Column #491 Jennifer Mounts – an inspiration!

Monday, June 1, 2015
Column 491
Jennifer Mounts – an inspiration! 

Philanthropy is at the very core of our society. While the term is generally applied to very large donors, this is not consistent with the true definition, as anyone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to a charitable cause is worthy of the label.

At the core, a philanthropist is someone who puts someone else’s needs above their own.  Most of us are philanthropists.  Most of us are moved to help others.

In real life, I am a fundraising consultant.  I advise not-for-profit organizations on ways to approach prospects and how to cultivate them once they contribute, to encourage repeat and larger donations.  So giving – why people do or don’t – is something I understand.

When there is a devastating earthquake, tsunami, or hurricane people are compelled to step up and help those whose lives have been torn apart.  There are countless vital causes.  Dart players have stood up time and time again – for Make-A-Wish, Toys for Tots, and many more.

What I can’t get my head around is the recent surge of individuals begging for funds for “needs” that wouldn’t be needs if they simply demonstrated a little personal financial responsibility.

For example, not long ago, there was a GoFundMe campaign by a girl seeking funds to travel to a bikini competition.  One couldn’t help but wonder if she’d have been short of money had she not shelled out a bundle for her boobs.  Of course, I sent her a check.  That’s the kind of philanthropist I am.

So recently, I was skeptical when I saw a Facebook post about a campaign being run by a darts person, someone named Jennifer Mounts.  I read her pitch and, while impressed, I couldn’t help but assume it was more of the same, just better written than most.

Jennifer was trying to raise $2,500 to get out on the tournament circuit – to achieve multiple dreams (the key being to continue helping her mother out of a difficult situation).  Her immediate aim was to cover flights, hotel, and entry fees to compete in a handful of tournaments this summer. 

I just wasn’t sure what to make of it.  It was different.  Her story was uniquely compelling.  But was it for real?

Quite unexpectedly, next came a message post from Rob Heckman, someone whose judgment I highly value, encouraging support for Jennifer’s campaign…

Jennifer gets it, more than most “pros” in terms of marketing and putting a real effort to grab support.  I started playing for her mom back in 1994 when I first began, before Jennifer was born.  Her mom was a big influence for darts back in the day in Tacoma and why I started playing darts then.  Jennifer is talented in art, music, and is making her way in darts. She has a genuine, unfiltered, unadulterated love for the sport and a fresh counterbalance to a lot of the BS we hear and see on a daily basis in darts in North America.  She gives back to everyone who helps, so in effect, she is working for her funds.  I feel Jennifer is an inspirational person and her campaign is worthy of support.

So, okay, even though Jennifer wasn’t competing in a bikini contest, I sent a donation (hint to Jennifer: you know what to do if you want more money). I was convinced she was different. I contacted her and asked for an interview (she doesn’t know me, so she agreed).

Now, any lingering doubts I once had have been erased. Completely. I am sure you will agree after reading her words – that Jennifer Mounts is exactly the kind of person darts needs to gain the respect it deserves, but has squandered for so many years.

She’s the real deal…

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 If I had ten minutes on national television, I’d tell people to chase their dreams.

                                                                                                                                    – Jennifer Mounts

Nickname: The turtle – I take forever to release each dart.

Date of Birth: March 4, 1992 – I’m 23.

Hometown: I was born and raised in Lakewood, Washington, which is where I currently live.

Spouse, Family, Pets: I’m single, and I have no pets.  I’m moving into a house soon with friends and plan on getting a puppy

Hobbies (other than darts): I’m extremely into fitness and general health and wellness.  The reason I went for a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry is because I wanted to become a registered Dietician and simply have a love for active sports.  People scoff at the idea, but I truly believe that mental focus in the midst of a match is enhanced by being physically fit with a disciplined mind and body.  One other major component in my life is music.  I’ve been playing piano for 15 years now and that played a very big role in financing my college tuition.

Occupation: I just switched jobs. I’m about to start a position with the film crew on the set of Wheel of Fortune.

First job: Picking peas on a farm when I was 13 in Kentucky.

Favorite movie: The Terminal

Television show: That’s 70’s show, Friends and Parks and Recreation.

Meal: Sushi, cream soda and mac and jacks.

Night on the town: Sight-seeing or taking an adventure to a part of a city I’ve never been.

Sports team: I’m one of those jerks that doesn’t follow televised sports… I only watch DARTSLIVE and steel tip pros battle it out!

Musician: Casey Crescenzo from The Dear Hunter

Book/Author: Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series.  Robert Holdstock, Lois McMaster Bujold and James Patterson.

Pet peeves: A lack of work ethic, vision, direction or compassion, uncleanliness, teenagers that romanticize their relationships, when people discredit the hard work and practice I put into this sport by telling me I’m “pretty good for a girl” thinking they’re complimenting me when they’re really just demeaning me.  It’s offensive to my gender and encourages the idea that women are by default at some sort of disadvantage because of their sex.  Imagine if I walked up to an African American gentleman and said “you’re pretty good for a black guy!”.  You’re probably uncomfortable just reading that, right?  It’s completely out of bounds and rude.  Unfortunately, it’s more obvious when race is thrown into the equation rather than gender as to what is actually offensive.

Worst habit: My worst habit with my mechanics is keeping my elbow down during my take back.  My worst non-darts habit is probably cracking my knuckles before I do anything that involves my hands. I developed that habit playing the piano so many years.

What most people don’t know about me: I’ve been advised to keep a little mystique about me!

If I were stranded on a remote island I would most want to be stranded with: Probably Fallon Sherrock so we could make-shift a steel tip board, and she could teach me her ways.  I would say Phil Taylor of course, but after all he is significantly older than me, and I would want to make the most of my life on the island assuming I’m stranded there for life.  🙂

I would like to be remembered: As an ambassador for this sport.

If I won a million dollars: I actually have secret plans for the dart community if I were to make millions someday – that I’m keeping secret for as long as possible!

OasisI’ve been shooting since my very first Medalist season in novice doubles a little over a year ago, back in September of 2013 – but my entry into the sport was pretty much an accident.  Joining a league to bring business to my mom’s bar was my original motivation to start playing and entirely influenced by my mother – Lynn Mounts.  She was the highest rated female in the Washington area in the 90s when I was born.  The Oasis Tavern had been struggling for years after the bar industry declined, the economy went to hell, and the dart scene began to fall around seven years ago.

I was 21 and in my senior year of college when she admitted to me how desperate business was, so luckily I had enough savings to quit my job and work on revamping the bar while finishing school.  Step one was to get my cousin, Jesse Lindberg, on board to help me give the Oasis a modern touch. Step two was to turn the Oasis into a dart bar.  We had extremely high hopes, and business did improve for a little while because we geared towards a 20-year-old demographic.  We brought in beer pong tables for the weekends and joined three different leagues each to fill up the week days with dart players.

Things were going according to plan, but then something happened that was unexpected… Jesse and I simply fell in love with darts.  It became more than just a means to gain business during the week.  Life suddenly became about reaching our potentials as dart players and inspiring a new generation of darters that would represent the game in a more professional way than what we saw around us.  So I developed another action plan – to get to as many tournaments as possible.  Doing so, and achieving success, would mean I would not have to give up my dream to retire my mom and get her out of the bar industry – I would be an active part of her career and be able to personally influence the success or failure of it.  This is what most drives me to continue pushing myself to practice and attend every major event possible.

I’m very aware of the current state of darts and the public perception of the sport.  There’s a very specific reason why I believe darts isn’t a part of the Olympics just yet and why newer players aren’t sticking around to stay active in league or events more prestigious.  I could have excelled in an athletic sport that gathers far more attention and respect than darts – but, honestly, I am inspired to chase my dream of international darting success because of how broken and damaged the sport appears to me. 

Frankly, it is a miracle that I stuck with league and competitive play at the local level during my first half-year of involvement given the hate and discouragement I encountered ‘growing up’ in the darts world.  Many of the current population of players at the local level can often be uncivil, unwelcoming, and selfish – the antithesis of ambassadors of the sport.  I’d bet you that 90% of darters out there don’t actively attempt to bring brand new players into the sport and encourage them to stay.  I’ve been shooting for only a year and a half and have personally encouraged several players (that had never competitively thrown darts before) to join a league and re-sign up for a new league at the end of the season.  People often only care about themselves and do not want to see others succeed. 

I realized at an early stage that I was unwelcome and not respected for my developing talent.  I was unfamiliar to the crowd of regulars.  My gender will always be my master status.  Preconceived notions about female potential clouded how some other players viewed my involvement.

It was bewildering to me that players could actively participate in this sport for 20-plus years and remain the same rating (in soft tip) for the entirety of their career.  I was ostracized for rolling up 3 ratings a time each season.  The owner of Medalist actually forced my cousin and me to split between two other teams for 1st place our very first season in novice doubles because we both improved – we weren’t given the option to compete in a higher flight just because we got so much negative attention for it during state finals.  I’ll never forget this, but I was actually accused of discouraging new players from joining league.  This comment came from a woman that’s been in novice doubles for two decades.  She was livid that she couldn’t sandbag her way to the top this time around. 

I realized there was no human compassion for players as a whole in the Medalist organization and, more importantly, no respect for the players that strive for excellence.  All of the money is in B flight, and no one is encouraged to become a Grand Master.  The fact that you are considered a Grand Master as a female at a rating of 8 (75-79.99 ppr and 2.7-2.89 mpr) is offensive to me.

This brings me to my second issue with the sport: there is no representation for female players because women are encouraged to remain novice rated in order for male Grand Masters to use them as a tool to win tournaments (the female bonus point and sandbagging go undetected because of how socially acceptable it is).  I’ll even go so far as to say many women are actually scared to attempt to improve their game noticeably out of fear that they will be scrutinized by other women for separating themselves from the pack.  Why should they dare be different?

With no women to look up to or strive to be like, at least that were actually tangible in my life, I turned to the male Grand Masters.  I won’t forget how influential a handful of special people were in my development mentally as a player, but I reached a point where, sadly, I realized that even many of the Grand Masters in my local area were just as unprofessional, unsportsmanlike, and selfish as many of the mediocre players in the community.  This devastated me… these were the men I put up on a pedestal and emulated as examples of excellence.  It just about broke my heart to realize that at 23- years-old, I was already more mature, more level-headed, and vastly more inspired to truly achieve greatness in this sport than these seasoned and experienced players – that I had reached out to for inspiration in the first place. 

All this being said (with many political issues yet to be discussed), I didn’t choose darts over other career options/other sports for the glory of going pro or because of the vacuum created due to the lack of female talent (which actually makes it easier for me to stand out) rather, I chose this sport to help my mother.  I continue because I am deeply committed to inspiring a new generation of dart players.  At the most fundamental level, I believe that my desire and, more importantly, attitude, will become infectious in the community.  I feel that I’ve earned the right to make this claim partly because of the success of my recent fundraising campaign.  I reached my goal in 21 days with 23 days to spare of campaigning.  There’s no way personality/talent alone could have accomplished this.  I think people simply share a vision with me and want to support a common goal that goes well beyond funding one summer of events. 

I moved to Washington my senior year of school to become a resident of the state and go to college at the University of Washington.  I graduated last year with a Bachelors in Biochemistry and still plan to attend the Nutritional Sciences Program to become a Dietician.  I cannot shake my interest in science and nutrition.  Therefore I have no plans of not achieving what I had set up my entire life to achieve.  Darts was simply unexpected in my life, but I’m so happy to have fallen into a beautiful sport with an unbelievable amount of potential.  It’s a dream job to be involved with the sport on such a professional level.  I would love to find a way to squeeze both of my interests career-wise into my life. 

I’ve had a job since I was 13.  My friends used to joke that I was born with a  pay-stub.  I started out in Kentucky picking peas and doing manual labor.  When I was old enough, I switched to fast food and retail.  In college, I stuck with mostly sales for commission and finding unique ways to make money on the side to afford tuition.  I sold phones, mattresses, interest services, paintings, sheet music for games, recycled art, trading cards and decks; you name it.  My dad is 50-years-old and still paying off student loans.  I told myself from the beginning that I would not ever be in that situation.  I’m happy to say I was debt free graduating from college – until I started renovating my mom’s bar. 

To be honest, since I just started, I don’t have a lot of experience in big events, yet.  So far, I’ve won Medalist novice doubles, novice trios, C trios and CC doubles.  I’ve won the local Battle of the Sexes three times in the past five months and four women’s only tournaments.  I’ve competed in (I took my family to it) the Quads in the Desert in Las Vegas last September (I played in both the Sand and Sage divisions, and my team placed 13th in the Sand).  Recently, I competed in the Oregon Open and won the 501 singles – my partner and I finished 1st in 501 doubles and 2nd in cricket.  At Bullshooter in Chicago last weekend, I finished 3rd in the Monsters of the Midway B division and 3rd in Top Gun women’s B singles cricket.  With teammates and draw partners, I finished 7th in 501 women’s doubles, 13th in mixed cricket doubles, 4th in the women’s B combo luck, 2nd in mixed trios, and 2nd in women’s B cricket doubles. 

I’m most proud of the fact that my cousin and I finished first in our division for Super A doubles this Medalist season.  We went to the state finals over Mother’s Day weekend and, while we didn’t win, we’re extremely proud because, well, I cannot tell you the number of people that told me I had no business playing in this flight.  It’s no handicap, and the same team wins it every year – they haven’t rolled up or down in probably five years.  I don’t believe a woman had ever placed at State in this division, and I was determined to break the ice. 

Outside of darts, I try not to indulge in anything non-productive, and I’m very proud of just about everything I’ve accomplished.  If I had to pick my most prideful accomplishment, it would probably be finding a way to balance school, work, and family efficiently.  I know that doesn’t sound exciting… but finding a way to graduate college while shooting in three leagues a week and bartending 30 hours a week while simultaneously finding time to make money on the side to afford all of this is an accomplishment and struggle that I will never forget.  The sacrifices were real, the effort was not re-creatable, and the successful outcome was very emotional for my entire family. 

I don’t believe anyone has time to really sit down and listen to the novel of career goals I have in and outside of darts, although I’ve touched on a few already.  To sum it up, I’d like to become a professional dart player.  I plan on using social media and possible television productions to influence and encourage a new generation of dart players to join and represent this sport in a much more positive way than currently seems to be the norm.  I plan to start a non-profit organization geared towards youth, and am determined to someday be in a position to organize this.  I’d like to travel internationally and experience darts on a grander scale to shape how the sport can be run and advertised in the most effective way. 

I look up to any pro that reaches out to the community in some way to encourage new players to join or help them with their current game.  There is a Japanese pro (that I can’t for the life of me recall the name of right now) that runs a non-profit organization teaching dart players of all ages correct form… that’s amazing to me. 

My heroes are my cousin and my best friend.  They are accessible and influential in my life and have kept me in this sport despite the horrible treatment we have all received.  They inspire me to chase my dreams in and outside of darts and always assume the best of me.

Do I have a nemesis?  I absolutely do not.  I don’t even pay attention to my opponent while shooting unless it’s outside of competition and just a friendly match.

I’m okay losing to a person so long as I’m outperforming myself, and they had to do something exceptional to steal the game away from me.  I’d tip my hat to anyone that has perfect darts to finish a game. 

There is one person in particular who has been stupendously influential in my overall darting experience, so far.  It was only by chance that I met Brian Damron almost exactly a year ago.  He randomly bumped into my cousin and me at our very first Medalist state finals in novice doubles.  Jesse and I put his team into the loser’s bracket and, sadly, I don’t even remember playing against him.  Long story short, Brian took the initiative to track me down on Facebook in order to reach out and see if I wanted to shoot a league with him.  This was a very early stage in my darts career.  I had not experienced this kind of simplistic kindness from a dart player, so I instantly knew he was going to be a fantastic friend. 

There was a time where I honestly believed I had to allow others to outcast me in order to grow as a player, but with the help of Brian and our shared experience rising from a novice status quickly, I sought out and found true friends who support and love me for my character – not my skill.  I was used for a little while by men wanting to butter me up and get that female bonus point in, but no longer.  I’ve come a long way with the caution and guidance of my close friends. 

Brian personally went through a dart hitch right before meeting me and very carefully introduced new aspects to my throwing mechanics one step at a time which was of crucial importance in relation to the continued success of my growth as a dart player.  I’m forever thankful to him as a personal coach and lifelong friend. 

My cousin Jesse and I often joke about being the most badass mixed doubles partners out there.  We figure we have youth and a blood bond to make us stand out.  I routinely switch up partners though.  My rating is always improving, so I fit into caps different as time goes on and I can never keep the same partners.  I stopped being able to shoot with Jesse about five months ago.  It’s unfortunate because he and I have perfect chemistry as partners.

My first sponsorship was with Ultimate Team Gear a week before my birthday in late February.  However, once my campaign launched Scotty Burnett shared my post early on and encouraged me to reach out to Tsuyoshi Yamasaki with L-style, who eventually offered me a product sponsorship.  I believe I am the first non-premier player to receive such an invitation.  Soon after that, I had created a profile with the Internet forum website Dartz Nutz and the administrators offered me a sponsorship with them as well.  I simply have to post on the website twice a week. I’m speaking with a barrel company currently and would be so grateful to figure out something with them – fingers crossed! 

As for future sponsorships, my cousin and I fantasize about getting athletic apparel companies and nutrition advocates to sponsor dart players to change the image of the typical dart player from out of shape to fit.  Nike, Omnutrition, Armor X, etc..  A chiropractor would also be amazing to offer sponsorship… the entire right side of my body is always destroyed after a long weekend event!

How do I practice?  I start out warming up on bulls.  I don’t actually begin target practice until I’ve hit five bulls in a row.  Then I start with the 20 and look at the entire segment as a whole (it doesn’t matter if I hit a double, single, or triple – as long as I hit the segment it counts).  My goal is to hit the 20 nine times in a row; then I move on to 19 and the rest of the cricket numbers.  When I’ve completed part one, I go back to the center bull and don’t move on to part two until I’ve hit five bulls in a row again.  Part two consists of my points of reference training: I must hit a bull, triple 20, bull – twice before I can move on to 19.  I do that exact thing for all of the cricket numbers (on a good day I’ll throw in triple 12, 13, 11 and 6 as well).

I am confident that this routine will serve me well as I continue to compete this summer.  I will do my best.  I owe this to my sponsors, all the people who so generously supported my campaign, and to the sport.

As I said in the beginning, I always tell people to chase their dreams.  My dream is to be the best I can be, always represent the sport positively and professionally to encourage new players to become involved, and to continue to help my mom and family.

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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.