An Interview With American Darts Pro Anne 'Sleepy' Kramer
Darts is a big deal in the United Kingdom with televised games and well attended events and a strong system for producing talent at the local levels.
In North America, it is certainly not so much so. While it does seem to simmer away nicely at a certain level it seems unable to shake itself free of all it's stigmas or to otherwise plant itself into the broader consciousness of North Americans or to break through in terms of popularity.
That being said, there are some people in Canada and the United States who are excellent players, and some that are not so good but enjoy a good night out and everything in between.
Luckily for us and for the game of darts some of those players offer the game a glimmer of hope as ambassadors of the game. One of these players, and someone who is among the higher ranked in the game is American darts professional Anne 'Sleepy' Kramer.
Anne does such a good job of representing darts that she has signed on with Shot darts as one of their ambassadors.
Anne was kind enough to agree to an interview and this is how it went.
You tend to be ranked pretty high. Where exactly are you at right now?
It’s looking like I will finish the year at #27 in the US. However, this finish comes with an “*”. There is always a caveat when it comes to things like this. Could I honestly tell you right now that I am one of the top 30 women players in the country? No. Why? Because this is where the fault lies with our ranking system. I will finish at #27 because I was able to travel to about 15 tournaments in the year and most of them were payouts of 20k and up, where more ranking points are given. Can I find 30 female players in the entire country that could whoop my backside every game and not be ranked as high or at all? You betcha. So I therefore enjoy the benefits of being ranked #27 in the nation simply because I took the time, spent the money and made the effort to compete as much as I could. You can see my finishes in the ADO website. I've had nothing higher than Top 8. Not to denigrate myself, but I know I don’t give the time and effort to practice that I feel is more deserving of what a top 30 ranking would mean to me.
I must admit that I was a little jealous that you have your own signature dart. That must be nice, but unless there is a previous version I don't know about it seems that it was a long time coming. How did you become a Shot ambassador and what exactly does that mean?
This is my first version and my first sponsorship contract with Shot! in 2012. There was never any other sponsorship for me, but I am experienced with such things because of my husband. How did I get there? It’s really quite simple and it still astounds me that no one else really takes the time or makes the effort to do the same. “I asked them”. To give it more detail, I was looking through the BullsEye News and saw an ad from Puma about a line of darts specifically promoted towards the ladies. I composed a letter, which the world knows now that I write a lot and I write very well, and I offered my services to the company in return for being a spokesperson for their ladies line of darts. What many players fail to realize is that being a spokesperson involves marketing of not only yourself, but also the company you are representing. It’s not just simply saying I am “big named player” and I will wear your patch on my shirt in exchange for your support. It requires a lot of dedication to spending time online talking to people, maintaining a website and promoting products, as well as yourself as a player, which is also a product. As a promoter of many aspects of the game, I had a lot to offer a company as far as marketing and advertising value and it was this value that Puma appreciated and offered me a contract as a Shot! Ambassador.
For me, it means I have the opportunity to represent a company that goes above and beyond when it comes to supporting the game, it’s players, and most importantly, many youth players all over the world. To me, wearing a patch or shirt from a sponsor, tells the world that the people running the company appreciate all that I have to offer them as a player, as well as a marketing and sales person. They put their trust in me to represent their brand in a manner that would be worthy of their sponsorship. It is not something I take very lightly. They have also invested in me in some way and I feel that I must do my best to give them a return on that investment.
And finally, to me this is the most golden part. It gives me the opportunity to see a young kid playing with a set of cheap brass darts, ask them if they want a set of tungsten darts, walk upstairs to get a set of mine, and give them to the kid to have for his own. You can’t buy treasured memories like the smile on that kid’s face. That is what it means to be an Ambassador.
You started out fairly young in the game. I started this past March but on the 1st of January I’ll be 42. I know Bobby George is a famous example of a late starter in darts, but I think even he was only in his thirties. To truly excel in darts is the early start a huge leg up or is there hope for latecomers to the party like me?
The beauty of darts is that it is not gender specific, nor does it have any inhibitions for people who start playing at an early age or at a later age. The level of skill you develop is up to you to decide. My favorite quote is: “you get out of it what you put into it”. If you want to be a casual player, you don’t practice much and you play a lot for fun. If you want to be a World Champion, you do what it takes to become one. One obvious key fact to remember, which may make people decide that starting later in life is not so good, is the sacrifices that you must make to be a World Champion. Face it. While we can all have the most talent in the world, if we do not dedicate ourselves to the practice and performance that it would take to be a World Champion, then you will never be one. Many players that are older realize that they cannot just give up their job, their time with the family, or everything else in order to devote themselves to this goal. It’s a strange breed of player that can do this. However, if you only wish to achieve success on a more local level, I do not see any reason why a 20 year old or a 40 year old cannot achieve the same amount of success when they are putting forth the same amount of effort to do so.
Maybe a bit of a segue into other things, but you seem to have the writing bug as well as the darts bug. There seems to be a bit of trend I have noticed of dart players immersing themselves in darts beyond the playing of darts. For you does the writing about and playing of darts go hand in hand or can one become a distraction to the other?
I really do have to say that the writing just fell into my lap. For the work I did for my day job for seven years, it involved a lot of writing of correspondence to people. I had a great mentor who taught me great lessons on spelling and grammar and how to structure a paragraph. In 2006, I ended up on a darts forum talking about darts. It was awesome and I loved every minute of it. They had an option for submitting articles, so I gave it a try and the few I did were well received. Eventually I gave that up, but someone else was reading them and he asked me to do some articles for his website. I pondered it, but then life took a crazy turn. It was a couple years later when I started thinking about it again, realized I missed it, so I contacted this guy again and started writing articles for their website. Shortly after, I started writing for NAPDA, as well because they liked my style of writing. So it really was not something I pursued, but it really just all fell into place.
Speaking of writing things, its pretty exciting news that you have a book coming out! Tell us about it! What is it? How did it happen? When and where can we get it?
And with my response to #4 is how we get here. There is an Editorial Director for a publishing company in NYC that is also a casual dart player. From what I know now, they discussed the idea about publishing a book about darts and decided that it would be well received. This gent looked online and happened across the website I was writing for. He liked what he read and contacted me through my website. The strangest part of the story is that his email ended up in my Spam email folder and out of the blue, I decided to check it, saw the email and decided to look at it. It was a twist of fate that would change my life forever. He asked if I was interested and I said: “heck yeah!” and the journey began. It will be available in the spring of 2013 and I will provide more details as they become available to me.
I think in general there is more name recognition for UK based players. I've started becoming more aware of the players in North America in large part through being tutored by George Silberzahn and through reading his book. What is your prescription for darts in the USA and Canada and do you think your own book could play a role in raising awareness and interest in darts here?
It is all about the marketing. The PDC has created a marketing machine and an avenue to showcase their players as stars. There is more name recognition for the U.S. players thanks to the beauty of the Internet. I do think that the book will be a great start because it was designed to be marketed not only to the existing player, but to people that have never picked up a dart before in their lives. It gives them a how to book in simple layman’s terms while giving them an education in the history of the game. Of course though, the book is not my only option for this and there is a plan to continue marketing the game to the general public.
As for what America and Canada needs, the growth of the game in dependent on generating new players to keep the game popular and successful. We've seen a drop over the years because many old time players are quitting and there are no new players to take their place. Efforts need to be made to expose the game to the mainstream public, and to market and promote it as an acceptable past time, to remove the negative stigma that is associated with the game today.
How important is practice, and how much time spent on it is a good amount? I maybe got a little ripped off when they were handing out dart talent, but I put in about an hour a day of drills (my wife says it's actually two hours. I stand corrected). Will I get anything from that other than a sore arm or is it an either you are naturally good at it or not sort of thing?
Sometimes the difference can be on whether you are practicing perfect or practicing bad habits. You can have all the talent in the world, but if your mechanics are not up to par, you are practicing bad habits that will inhibit your chances for success. And again I revert to the quote “you get out of it what you put into it”. Once you develop the good habits of good mechanics, then it is up to you to decide where you want to go with your game. I say this only because not everyone really wants to be a World Champion and can be happy just to win his or her league match every week.
There seems to have been a bit of disagreement about Larry Butler's inclusion in your book. Is that something you'd like to comment on?
Well I had hoped that this had died, but I am assuming not. So to set the record straight, it would be very difficult to write a book that revolved around the history of darts in North America and not have any mention of Larry Butler. Regardless of my personal feelings, it would be silly and spiteful, and I would discredit myself as an author in the process if his name was never mentioned in the book. Larry has had many significant achievements that are noted in the timeline of the history of darts in America. I believe the concern revolved around the fact that I did not choose him to be interviewed for the book. My choice was not out of spite, but because an interview with him did not fall into the story line I was trying to achieve. There may be some negative opinions on which players I chose to interview, but I will credit that to the author’s direction in getting the best opinions from players that I felt would give me a great value in the depth of their opinions on the game itself over a course of years and not a small span of time.
Getting back to your signature dart, what did you put into the design that makes it a great dart?
I wish I could take complete credit for the design; however, I have to give the proper credit to JK. (John Kramer) The original blueprint was his design and was also the basis for his signature Hammerhead line of darts in the 80s, which was noted as being one of the best sellers for Bottelsen while in production. I still have one of those sets in 24g from the original production line and I played with those darts for over 20 years. I had quite a bit of comfort with the overall design. I made my own slight change by adding just a touch more grip to suit my needs, since I just could not throw such a slick dart anymore.
You seem to have had them for sale for $60 including an autographed copy of your new book once it comes out. That's a pretty sweet deal, is it still available?
It is still available for 4 more copies. Originally, it was offered as an incentive to promote the darts and the book, but to also help out my very good friend, John Kuczynski with his annual Toys4Tots fundraising campaign. I may start other promotions once the book is out since I will be continuing my contract as a Shot! Ambassador for 2013, but for now, only the 4 remaining offers are available until they are gone. The darts will be shipped immediately and the books will be signed and sent as soon as I receive them.
Who are some of the bigger names you have played against and maybe tell us a bit about some of your bigger victories?
Ah, well in this subject I always feel blessed for the experiences that I was able to have over the years. When I met my husband, he was one of the top players in the country, and opened up opportunities to me to not only meet some of the greatest players in the game, but to be able to compete with them as doubles partners and against them on a regular basis as we traveled from tournament to tournament.
When I met him, I had been playing a few years already, traveled to a few big tournaments and new the big name players to watch. I had read a book that chronicled one of them, Nicky Virachkul. It was about a month after meeting JK that we were at a tournament and Nicky needed a mixed doubles partner so JK volunteered me. I was a mess. How do you play darts with an icon that you have read about in books?
I wish I could give you a list of big names, but there are too many memories in 30 years of play to really pick on anything in particular. I can tell you my biggest victory was winning my first ladies singles title at 18, about 2 months after meeting JK. I credit it to being in that atmosphere with all those great players and gaining the confidence and understanding that it takes to be a winner at that level. Beating any given name on any given day is great, but the biggest victory is learning the key to success so you can get those wins on a regular basis.
In all the darts you have played, is there anything that sticks out to you as being especially special or defining?
I would have to say that the special would have to be that I was given the opportunity to meet some of the greatest legends of this game, especially those who have since gone to the big dart tournament in the sky. Because JK has such a rich history in the game not only in America, but in England as well, he made a lot of friends over there during those early days. I appreciate all that this history has given to me and I never want these stories to go away when the people do, so I always felt it was my goal to share as much of these experiences that I could with players of today. I hear stories of legends such as Jocky Wilson, Bob Anderson, John Lowe, Eric Bristow, Keith Deller, Stefan Lord, and so many others because these were first hand experiences from JK and I feel like I was there when he tells them to me. I count myself as one of the few who were able to sit at a table in Dallas in 1985 with the great Leighton Rees, to sit at a table and have a chat and a few drinks with the great Barry Twomlow, or to most recently sit all weekend chatting with the great Bobby George. Winning moments will forever be written in the history books, but great experiences such as these will forever remain in my memory as defining moments in the game.
You also design shirts. Are these for playing darts? Tell us a bit about them!
My older passion is art. I love to draw and have been since I was a kid. This since progressed to graphic design on the computer. Over the years, I had done designs for tournament shirts or league teams locally. After I had met JK, it was coming up on the 25th anniversary of the ADO and they held a contest for the anniversary design. I submitted a bunch. I didn't win, but my design was used on the souvenir program. Flash forward to a few years later at the Las Vegas Open and Tom Fleetwood asked me if I would be interested in doing a design for the next Las Vegas Open. He was tired of the same boring designs he was getting from the shirt company he was using. I ended up doing the designs for the Las Vegas Open for about 7 years. I also did the designs for the Queen Mary Classic in Southern California for quite a few years too. I gave it all up because I had too many other things going crazy in my life and could not give the time needed to give them quality products, so I gave up on it. I still do one or two things here or there when people ask me and when I am not busy, but it is on a case by case basis on whether I will do the work or not.
Back to the topic of developing the game, is there any advice or good resources and information you could offer to new players to help them learn the game and to improve?
Well, first and foremost, I have to recommend my book! I have compiled a lot of resources to not only teach the many aspects of the game, but did a deep dive into becoming a better player. But not only that, I did offer a section on books about darts and there are quite a few books out there by various authors that were designed to help players improve their game.
If you could pick ten players, who maybe aren't the ten best necessarily but are the ten most important in the history of darts in America, who in your opinion would those ten be?
Not in any particular order, I would have to say Tom Fleetwood for his initiative in developing the American Darts Organization.
Glenn Remick, because he took his knowledge and made his own organization, the American Darters Association, that is still thriving today.
Dan Pucillo for teaching the players of days gone by how to be a professional player.
Sandy Reitan, for showing ladies darts to the world and giving all lady players a glimpse that being a star was achievable.
Stacy Bromberg, quite simply for being the most decorated player in American history.
Jay Tomlinson, for staying consistent with his support of the game and providing the darting public with the constant of BullsEye News since the 80s.
This spot is dedicated to all the tournament directors and their staff that devote their time and efforts to giving the players avenues to play and be successful because without them, none of us would have the chance to compete at a higher level.
All league organizers that give the local players an opportunity to play and compete on a local level.
This spot is dedicated to all the top players over all the years since the inception of the game here in America. They have all contributed to the history of the game in America in their own way and should be recognized for their efforts.
And the final spot goes to all the people that know nothing of the game right now, but may someday decide to pick up a set of darts and decide they like playing. Without those new players, the game will never continue to grow.
You certainly seem to keep busy so good chance I might have missed something. Is there anything else you'd like to tell my readers about?
Hahaha…I like to write, I could probably go on forever! My nickname on that forum ended up being “Yappy”. There is so much I want to say, or to keep saying. I love this game and will always do what I can to promote it within my abilities to do so. So stay tuned, there is definitely more to come!
You thought I was going to ask you about the nickname didn't you?
Of course! But then I would have to refer you to the About Me page at
If you wanted to ask about Anne's very limited excellent signature dart and book deal please visit here..
I hope you have enjoyed this interview and hope you will check out my own largely darts focused blog..
Thanks for reading!