The Ladies

I was going to move on to another subject for my next blog, however, over the last week, Facebook has been alive and well with a barrage of posts and comments regarding ladies darts, and unfortunately, not in a positive way thanks to the antiquated, misogynistic views of one….and I will use the term loosely….. ”man”. Although he readily admitted to years of what could be considered an “altered state”, his comments have raged through the internet and lucky for us, do not reflect the general views of all men.

He claimed that a photo showing Asian models in tight, white body suits with their “assets” showing prominently were the future of darts. In addition, he decided to take it upon himself to degrade a group of women who happened to be competing that weekend. And oh no, he was not degrading their dart game. He was degrading how they looked.

So this blog is dedicated to the ladies once again, as I wanted to share a little more from the Advice Section of my book, where some of the most talented female players in North America took the time to give me their advice to new players. And I don’t doubt for one minute that each one of them would add to the end of their paragraph: “don’t pay any attention to moronic, misogynistic males”.

Any my personal response to that guy is this, because it just needs to be said. I have done more to promote and market darts overall, and women’s darts as well, in the last ten years than any of those Asian models in tight, white bodysuits ever will here in America. And yes, I am also well over the “buck-fifty” you seemed to think is the criteria to successfully promote darts in America.

Ladies…..keep on shining!

Stacy Bromberg-Don’t take yourself too seriously and enjoy the game and experiences that come along with it. Life is short…. live for the day!’ That’s MY advice along with when the last dart ends a game, whether it is your dart or your opponent’s, accept it and let it go! This is easier said than done, but if you learn something from every match you lose, then it is not a complete loss. Use it to benefit yourself in the future.

Cali West-One thing to remember about the game of darts is that everyone was a beginner at one time. Everyone has had tough losses to deal with and even the great players have lost a lot of times, before they started winning. Don’t be discouraged by a loss. Instead, learn from it. That will make you a better player. I have always analyzed my losses, and from that, set up practice routines around the weakness I feel caused my loss. Sometimes it would be as simple as practicing my doubles. Other times, it would be working on a specific range of out shots. You may even find it’s a weakness that has to be addressed by playing other people, not by solitary practice. Being able to be your own coach and critic will help you identify and tackle those weaknesses and make you a tougher opponent. Keep in mind that even when you practice every night, you may not always get the immediate results you are looking for. Again, don’t be discouraged. It takes months, even years to make huge strides in your game. Just because you practice for an hour a night for 3 weeks, doesn’t mean you will be throwing for a first place trophy in week 4! However, it may mean getting a round or two further at the next tournament. This game can be very rewarding if you can dedicate yourself to practicing, as well as traveling. But I will warn you this is an addicting sport! It seemed to me, whether I did really well or really bad at a tournament, almost before I even got out the door of the hall, I would be thinking to myself… “Where’s the next one?”

Robin Curry-I have been playing darts for many years, but it seems like only yesterday that I got my first set as a Christmas present from my brother Ron. I started to practice and began to play in some local tournaments. Eventually I started traveling and I haven’t stopped yet. My darts have taken me to the likes of Perth Australia and just recently Belize in Central America. If you like to travel and meet new people this sport is for you. My practice routine involves primarily going around the board going for doubles finishing with the bull and then reversing the order and doing it again. Doubles are key to your game if you can hit the final double before the other player you will win 100% of your games (01 games of course). If I find there has been an aspect of my game that has let me down recently…I will then practice that. Practicing with friends who are at your level or even a bit more advanced is in my opinion the best way to develop more consistency and to prepare you for those pressure shots. A practice game I have recently started doing is starting with 51 and keep finishing every number as high as you can go with three darts. It is great practice even for the more advanced player just to go thru the motions it will help develop your muscle memory. When muscle movements are repeated over a length of time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. Focus and concentration also play a very big role in your success. Mental preparedness will come with time and experience. It has recently been brought to my attention I mentally visualize a lot more than I ever realized. Mentally visualizing your shot, the dart going in where you want is almost as effective as physically doing it. Some say you have to believe… for me it is “TRUST”. Trusting that I have done everything I could to prepare for a match allows me to relax and focus on the task at hand.

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Cindy Hayhurst-I have been playing darts for about 14 or 15 years, I have always been around darts. Both of my parents from Newfoundland played darts and so did my grandpa. It was actually my parents who got me into the game. I was at the community center with parents, and my friend Ashley and I were playing pool and my dad asked me to come over to where he was playing and said “Cindy why don’t you try playing darts?” I said “well I’m not sure if I’m good at it”. So I picked up my dad’s darts and threw them. My first 3 darts were 20, 20, 20, and my dad smiled at me and said “you can play on my team any day”. So from there I played on their team and joined the youth league.

Some advice I would live to give to new player and old: The biggest problem I find is jealousy from other people, coaches, family, and people who say there your friends. The best thing to do is walk away (easier said than done). Just keep you head on straight, stay positive, surround yourself with positive people, and practice you cannot forget to practice.

Sandy Hudson-This bit of advice is a bit unusual in its delivery, but has a wealth of knowledge just the same. While Sandy is one of the best female players in the country, she does not seem to analyze her game or how she interacts with new players and youth players. So we changed things up a little bit and received her perspective and her advice through the eyes of someone close to her, her husband Chuck.

“I never cease to be amazed by my wife, in life and especially playing the sport of darts. One might expect that a player of her caliber would have a regular practice routine to keep their stroke sharp, but think again. Sandy Hudson is a talented player on a national and international level, yet she hardly ever practices even before big events. Now she plays league darts and gets a good workout there, playing the best local players, but when it comes to practice, she just doesn’t like it, it doesn’t motivate her the way competition tends to do.

The one game she does play with me when she can find the time is simply called “121”. We enjoy playing this at home and in the dart bars before or after matches. Beginning at 121 you have 3 rounds (3-9 darts) to get down to a double and hit it. When you do, you advance to the next higher number 122, 123 and so on. If you do not double out you start again at 121. The one exception is a 3 dart out, which means you cannot fall below this number. (Example: 3 dart out at 127 means you start here when you miss your outs).

It’s a simple but effective practice that allows you to learn combinations and outs. You begin to understand the best options for your game and you get plenty of darts to refine your skills. Like they always say, Keep It Simple Sandy, or something like that. This is a great individual practice game and works well with up to 4 players. You can keep score in your head, which heightens the mental workout of this, her only, practice game.

This is the game she teaches the youth dart players to stay loose at tournaments. Sandy has always loved children and she has a long history of supporting youth darts in America. In her career she has been fortunate to compete with and against some of the best darters that have ever played the sport in this country, men and women. She loves the competition and has teamed with some true legends, but the most fun she has in darts is with the kids. No lie. She not only teaches them dart skills, but life skills as well. She explains the game, makes them think about what they need to do and keeps them focused between rounds if they start losing interest. She treats them with respect and makes darts fun for them. She has been involved with many youth players through the years at the local and tournament level and it would be unfair to single out any one or few because she bonds with each of them differently. If you get her to rummage through her dart bag, she will produce pictures that dart kids have drawn for her, many dating back years and some from this year. She takes them with her wherever she travels. Some of the children that touched her life have grown, some have passed, some have put the game aside and some still have a fire burning to improve. Some have been national champions and some have been beginners. She has autographed her plaques and given them to her youth partners through the years. She was especially touched when a boy that was a partner won his first singles event. He was happy to autograph the plaque and give it to her, it still sits on the bookshelf today. She gives her time to these children freely, often making for a longer, more exhausting day. But it is her favorite thing about darts and ironically, she is teaching them to practice, because “practice makes perfect” or at least that’s what she always heard.”

Shea Reynolds-My advice for newer players would be pretty simple. Be YOU! Don’t try to be Phil Taylor, John Part or Darin Young, set realistic goals for yourself, whether it is to be the top shot in your local league, winning the State Title or making the Top 10 in the national rankings. Then you should be very diligent about your practice sessions, it does not always have to be a specific practice routine you use or the amount of one-on-one games you play. Just practice as you would play in a match! And last but not least, keep a positive attitude, I am reminded often by a very close friend to think…”It’s not IF I win, It’s when I win!”

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Marilyn Popp-Darts has been a part of my life for over 25 years. I have accomplished much in the time: the travel to different countries and international play, the many friends all over the world are all the things I will never forget.

I started as a practice partner for my husband Marshall and it took off from there. The better I became the more men I had to play. I’ve always said that women do not have the egos that men have so if I beat them, I would always tone down my enthusiasm.

The one most important thing I’ve learned is how to win and lose gracefully. You can act appropriately for years, but the one time you lose it in front of people is the one those people will remember.

Another thing I’ve learned is there is always someone out there better than you. You can have a good run for years, you are up on top and all of sudden there’s a Bulls-eye on your back. Everyone is out to beat you, they don’t want to be embarrassed losing to you. So they up their game. I once lost to someone who had been playing for only 3 Months.

I was never one who practiced a lot. I found it boring. Some people I’ve spoken too practice 2-5 hours a day. If you practice that much and you are still mediocre, you must realize that’s as good as you’re going to get. I’m not saying you shouldn’t practice, but it is what it is.

Please remember that darts is a game, that’s all it is. The friends you meet and play with and against are for more important.

I have frequently double-booked partners for tournament but never on purpose. Please don’t dump people for better partners. It will always come back and bite you in the A__.

I’m toning down the competitive part of my career in 2013. Attending 20+ tournaments a year takes its toll. I will be playing tournaments close to home for fun. I will be leaving that part of the game to wonderful women competitors whom I’ve come to respect and love. If you meet them at the dartboard please afford them the respect they deserve.

Brenda Roush-Learn to play against the board, and to meet your personal goals. I’ve had many a day that I played well and lost, or played horribly and won. The emotional highs and lows of winning and losing will always are there. But, learn to chart your own progress not by the games that you win, but by the percentage of times you hit your target, the number of darts it takes to finish a game, and the number of darts it takes to hit a double. And speaking of personal goals, what are yours? Make sure you have some clear short-term goals, along with long-term goals of what you plan to achieve in darts.
Learn smart strategy as soon as you can. Often players play for years before learning finishes for 01 games and smart cricket strategy. By then you have developed bad habits and it is much tougher to have to stop and think about your shot than it is when you are first beginning. If you have a natural talent you can get away with poor strategy for a long time, but that won’t be true when you get to the top of your game. And when you are competing at the higher levels it is a huge advantage to be completely confident in what you need to shoot with each dart.

Learn a set of outs for 501 as soon as you can. The longer you continue to have someone else tell you what to shoot, the longer it will take for you to reach your potential in the game. When I started playing, Chuck Spackman was my partner. He took the approach of never telling me what to shoot when I was at the line. He taught me basic strategy and then gave me the space and time to figure things out for myself. After a game, if he had a different suggestion, he would share it. By the end six months of shooting, my basic out strategies were pretty solid.

Learn one set of finishes first. It might be from an out chart, a book, or a player you respect. There are many finishes where different players shoot different combinations. Most outs between 61 and 70 fall into this category. Pick the outs that you are going to shoot and keep shooting that whole set until you have learned them and you easily remember them. Then, you can look at testing out different strategies, and pick your favorites.

Find someone to play against on a regular basis that is the best competitive level for you. For me, that has generally been someone that is about two steps above my ability. For other people it might be someone right at the same level. There was a point when I intentionally played practice games against players much less skilled than I was. That wasn’t because I got a sick pleasure out of beating them, but rather that I had found I had a tendency to “play soft” against weaker players, often leaving a door open for them to win. I needed to learn to play my best all of the time, and get through the mental challenges that softened my game.

Never take anyone for granted. Particularly as a woman, I felt frustration with players that I saw as less knowledgeable than I was, giving me advice. I felt that men, and sometimes women, often underestimated me because I am a female. So, maybe they were taking me for granted, and I now realize, I was taking them for granted.

Now I assume that other people I meet are approaching me with good intentions. When they offer advice, it is meant to be helpful and I am appreciative of that intent. Sometimes it can be the start of a great friendship or partnership. And, it generally creates less internal stress.

More than anything else stay connected to what excites you about darts. It might be the competition, winning money, making new friends, travel or a range of other things. I still go back most every year to the Blueberry Hill Open. It was the first tournament I ever played in, at the bar where I threw my first dart. Each time I walk in that door I remember all over how much darts means to me.

Paula Murphy-My advice to new players would first be to find equipment that works for them. There are different weights, flights, shafts & points. There are three different flights that you’ll notice most of the top players use. The standard, teardrop, & speed flights. As for shafts you have the fixed & spinning shafts. I prefer the spinning shaft as I usually have tight groups & that helps for fewer deflections. Experiment with the different flights & shafts till you find what works for you. Once you find a setup that’s comfortable to you stick with it.

Practice is always important if you want to improve your game. Find a place where there is no distraction. Maybe put on some music to help you get in a rhythm. Start out with a pattern, it doesn’t matter what you throw at. After you throw the first dart try to throw the other two at the first. Once you develop your pattern you can move it around. The amount of time you practice depends on you. You can practice from half an hour to three or four hours. Always remember, a good short practice is better than a long bad practice. One way I used to practice was to have my husband videotape me, that way I could see for myself what areas I needed to work on. If you don’t have a video recorder, have someone watch you. They can see any problems you might be unaware of.

Having a good mental attitude is key to playing a good game. Positive thinking will prevail, as this is a game that is 80% mental, 10% strategy & 10% skill. If you tell yourself you can’t hit something you won’t. On the flip side, if you’re positive & tell yourself I’m going to hit this, you’re more than likely going to nail it. I had several girls I used to help with their game. One girl had a problem with 16’s. She said she couldn’t hit them and I said she could. I said the reason she did not hit them was she kept saying she couldn’t so she didn’t. I told her to think positive, tell herself that she loved the 16’s. Next thing you know she couldn’t miss them. So don’t get mad if you’re having problems hitting a number. Just remember to think positive, focus & concentrate. Sportsmanship. Enough can’t be said for sportsmanship. Even if you’re playing your best game & you get beat never be ungracious in you loss. Respect the other player & he will respect you. This is a game that starts with a handshake & ends with a handshake. So in summary, you need a good dart setup, a time & place to practice, good mental attitude and sportsmanship. If you can get these four things to connect you’ll be on the right road to win. GAME ON!

Bette Cunningham-The most important thing for me is to have fun. I am a very competitive person and love the game. Since some tournament days last 12 hours, you better be having fun or you will not continue to play. As my son would say: “if you had fun, you won”. Some of my best friends are dart players. Being around friends and having fun is a huge part of the sport of darts.

Being humble while playing the game is important but not easily achieved. Your opponent wants to win as much as you do. If you win, by all means, enjoy your moment, but be kind and let your opponent decompress. Remember “on any given day” you can win or lose. There have been many games I should have lost but on that day at that moment the stars aligned and I won. Several years ago a friend gave me the best advice. At the end of your match, someone across the room should not be able to tell if you won or lost. Since we are all very passionate about the game, it is not easy to do.

For me, the secret to having success at the game is to practice, practice and then practice some more. I do think some people require less practice than others. I am not one of those people. My first 15 years, I only played in dart leagues, luck of the draws and some local ADO tournaments. I thought I was pretty good at the game. When I turned 50, a friend said to me “I can make you better”. My son was in college and my daughter already graduated college and moved out. I listened to his experience and thought “let’s go”. He texted me a practice session every day for three plus years. I practiced 2-4 hours a day, 7 days a week. I realized that even though I was a better dart player, there was so much more to improve upon. I continued to practice every day. The “difference” for me was these practices had a purpose and a goal. I had originally thought the goals were set too high, but that is what changed everything. Since I wanted to complete my practice in as few hours as possible, I had to focus on my technique and target. The goals required pin point accuracy multiple times over. As a result, my dart game improved and I was finishing higher at tournaments.

It is also good to remember that everyone has obstacles/distractions in this game. We are all human and distractions can come in the form of a bad back, sore knees, or even a recent argument with someone. You have to focus on the task at hand. For 2 years I could feel my knees getting worse and worse. This became my obstacle/distraction. I had to block out my knee pain, breathe, and focus with every dart I threw. I waited until I could not walk before undergoing surgery on both knees at the same time. It’s been a year and a month since my surgery and I am still a working to get back to 100% with my knees and my dart game. While I am healing I am doing two things, the first is being patient. The second is practicing darts…each day.

Within darts many players have sponsors. I have been blessed to have Dart World, Double Tree and Kryptonite girls in my corner. Your darts can do the talking for you. You practice and start finishing higher at tournaments I believe sponsors will come your way.

Again, for me, successful darts is about having fun, practice and focus. I have met friends for life and have laughed until I cried at tournaments. I love the game and enjoy all the traveling I have done through the years. Eleven Nationals, a trip to England and a trip to Turkey…..life is good.

I will end with my favorite dart story…. I have a son that’s 25 years old. About a year ago, my son was playing a pick-up game of darts in a nearby town. During the game my son says “you may know my mom Bette Cunningham she plays darts”.

My son comes home and says “hey mom a guy named Tony says he knows you”.

All kids go through a stage where they want nothing to do with their parents. I have my son who a year ago wanted you to think he was adopted, and now he is dropping my name at bars!! Life is good.

ME-And while I am not “one of the top players” in America today, I have a lot of experience and some I would like to share for the players of today and the new players. One thing I learned pretty quickly was that being confident in yourself is a big key. Any doubt in your abilities will reflect on your game. You should always remember that even if you have not won a title, you have won games. You know what you are doing. Have faith in yourself and that knowledge that you do. Of course, take the time to practice to hone your skills so that when you get to that point, you know what to do and have the confidence in your ability to do it. Instead of sitting there saying to yourself “oh man, I have to hit a double 16 to win”…change your thinking to “double 16, easy. I’ve hit plenty of them. I can do this” Change the negative to positive and it increases your confidence in yourself.

The second best lesson I learned and I tell other players this all the time. “Three fat twenties will win a majority of your games”. This works wonders to help you keep the pressure off yourself in thinking that you have to hit 100, 140 or 180’s to beat someone. Keep your stroke focused on hitting those 20’s and those triples will fall in.

And of course, my last bit of advice: “don’t pay any attention to moronic, misogynistic males”

And finally, thank you everyone for the great support to all that you read here on my blog, especially with the ladies blog. I really appreciate all the feedback and everyone taking the time to reach out to me to thank me for saying the things that need to be said. Remember that I am not here for me. I am here for you. I am here to support and promote darts and the players and to talk about things that sometimes just need to be talked about. Somehow life pushed me into this little writing niche, so I figure I might as well put it to good use. But without all of you and your support, I might as well be talking to the walls.

Anne Sleepy Kramer
www.sleepykramer.com

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