Column #447 How to put the FUN back into your darts

Saturday, June 1, 2013
Column 447
How to put the FUN back into your darts

I didn’t write this column. I didn’t ask permission to reprint it. It was written by my idol and close personal friend, “El Comandante” Erik McVay, founder of The Website That Shall Not Be Named – formerly known as SEWA.

Hopefully he won’t sue me.

I have other columns in the pipeline but just can’t get the message that follows out of my mind. I couldn’t have conveyed it any better. McVay’s words reflect my own journey and I know all too well how closely they reflect the journey of so many others, including many of the great players who no longer travel the circuit.

Perhaps they will have meaning to you.

As Doreen Berry said to me years ago (before she punched me in the head) and as DARTSLIVE’s Steve Ngu, Rob Heckman and others are preaching to the world today, “Darts should be fun.”

For Erik McVay it is again and this is the reason why…
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How to put the FUN back into your darts
 

by Erik McVay
For the longest time I wanted to compete in BIG tournaments. The Lucky Lites Strike tournaments of the ’80s were driving me to throw more and more and pushing me to improve my game constantly. Then I moved back to Canada and there I found a different driving force: Team BC. I worked at my game and tried to push myself to get better all the time.

A return to the US and several years of on-again-off-again darts found me driving for competition again and a return to tournaments. The Oregon Open in 2003 or 2004 really whet my appetite for competitive darts. I believe my match with Wade Wilcox was the catalyst. I knew I could beat him, I just didn’t and THAT is what drives me as a competitive player: the chance to win, to beat someone I see as a better player.

Hours and hours and hours of wearing out one board after another and my game achieved a new level. I was starting to see darts that I only dreamed of. My first 10-dart game came almost as a surprise and 12 to 15 darters were starting to be more and more frequent. Sure I had the mental part of the game to work on, but that was coming along nicely too.

At this point I wasn’t very popular at the local pubs and shoots and was often accused of “wanting to win” and at one point I called the local league a “beer league” which put me in even more disfavor. In reality my mind was not on the “fun” darts kind of play and that didn’t sit well with those who I ran into.

While many claim that they enjoy playing someone who shoots sub-21 dart games the reality is that most don’t really like to lose and getting “beat up” on the board by someone who throws for several hours a day just isn’t what many league players envision as a “good night” at darts.

I was no longer playing league darts because to me it was too slow, too few games, not enough competition, no playoffs etc. I wanted a battle, a war, a knock-down-drag-out Gun Fight at the Oche. The best night of darts for me was one in which every single dart had to hit well, in which I sweated from mental and physical effort, in which the battle was so stressful that I came away exhausted from the effort of either winning or indeed losing. I reveled in the battles won or lost on ONE dart.

Simply put, I wanted to play the best always and “fun” to me meant tough tough games and matches.

I no longer went to darts to drink and socialize, I went to fight. I wanted to “‘gut it out” and come out victorious or at the least come away knowing that I’d given everything I had, left it all on the oche and just got beat. I was okay with losing if it meant I’d been beaten by a better player, at least on that night, and if I lost, which we all do, I just hit the board even harder. This was my “fun.”

And then the fun went away.

I realized that I’d have to be a lot wealthier if I wanted to play big tournaments or I’d have to move and while I loved to compete I was beginning to see that steel tip dart tournaments just didn’t pay well for anyone under the top 4, or even perhaps worse. When the ADO sent me a 50 cent pen for my regional points win I really began to ask myself: are the time and funds worth the rewards? After all, I’d played in 7 or 8 regionals in a row, paying my own way and even playing in qualifiers so others could go and the end result was a cheap pen with something like “1st in Region 102” on it. Seriously?

I’d spent hundreds of dollars to fly or drive to tournaments 1,000 or more miles away only to earn $25 for a top 8 finish (Men’s Doubles) and while I often found myself in the top 32 or even 16 in larger events it just didn’t pay well enough to justify the costs. Local events (within a few hundred miles is local to us here in the Northwest) sometimes paid well enough for the top two to help offset costs but that was rare (I believe my 1st place finish in the Men’s Double Cricket with Roger Crystal at the Oregon Open or Holiday Open back in ’04 or ’05 paid $60 each and hotel fees ran about $85 a night).

I loved the game and the competition but couldn’t afford the cost and saw that no matter how good I got I’d never earn back the cost of travel and again, I’m not wealthy. So I left the competitive side of the game behind and tried to go back to just shooting for fun.

The struggle began.

It seemed that my biggest hurdle was accepting that my darts would not do what I expected them to if I wasn’t always competing and practicing. I’d go to tournaments “for the fun” of going and then get upset because I wasn’t hitting big outs or 180s. I’d try to play in the local singles league and be discouraged because I couldn’t compete with the top players any longer – players who I’d often bested in the past.

Discouraged and frustrated I muddled around with darts for a few years (or maybe longer)… until finally I no longer cared. It was just darts…

And then I had fun!

Oh how I began to feel the FUN of just playing the game again! I didn’t practice, I just showed up, tossed a few to make sure I knew which direction the board was in and then visited and played when I was told to. I had fun, I won, I lost, I didn’t care!

Oh sure, sometimes I wanted to practice, sometimes I even did but I no longer felt the need to work on something for hours upon hours in order to improve my game. I’d come full circle and I was and am loving it!

Darts is fun again!

So I guess the moral of the story is that while competing is in the blood of many of us and many don’t return to league darts after years of trying to play at a higher level, you can return and just toss the arrows for fun again but it takes work, or rather it doesn’t, if you catch my meaning.

Now I’m off to do other things and because I no longer spend hours a day on the board I suddenly have the time!

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Dartoid
Author of the column that since 1995 has been featured by Bull’s Eye News, the American Darts Organization’s (ADO) Double Eagle and numerous other darts publications and websites around the globe.
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