 5 years time. They’ll be lucky to have 64 players because it’s too expensive for them. If you had a young son and you were looking for him to turn professional, this format is miles too hard for them. It was easier when you were seeded through, you were playing someone at your own standard, you were learning your trade and beating players at your own standard and working your way through rounds which were gradually getting harder and harder. And if you’re lucky enough to get through to the TV stage, then you’d hit Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Now, you’re a first year professional, first round of the UK and you’re playing Ronnie O’Sullivan. You’ve no chance! I can tell you when I first turned pro I couldn’t possibly have beaten somebody like that in the first round at a tournament. It’s just way too hard the way they’ve done it. I still think a good point which I’ve said many times at meetings and they just don’t bother with it, is that Neil Robertson fell off the tour I think twice, Ricky Walden fell off the tour, Shaun Murphy was close to it until he did well, and how long did it take Judd Trump to make it? So there’s four players that you wouldae lost if you’d played under this system. Because if they were losing to the players they must’ve been losing to when they fell off the tour what chance would they have had if they’d started off playing the standard of player they have now? If you were drawing John Higgins or Ronnie O’Sullivan first round? So that’s players that you would’ve lost from the game, and that’s what might happen under this system, in my opinion.
Theoretically it is now easier for a player to come out of nowhere and climb the rankings within a couple of seasons.
Well that’s where just before this flat 128 we had the fairest system we’ve ever had. The top 16 wasnae really protected. If somebody had done well they moved up the rankings pretty quick and I think everybody was quite happy with it.
This is where they had the previous system but were updating the rankings more frequently?
Yes just before this flat 128. Everybody was happy with it, the players lower down were happy and even the players in the top 16 were ok with it. And then they changed it. I mean if you want to play in every tournament then you’re going to need £30,000 with travelling and expenses and everything else. What chance has a young kid got of earning £30,000? Even if he does, and he’s done a miracle and won £30,000 he’s still got to live! He’s going to have to get a mortgage and everything else so he’s probably going to have to win £70,000 just to break even. It’s unbelievably hard and I think that’s the side the general public don’t see. That’s why I say that it’s not good for the sport in general.
One positive of the new system is that the public are becoming aware of players they wouldn’t otherwise have seen. Previously on TV you’d have the top 16 playing the 16 qualifiers who would generally be the same players give or take without too many young up and coming players making it to the TV stages.
Maybe but again it can be deceiving the way they spin that, because you still get the same players on TV. That’s another thing that’s wrong, I know it sounds as if you’re moaning all the time but I think it’s wrong! (In the China Open) I lost in the quarter-finals to Neil Robertson and that was the first time I’d been on the TV table and he’d played maybe four matches on it. So if you’re talking about the likes of juniors coming through and you think well that’s good because you’re seeing all these new players, but no, you’re still seeing Ronnie O’Sullivan! It’s the same people they’re putting on TV.
You see the streaming tables for the World Championships? In my opinion, the stand out match of all these qualifiers is my match with Kyren Wilson. I think that’s the stand out match but not just because I’m playing in it, I do think it’s the stand out match of the entire draw. I’ve no idea what the streaming tables will be, but it really wouldnae surprise me if it’s not on. Because they’ll show something like Ken Doherty. Do you know what I mean?
Yes I do know what you mean. I think you and Kyren is the stand out match on Tuesday as well and to be honest I think you will be streamed.
But it wouldnae surprise me if it wasn’t because that’s what they do! When I was in China I was highest ranked player in my session, and they had Jimmy White on the TV table! That’s what I mean when you say about starting to see all the new people, you don’t see the new people! Unless these new people are playing Ronnie. It’s still always Ronnie or Neil on the TV and quite rightly so, I’m not saying they shouldnae be on the TV, I’m just saying that you don’t see these new people.
Well you do occasionally but admittedly it’s usually when you see them getting wasted by the top players. Like someone qualifies to play Ronnie and they lose 5-0 and you don’t get to see anything of them which isn’t great television anyway.
Well the UK showed that. I think the only single shock we had was Mitchell Travis when he beat Marco Fu. Other than that there wasnae a single shock. So it’s not as if the 128 draw helps the other players and hinders us. It’s absolutely nothing like that.
What about the format for this years World Championship, which I think was the same as in Shanghai where there is still an element of staggered seeding? I mean you’re coming in for the final qualifying round.
I genuinely don’t know much about it, I just know that if I was in the (top) 16… in fact while I’m already in a ranting mood I may as well moan about the China ranking points not counting which I think is just unbelievable! I honestly found it unbelievable that the ranking points for China didn’t count for the cut off for the World.
Obviously no bias there as you would’ve gone straight through to the Crucible.
Of course I would! But I knew that before it started. Once I saw that a lot of people had lost in the China in qualifying I was looking and thinking “Well that’s quite good, he’s above me in the rankings” and then I find that it doesn’t count! Can you tell me why it doesn’t count? It counted last year! And that’s probably why so many players decided not to go, because they didn’t need to go! The tournament then was just a tournament, it meant nothing in the rankings.
That’s a good point. You also had the PTC finals which were going to be over in Asia and then they shifted to Preston so some were going from Haikou straight to Preston and straight back to China again.
Yes, and the PTC counted to your world ranking and that was before the World qualifiers and China is before the World qualifiers so it must count! There’s never been a tournament before where it’s not counted. That’s the only time that it’s ever happened. It’s strange. It’s very very strange.
When you think about it though, the China Open finished on the Sunday and the World qualifiers started on the Tuesday so that’s probably the reason, although it’s still a cock up because like you say the China really should’ve counted.
That would be the only argument they could have. But it’s the same thing with qualifying for the World. I mean I play on Tuesday, I couldae played Wednesday and then you have a late finish on Wednesday night, you might be playing (at the Crucible) Saturday morning! You’ve got to book a hotel! What does Fergal O’Brien do? Does he fly home to Ireland, and then find out he’s playing Saturday morning and basically have to fly straight back again? So it’s virtually the same argument that they could say about the China one.
What will you do if you qualify? You play Tuesday, the draw comes out Thursday, are you bringing a big suitcase with you?
No I’m gonnae just go home. I’ll go home and then obviously if you’re playing on the Saturday you’ll probably go back down on the Thursday, but I’ll definitely go home. I think if I was playing on the Wednesday I’d probably have stayed and found out what the draw was and then decide, but because I’m playing on Tuesday I’ll just go home.
Going back to the new structure, what’s your view on players playing in too many events and burning themselves out? Do you think you’ll enter everything next season or pick and choose?
I think I’ll do what I did this year. I think I’ve timed it just about ok. You can play in everything, the burnout doesnae actually count to maybe 95% of the players. It’s only gonnae count for the likes of Neil Robertson and the ones that are constantly getting to semi finals and finals. They get burnt out. You’re not gonnae get burnt out if you go in and get beat in the first round and go home. I mean there’s no way I couldae been burnt out this year! I’ve done ok but I’ve not exactly done anything that could burn you out. But I still don’t like playing in everything because obviously I’ve got kids. So I think the way I’ve done it this year was probably just about ok.
What they’re doing with the rankings because of the flat 128 means that rankings don’t mean anything now. All you want to be is to be in the top 16 for the Masters, and be in the top 16 for the World, but other than that you don’t really care where you are because it doesnae make a difference. I think I timed it ok, I shouldae been in the Masters because I was ranked 16 but obviously because of Ronnie being World Champion I didn’t get in it. And again I timed it well for this because if you’d count the points for China which they’d done every year, again I’d be in.
So I think pulling out of a few tournaments like I didn’t play in Australia, I didn’t play in a couple of the PTCs, and there were a couple of other things I didn’t play in so I think I’ll probably do roughly the same thing again next year.
You didn’t get in the PTC finals this year, is that something you’ll try and get in next year?
Oh yeah that’s something you’d want to do. Even though I didn’t get in this year it was very close. It came down the last one and I reached the last 32 and I think if I’d have won that match then I’d be through. I had some hard draws actually, I never really seemed to play any of the lower ranked. I think I had Marco Fu, Peter Ebdon, Ricky Walden, Judd Trump, Mark Selby, Stuart Bingham, I had all them and if it wasn’t first round then it was always second round so I had quite tough draws in the PTCs this year.
So apart from qualifying for the Masters and Worlds you don’t have any interest in being top 16 or would you like to just for the status and to be seeded?
To be honest with you I wouldnae really be that bothered. I think if the Masters has finished then I wouldnae be bothered if I was ranked 25. Even for seeding the standard’s that high nowadays anyway and the rankings can be that weird with the likes of Ronnie and wherever he is ranked. So you can think “That’s good I’m seeded 3” and then you draw Ronnie! So I don’t really know if it makes that much of a difference.
I think that’s one of the downsides to the 128 because it doesnae really matter where you’re seeded. In fact if they took the Masters out you’d only be trying to get your top 16 seeding back at the end of the season for the World. And I think that’s a bit sad because I always liked the rankings and I felt quite privileged to say I was ranked 8 or 9 in the world, but you don’t really look at them that much now.
How does the current scene in Scotland compare to when you first came on the scene as a pro?
It’s definitely drying up. I think we’ve been incredibly lucky for such a small country to do so well. I mean there isn’t probably anything that Scotland’s good at apart from snooker! We’ve done incredibly well but it is starting to dry up now. I think now you’ve got a new batch coming through with Anthony McGill, Scott Donaldson, Michael Leslie, Rhys Clark, but other than that there’s not much coming through after that. So if this batch of four players don’t become as good as your Stephen Maguire’s or John Higgins or myself then there might not be anything else coming through for a while.
So with your coaching you’re hoping to turn that around?
Hopefully. In England in Sheffield you have that academy and I think in Scotland they probably should’ve done that maybe 6 or 7 years ago but they probably thought we were ok because we were continually producing good snooker players but it’s gonnae dry up at some point and I think it’s starting to do that just now.
To finish with I was going to ask if you had any of your famous grumbles so I could have a headline for the blog but I think you’ve already done that! Is there anything else you want to get off your chest?
(laughs) No I think probably the 128 is one of the best grumbles I’ve had in a while but other than that I’m relatively calm for a change. The 128 grumble and the China points not counting was an incredible grumble and I know everybody’s gonnae think it’s because I was in the 16 but it still doesn’t make any sense not to have it count! But that’s my only grumble!
And with that I let Graeme get ready for his drive down to Sheffield and Crucible qualifying match against Kyren Wilson. If you would like to be coached by a World Champion then you can contact Graeme via his coaching website www.graemedottcoaching.com