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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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Training Your Brain

In my last blog, The Mental Aspect of Competing, I looked into different ways that your mind can affect your game. It ventured into how we think as a player, practice versus playing, and why our performance can differ from practice to competition. It covered the aspect of creating a strong mind for you, as a player, because it is the belief that only those players with a strong mind are going to compete at the higher levels and only those players with a strong mind are going to consistently win.

The term “hypnosis” comes from the ancient Greek word hypnos, which means ‘sleep’. The terms “hypnosis” and “hypnotism” both derive from the term “neuro-hypnotism” which means ‘nervous sleep’. I got the nickname ‘Sleepy’ because I used to be able to sleep a lot when I was younger. Nowadays, I use it because I never get to sleep enough and I am always tired. Hypnos is the Greek God of sleep. Now that’s a god I can worship easily!

What is hypnosis? The dictionary describes it as: the induction of a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction. It is used in therapy, typically to recover suppressed memories or to allow modification of behavior by suggestion. Hypnosis can be a useful tool for anyone who wishes to master certain abilities or accomplish specific tasks. Hypnosis is a state of human consciousness involving focused attention and reduced peripheral awareness and an enhanced capacity for response to suggestion.

During hypnosis, a person is said to have heightened focus and concentration. The person can concentrate intensely on a specific thought or memory, while blocking out sources of distraction. Hypnotized subjects are said to show an increased response to suggestions.

Now we are not talking about some little, old lady dressed in black, hanging out in this dark, little tent in the corner of the latest carnival that showed up in town overnight. The sign out front says how Madame Beatrice will tell you all about your life while reading cards, or tell you all about your future while looking into her crystal ball. The concept has progressed a little further than that. Sports Hypnosis has been used for years by all levels of competitors from amateurs to professionals to enhance their sporting performance. Sports psychologists have been in business and assisting athletes for many years now and are a staple in the support staff of many professional sports teams.

And now you are probably sitting here saying to yourself: “hypnosis for darts?” That’s the craziest thing I have ever heard.  I was first introduced to the term “sports hypnosis” from my husband years ago. He mentioned that a few years before we met, he had undergone sports hypnotherapy because he was struggling with his game. About the only thing he told me about it was that it taught him how to win and that was the end of the conversation and probably all I wanted to understand about it at the time. About the only result I have seen from it in later years is that while I struggle for 30 to 45 minutes to get to sleep every night, he falls asleep in 2.5 seconds flat…much to my annoyance.

Some time ago I came across a website that was selling downloadable hypnosis sessions, called The Hypnodarts System, to improve your dart performance. I happened across the website again on the computer and decided to throw something together for a blog and maybe help out a player or two that has been struggling with their dart game. It claims to be used, endorsed and was created with the assistance of the world’s top pro's: Tony 'SilverBack' O'Shea, Darryl 'The Dazzler' Fitton, Gary 'Big Robbo' Robson, Ross 'The Boss' Montgomery, this is a generic version of the system that guided Scott Mitchell to become the 2015 World Champion and also guided Glen Durrant to winning the 2015 World Masters and become world number one. Granted, these are all steel tip players in the British Darts Organization and not the true top players in the world.  And no, I am not endorsing these sessions or this company in any way and they are not paying me for this blog. I don’t even know who they are. As someone who has played a long time and has a lot of experience to share, I am asked a lot of questions by players that want to know these little, intricate details that can take them from the ‘Average Joe’ player to becoming one of the best. The last blog dealt with the mental aspect of competing, and this is a continuation of that train of thought that I had going. I do not in any way think I am the best advisor on the planet for dart players. But I did take the time to put some research together here in the hopes that some people will get a benefit from it.

Using hypnosis to train your mind is like using practice to train your body. Hypnosis can help you effectively handle the negative challenges you may face that can affect your performance. Some of the benefits received from the use of hypnosis are increased relaxation and the ability to manage stress and nervousness, while eliminating distractions and increasing concentration. Many of these tools are vital in a darts player’s performance.

Mental rehearsal, or visualization as some call it, involves using your imagination to practice or rehearse the future. For dart players, it can be visualizing being in a critical match and hitting that game winning shot. Using this positive visualization in your mind is teaching your mind to practice hitting the game winning shot. It can be just like you practice throwing your darts to hit that same winning shot. You are rehearsing the success in your mind consistently and always hitting that game winning shot, keeping your mind in the positive, which may not necessarily happen with your regular practice routines. We all have the same thoughts. We are practicing, and therefore, we are getting better because we are taking the time to practice. But then again, you may have had a bad day, or you are tired, and your practice may be sloppy and not as helpful as you think it might be.

When thinking about your dart game and where you want to go with it, it is also important to create what is called “positive expectation”. Expectation releases Dopamine, which is a motivational hormone. The fulfillment of an expectation releases Serotonin, which is a satisfaction hormone. So you have been called to your match and are ready to play. You have utilized hypnosis techniques to build up your reasonable expectations of finishing well at the tournament. The Dopamine release now creates the urge to satisfy that expectation, which increases your odds of doing well in the tournament in order to live up to your own expectations. It is important to set realistic expectations for yourself, but it is also even more important to not rehearse failures in your mind. This can lead to the buildup of negative expectations. Players can perform badly because they expect to perform badly, which then just reinforces their expectation of bad performance. How many times do you step to the line with a game winning shot needed and you have flashes of a negative thought of what you are going to do if you miss.  It can become a vicious cycle for any competitor that is difficult to break. Hypnosis has been known to break that cycle because it works with the part of the mind that is keeping that habit you created in place.

Your mind and body are connected and always in communication with each other. Hypnosis has had great effects in sports and a player’s performance because it allows transmission of the correct messages from the mind to the body. The mind is telling your body how to behave in certain situations. It allows your mind to control your nerves in crucial situations when an overabundance of nerves can cause a player to clutch or choke during a crucial game shot. Hypnosis can encourage your mind to tell your body at that crucial time to have more relaxed mechanics. The same mechanics you practice day after day so that your unconscious mind takes control while you are playing and you do the same thing over and over until you feel that you got it right.

In my readings on this subject, I discovered what is called the “inner game”, which is a topic made popular by W. Timothy Gallwey. In his writings, he says that every competitor is playing two games-the outward physical game and the game inside their head. It’s a running commentary of your thoughts, feelings and expectations about the physical game that can have a huge effect on how you play that physical game.

The story that was used as an example of this “inner game” was when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile in 1954. Up until then, no one had ever run a mile in under four minutes and it was a given that no one ever would….and every runner believed it. That was until Bannister changed his thought process, or his “inner game” to beat that record. This is a prime example of how your mental attitude as a player can affect your physical capabilities.

Utilizing sports hypnosis can help you deal directly with your mind and developing that “inner game”, with the first part being to get rid of those negative elements of your mental game. An example that was presented used a golfer getting “the yips”. The inability to take a particular shot. While it seems to be a physical problem for dart players not being able to let go of the dart, the root of the problem actually lies in the player's mind. For reasons yet to be figured out, the player’s unconscious mind has associated that particular motion or taking that shot with feeling anxious. So every time that player goes to take a shot, the mind serves up the feeling of anxiety associated with it. It then becomes a consistent, vicious circle because the problems lead to more negativity in your mind and it keeps going round and round. It was noted that hypnosis can help put a stop to it before it starts in your mind. It can use visualization to help you feel calm and in control when you are taking that shot, rather than the constant anxiety, and can create positive feelings for your “inner game”.

Now, it’s not saying that sports hypnosis is going to improve your performance so well that you will turn into the best darts player in the world overnight. You are still going to have to practice every day in order to get yourself to that next level. However, it can make your practice much more rewarding. It should not be thought of as a miracle cure and it’s not going to work for everyone all the time, but is has shown to be extremely effective for the many that have added it to their training.

So, the question then is….can sports hypnosis really be an effective tool for a player to utilize? Listed below are some historical examples of cases taken from one of the websites I used for my research where visualization was used that increased performance. I took the examples as they were written from http://www.sportshypnosis.org/.

The case of Col. George Hall is particularly compelling. Col. Hall was a USAAF pilot who was shot down and captured during the Vietnam War. He spent seven years in a POW camp, and yet, when he was finally released, he found that his golf game had actually improved, despite the length of time he'd spent in captivity. How did that happen? Because all the time he was in prison, Col. Hall imagined playing perfect games of golf, time after time after time. He'd mentally rehearsed success, in other words, which directly translated into physical success when he was able to return the golf course.

Experiments consistently show the power of mental rehearsal. Australian psychologist Alan Richardson, for instance, conducted an experiment with three groups of basketball players. One group were told to do nothing, the second group were told to spend twenty minutes a day practicing free throws, and the third group were told to spend twenty minutes a day imagining shooting perfect free throws. Unsurprisingly, the group who did nothing at all showed no improvement in their shooting ability, but the group who did nothing but imaginary practice showed almost identical improvement to the group who practiced physically (an improvement of 23% and 24% respectively). It would have been interesting to see the improvement of a group who had combined physical and mental practice!

The important lesson to be drawn from all of this is that visualization has to be positive in order to get the desired results. Col. Hall's game improved because he spent seven years imagining perfect games, without any of the slices, missed shots or detours into the bunker that a regular day at the golf course might produce. Similarly, Sally Gunnell probably wouldn't have broken the world record had she imagined herself getting nervous before the race, or hitting the hurdles, or settling for second place.

Positive mental visualization, then, is a potent force - even more so when used in conjunction with sports hypnosis. The American researcher D. R. Liggett has shown that athletes experience much more intense and vivid visualizations whilst under hypnosis, suggesting that hypnosis is a useful "force multiplier" for the already considerable benefits of positive visualization. (#1) Liggett also conducted an experiment with male gymnasts, who used hypnotic visualization to execute several complex tricks for the first time, eliminating timing errors and increasing flexibility (#2).

A famous and early example of the effect of hypnosis on physical strength was given by J.A. Hadfield in his book The Psychology of Power (1923). Hadfield used a dynamometer to measure the grip strength of a group of subjects, discovering an average grip of 101lb. The subjects were then hypnotized and given two suggestions in succession. The first suggestion was that they were very weak - the average grip fell to just 29lb. The second suggestion was that they were very strong - the average grip strength rose by nearly 50%, to 142lb. This is a simple but graphic demonstration of the ability of the mind to influence the physical capacities of the body.

A final area to consider is the effectiveness of hypnosis in an ancillary role to sports performance, for things like weight control and recovery from injury. A meta-study of the use of hypnosis in weight loss programs, for example, showed that the use of hypnosis increased weight loss by 97% during the program, and increased the effectiveness of weight control after the program by 146%. (#3) A Harvard Medical School study of the effect of hypnosis on bone fracture healing showed that a group of fracture patients who received hypnosis healed more quickly than patients who did not, enjoyed greater mobility and required fewer pain killers (#4).

So, you can see by these examples that the power of positive imagery and thoughts in your mind can have a great impact on your overall performance. Everyone has always said for years that darts is 90% mental and after the reading I have done for this article and the last one, I am a firm believer that this quote is 100% true!

As a player, if you are looking for different ways to improve your performance, just remember that sometimes it’s not always something physical that you might need to make you a better player. And trust me, there is a lot of information out there on the internet just waiting for you to come along and utilize. I encourage you to take some time to research these topics further if you have any interest in taking your game to the next level.

Anne Sleepy Kramer
www.sleepykramer.com

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(1) Liggett, D. R. (2000). Enhancing imagery through hypnosis: a performance aid for athletes. The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 43(2), pp. 149-57.

(2)Enhancing the visualization of gymnasts. Liggett DR,Hamada S.Stanford University. The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis.1993 Jan;35(3):190-7

(3) Kirsch, Irving (1996). Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments--Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64 (3), 517-519.

(4) Using hypnosis to accelerate the healing of bone fractures: a randomized controlled pilot study", by Ginandes, CS, Rosenthal, DI. Alternative Therapy Health Medicine, 1999, March, 5(2), pp.67-75.

 


The Mental Aspect of Competing

I was with JK at a league match one night, and he was offering advice and coaching to one of the players on his mechanics and stance, as well we his mental approach to the game. During their discussion about his mindset when playing a match, I was astounded to hear that the player had a different approach to the match in his thought process depending on whether it was a league match, a tournament match, or a finals event. This fact was amazing to me and I realized that there may be a lot more players out there thinking these same thoughts than I realized.  I decided that these thoughts about the mental aspects of competing might be a good subject for a blog. I wanted to take a brief look into the thought processes and I have to tell you, there are a lot of websites out there with a lot of information if you really want to take a deeper dive into the subject.

We all know that champions in any form are few and far between and we often wonder why that is. What is it about the champion, or what is in the heart of the champion that makes them so different than all the other players? I firmly believe that this one defining factor is all in the player's mind. Going back to my league teammate, what would cause a player to think that they needed different mental approaches to matches? It’s not about whom you play, where you are playing, or how you are playing. It is all about you and the board. You have no control over the other player and you have no control over your darts after they are thrown. The only thing you can control is yourself. Your thoughts should be focused on the board only and making each and every dart count to the best of your ability, until either you or your opponent has hit the game winning shot. When throwing for the out, you can’t be thinking if I miss this, my opponent will take his out. You should not be putting pressure on yourself that you need to hit a 100 or a 140 on your turn. You want to be thinking about putting the darts on target, just as you have practiced. Never let the circumstance of the game affect your shot.

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Only those players with a strong mind are going to compete at the higher levels and only those players with a strong mind are going to consistently win.

But to continue further with the mind, how we think, and practice versus playing, why is it that our performance can differ from practice to a competition? I came across a few websites devoted to the subject of the mental aspect of competing and I have shared some of it here. Some words I have changed to suit the concept of an athlete versus a dart player, but for the most part, the content is as it is written on the websites.

Improving performance is not accomplished by isolating the body from the mind, but by providing cognitive skills and strategies that deal with skilled performance. An athlete/player does not suddenly gain or lose stamina, talent, skill or speed in a day, week, month, or sometimes even years. What does change is the psychological control or mindset. When an athlete/player loses momentum or gains momentum, the change is created by psychological and emotional factors. He or she can gain or lose psychological control or get psyched out in split seconds, or what is often referred to as “choking”. Choking can occur in a close competitive situation where the psychological frame of reference interferes with skill execution. We have all seen it. A player has a game winning shot in a very tough match, and while they have shot at this particular double a thousand times in practice and in other games, something in the brain causes them to get that little hitch in their mechanics which prevents them from completing the task of hitting the double to win.

This fluctuation in psychological regulation can be prevented by developing cognitive skills and strategies to manage anxiety, stress, negative thoughts and emotions. An athlete/player must learn to take responsibility for their own arousal mechanism and to perform with it under control. This will establish cognitive behavior which in turn will allow him to perform in a constant manner. Sometimes athletes/players blame other outside sources when things go wrong, or they don’t perform up to their potential, even though it is their own psychological mindset that controls the performance. We have all seen or heard it at a dart tournament. The room was too noisy. The room was too quiet. Many different excuses used by players that failed to perform up to their potential when the game was on the line.

No athlete or player performs correctly and perfectly all the time, however, you can be taught to analyze your own thoughts and behavior so that you can recognize the cause of your performance inconsistencies. The athlete or player that is taught to work toward consistent control over behavior learns to analyze and determine factors that influence it. In order to develop a sport psychological skill strategy for control of behavior, situations that are characteristic of the specific sport and the required behavior for that specific sport must be understood. Once the athlete or player understands the behavioral demands being placed on him, he can cope better with these demands.

Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win. In order to succeed, your desire for success should be greater than your fear of failure.

An athlete or player who competes faces stressful situations and anxious moments hundreds of times over the course of their competitive career. You don’t have to be a professional to experience those anxious moments when your heart starts pounding, your hands are sweaty and you feel weak in the knees. Regardless of how many times you have been in the situation, you still react the same way. Experience is not always the best teacher. Moments of panic, anxiety, and emotional ups and downs can interfere with the physical performance at every level. Athletes/players who continue to perform with some degree of consistency despite their feelings of anxiety have learned to cope in one way or another. Not many of us have been taught the skills and strategies that would enable us to cope and maintain consistent performance. Many have been helped with advice from other players on the physical aspects of competing, but not too many have given free advice with the development of the mental side of the game and their performance. When everyone’s brain works in different ways, how does one player teach another player how to cope with anxiety during a match? I could probably write a book on this subject alone, as it is one of the most talked about subjects in darts. New players want to know how the most successful players deal with the anxiety, the adrenaline rush that happens when in a pressure situation to hit a winning double. But is it really brain training? Or is it more practice? Or is it an outside influence that the player is placing in the body to contradict the effects of the anxiety? Does alcohol or drug use enhance the abilities of those successful players? This is one of the reasons why I chose not to ask any players in particular about this very subject. I cannot see any player realistically owning up to admitting there are any outside influences being used to enhance their performance. Now, I am not saying that just because someone is a top player, that they are using drugs or alcohol to be a player at that level. However, we have all played under the effects of alcohol and know that it can have a calming effect on the body and can lower the adrenaline level when in those pressure moments of a match.

 

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But the brain network lets us not just remember the mechanics, but it allows a player to take more of an external focus and not overthink things. A player maintains a steady practice schedule, so that when they are in a match and get a little bit nervous, they do not blank. The player counts on their muscle memory to take over because they have practiced the same mechanics of their throw over and over again. It is like putting yourself on ‘autopilot’ and let your practice routines take over because if you try to think too much, you overwhelm yourself and end up making mistakes.

This, they have said, is very common because the brain’s motor systems process information faster than our verbal ones. For instance, think of how fast you swing a golf club or a bat compared to how fast you talk. If you try to think while performing one of these tasks, the thoughts interfere with your body movement; your brain tries to make adjustments on the fly and your performance will degenerate.

When referring to “muscle memory,” in your practice routine, it is really referring to a certain state of optimal neural coordination. With practice, you are really training your brain to send out motor impulses with greater efficiency and optimization. While there are physical changes that accompany practice, in the end, it’s the brain that’s getting better and better.

In researching this subject, I came across a website that listed the nine mental skills for a successful athlete. While dart players are not considered athletes in the true sense of the word, they do compete at all different levels like any other athlete would and the skills listed can be applied regardless of what sport a player is competing in. Below the list is a more in depth look into each of the skills as it is written on the website.

The nine mental skills for successful athletes:

  1.    Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
  2.    Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
  3.    Set high and realistic goals.
  4.    Deal effectively with people.
  5.    Use positive self-talk.
  6.    Use positive mental imagery.
  7.    Manage anxiety effectively.
  8.    Manage their emotions effectively.
  9.    Maintain concentration.
  10.       Attitude: Successful athletes realize that attitude is a choice. They choose an attitude that is predominantly positive. They view their sport as an opportunity to compete against themselves and learn from their successes and failures. They pursue excellence, not perfection, and realize that they are not perfect. They maintain balance and perspective between their sport and the rest of their lives. They respect their sport, other participants and themselves.
  11.       Motivation: Successful athletes are aware of the rewards and benefits that they expect to experience through their sports participation. They are able to persist through difficult tasks and difficult times, event when those rewards and benefits are not immediately forthcoming. They realize that many of the benefits come from their participation and not the outcome.
  12.       Goals and Commitment: Successful athletes set long term and short term goals that are realistic, measurable and time oriented. They are aware of their current performance levels and are able to develop specific, detailed plans for attaining their goals. They are highly committed to their goals and to carrying out the daily demands of their training program.
  13.       People Skills: Successful athletes realize that they are part of a larger system that includes their families, friends, teammates, coaches and others. When appropriate, they communicate their thoughts, feelings and needs to these people and listen to them as well. They have learned effective skills for dealing with conflict, difficult opponents, and other people when they are negative or oppositional.
  14.       Self-Talk: Successful athletes maintain their self-confidence during difficult times with realistic, positive self-talk. They talk to themselves the way they would talk to their own best friend. They use self-talk to regulate thoughts, feelings and behaviors during competition.
  15.       Mental Imagery: Successful athletes prepare themselves for competition by imagining themselves performing well in competition. They create and use mental images that are detailed, specific and realistic. They use imagery during the competition to prepare for action and recover from errors and poor performances.
  16.       Dealing Effectively with Anxiety: Successful athletes accept anxiety as part of a sport. They realize that some degree of anxiety can help them perform well. They know how to reduce anxiety when it becomes too strong, without losing their intensity.
  17.       Dealing Effectively with Emotions: Successful athletes accept strong emotions such as excitement, anger and disappointment as part of the sport experience. They are able to use these emotions to improve, rather than interfere with high level performance.
  18.       Concentration: Successful athletes know what they must pay attention to during each match. They have learned to maintain focus and resist distractions, whether they come from the environment around them or from within themselves. They are able to regain their focus when concentration is lost during competition.

Listed below are the websites I would like to credit for much of this article. If you want to delve further into the subject and read more about it online, I highly recommend these websites and a few others that come up.

When performing your search on the internet, use Google search with the words: The Mental Aspect of Competing

http://www.athletics-training.com/articles/sports-psychology.html

http://www.dana.org/News/Details.aspx?id=43530

https://www.sportpsych.org/nine-mental-skills-overview

Anne Sleepy Kramer

www.sleepykramer.com

Don’t forget to take a moment to “LIKE” the DartsBuzz Facebook page! We will be giving away a prize to one lucky person after we hit 1000 “likes”

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Are You An Inspiration?

A few years ago, I worked with JK on this story for our sponsor’s website at the time and when I happened across it, I thought it would make a great blog. We often talk about the different things we can do to promote darts and get more people playing, but we never really talk about what you can do as a player to inspire people to play. I came across a great quote the other day and this is what prompted my look into the world of inspiration. The quote was “how can you inspire love and passion for something in someone else if you don’t believe it yourself?” And it is so true! Most people that have a passion for something want to share it with the world.

I came across another series of random quotes that had to do with inspiration and once they were all put together, they became a compelling dialogue to share in parts of this blog that really gets the point across. It has been said that success is no accident. It is a combination of hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, and sacrifice. But most of all, it involves a love of what you are doing. You are the main character in your life story. Give your audience not only something to look forward to, but something to be inspired by. Take the time to reach out to those other players and create one of those moments where you are influencing the future.

 

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When I started my own website and began talking about and promoting darts, it was because I truly loved darts.  I was blessed to have a lot of experience and I was able to get to know a lot of great people. I don’t think I really did anything to try to inspire anyone with it. I just wanted to share my love of darts. Of course, in these later years, I have heard from others that have told me the things I have done have inspired them and it was truly a humbling experience. Gets ya right in the feels.

Obviously, JK has a lot more experience than me and generally a lot more words of wisdom to share with other players than I do. You would be surprised if I had told you how many comments, thoughts and ideas I have shared in my writing over the last few years that have stemmed from conversations I have had with JK. There has been many times where he will say something and then tell me I should put that in my next blog. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. For now though, here is one from him….and his thoughts on inspiration.

I have been playing darts for many years at many different levels. When I was younger, I always thought about playing and winning, but I never really thought about the image I portrayed to other players or if my actions had any effect on them.  As I got older, the kids would get me every time. There was nothing greater than having a little kid come up to you and say that they thought you were a great player and they hoped that they could work hard and play just as well someday. I can’t tell you how many times I came home and had my wife mail out a set of darts to those kids.

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I had a fantastic and memorable career in darts in the 80’s. And as many of you know, a few years ago, I suffered a stroke. While it was minor in comparison to most, I completely lost the ability to hold and throw my darts the way I used to. I have spent a very long time learning how to hold a dart again, dealing with finding a grip that would now suit the changes, as well as working on my stance and throwing mechanics. It’s been a very long journey with so many frustrations that there were times I really thought about quitting and never playing again. But then I would get home from a tournament and start all over again.

Since our move to New York, we were able to travel so much more, and see many of the top players all the time. One of those top players would always take the time to talk to me on how my progress was going, and offer words of encouragement along the way. To him, it probably didn’t mean much. But for me, and all my struggles, it was very nice to hear. It gave me the incentive to keep trying.

Just the other day, I received a message from someone who said they had looked up to me as a player for many years. He recalled how we had played each other in a final of a tournament and he beat me. At the time, he thought I would be mad, but he said I shook his hand and told him “great darts, you’re really going to be someone in the dart world, keep it going.”  Such a simple thing, but it obviously meant the world to him as a player that he still remembers it to this day.

So I decided to write this article to make other players think about being an inspiration to others. It really doesn’t take much but your time, and a few kind words, which can make all the difference in the world to another player.

And this still holds true today. You never realize how a few simple words can make the difference to another player. You never know what type of struggles a player may be facing and a few simple words from a better player could make the difference for them and help them overcome an obstacle they never thought they would get over. One of the most commented on topic in my book was the advice section. Countless people have told me that I could probably write a few more books with just advice from players all over the world. It is the one common theme that everyone wants to read about. Most people don’t really care what the favorite food of a top player is, but if that top player were to sit down and have a drink with them and talk about a practice routine that helps or a tip on how to focus during a game, and it could create a future champion.

So to my fellow players and future champions, always remember that to be inspired is great, but to inspire is incredible. If you can inspire someone to go in a positive way and pursue a dream, it can only be good. Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do. The best way to inspire people to superior performance is to convince them by everything you do and by your everyday attitude that you are wholeheartedly supporting them. Be somebody who makes everybody else feel like a “somebody”.

Aspire to inspire before you expire. Now get out there and be an inspiration.

Anne Sleepy Kramer

www.sleepykramer.com

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Women’s Darts

“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”

When I started to consider doing a blog about women’s darts, I figured I would be able to share a lot of what I know after playing darts for over 30 years. I have pretty much been what was considered a “good” female player since I started competing publicly. After a few years of local success, I met and married a very successful dart player. My experiences reflected that. For the most part, I was consistently treated with respect.  Even though I was not considered a top player, I was given the respect as one. And the hubby was always the first one to stand behind me and support everything that I have done in darts, whether it is as a player, as a promoter, or as a writer. So I wanted to go out in the community to talk to other ladies and get to know their feelings about being a female darts player. All I can say is that I am completely blown away by many of the things that were relayed to me from other women about their experiences while competing, whether it is at a local level or at the higher tournament levels. It certainly was not all pretty words and good times.

Oddly enough, I asked for feedback from the players too. I even promised anonymity and that I would not quote them directly on anything that would offer a hint as to who they were. And yet I hardly received any feedback at all considering the amount of female players I know. This leads me to wonder if we are so used to avoiding discussing the subject because it’s an uncomfortable and often controversial topic, or are we too intimidated by the responses to our opinions that we may receive? It feels like we have been put in the position to where expressing our opinion is taboo. I know I posted something about the subject recently in a Facebook darts group and was met with responses that reflect the stereotypical comments about washing dishes or ironing. It seems that even asking questions about ladies darts, it is impossible to be taken seriously. However, I sure did get an earful from the few that were eager to share their stories. So much so, that what was supposed to be a blog has now turned into a very large feature piece.

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So we start off with the way women players treat other women players and the overall opinion I did receive begs me to ask the questions: Why do women choose to be so catty or vindictive when it comes to their interactions with other women players? Do women feel the need to resort to these sorts of tactics to gain an advantage over their opponents to bridge the difference in talent levels? Why is it when a player emerges from the group that happens to have a little more talent, or actually puts some efforts into improvement, this person is ostracized from being accepted by the core of female players in the area? Are we that shallow that we have to dislike someone because they win more matches than we do? A good friend of mine commented on it: “Most women do not understand the meaning of competition. They think it’s supposed to be all rainbows and sunshine; all while they are sticking a knife in your back with a smile on their little, vindictive faces.”  I spoke to one lady, and the first sentence of her response was “I wish I could go back some years and never, have ever, played darts or become involved with the local dart community.” The details she shared have changed her life forever and to the point where she has completely washed her hands of it all and is moving in another direction in life. I remember playing for many years in Southern California, but I was not a full time player and only showed up to certain events. I had my reasons for showing up to the specific ladies only tournaments: because all the women didn’t like me. I didn’t care so much what they thought about me. But I made damn sure I showed up to every single one of their events so that they had to be nice to me and let me take the winning trophy home when I won their events.

“The best way to slow down your competition is to keep them watching you.”

From the few things I have read on the internet regarding this subject; it seems it exists in all walks of sports and competition, and life. There always seems to be people who, regardless of your level of success, will try to drag you down. People will talk bad about you to other people because knocking you down will make them feel more confident in themselves. Because of your success, you are left to suffer for their insecurity or jealousy. They tend to actually believe the garbage that they spew about you and until you stand up to declare it unacceptable, it becomes a vicious cycle where more insecure people jump on board until it becomes an entire crowd against you. All because you work harder and expect more from yourself and have achieved some success for it. It’s like being classified as a “nerd” in school because you do your homework; you study and get good grades. But because Little Johnny or Little Jessica doesn’t want to do their homework or study to get good grades, they have to berate you and make you feel like less of a person and certainly not a popular one because you do the work.

 As for how women players are treated by the men. We’ve all seen it. The proverbial “droopy” face when the local guy at the blind draw just found out his partner is a girl. If I had a dime for every time I have seen this over the last 30 years, I would be a millionaire. But seriously guys, we get it. We certainly are not any happier getting you for a partner, especially with that attitude. But honestly guys, if you really were any good, you could get anyone for a partner and win, right? So why the sad face? Chances are you were probably expecting someone as a partner that would make it easier for you to coast through and win some money. Of course, we all know that you picked up darts and were a fantastic player right from the start, which is why you cannot possibly give any thought to partnering with someone who is new or is just learning the game and trying hard to enjoy it and have a good time because it’s a girl. Ewww….cooties even!

I am wondering just where the respect is. Ladies have been competing at darts for a lot of years now and some ladies have truly stepped up and shown the world that they are champions too. We can go back to the 80s and see Sandy Reitan win the Ladies World Masters title and the World Cup Ladies Singles title in the same year. We can flash forward and see Stacy Bromberg become the one and only Ladies PDC World Champion. Have the men ever achieved these same feats? Well, other than Larry Butler Winning the 1994 PDC World Matchplay, the answer is “Nope”. Recently, many of us watched Lisa Ashton put on a fantastic show in one of her singles matches and finish with a 98 average: a phenomenal achievement and on par with a majority of the men. Yet so many female players are looked down at because their play is not on par with the men in their area and rather than being given the courtesy of being accepted as a competitor, they are treated as second class players and their participation in events where there is no separation between men and women is met with open animosity. It’s no wonder that it is difficult to convince ladies to get out and compete more. No one wants to face that much negativity every time they go out to play. It’s supposed to be fun!

“Aspire to inspire before you expire.”

I recently happened upon a news story involving eSports and a video game competition. A young lady, who was a pro player, was accused by two male pro players of cheating once she beat them in a tournament. They were so upset about it that they said if their accusation was wrong, they would quit the pro circuit because the idea that a 17 year old girl could beat them was beyond belief. The gal was not charged, as no cheating was involved. She just happened to be a phenomenal gamer and won fair and square. It resonates with this topic so well. It seems it is impossible for other players to accept that there might be someone out there with more talent than they have. It is hard to come up with a feasible explanation for those people who would stoop to the level of demeaning that person for doing something amazing and winning, rather than celebrate their accomplishments…or at least shake hands like a competitor with some class and say “nice game”.

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Groupies. There is not much more to say. Where is the dignity, ladies? Are doubles partners that hard to come by? Perhaps working on your game and improving your skills on the dartboard might get you more opportunities to compete with great partners instead of relying on your skills elsewhere. I have been told that in soft-tip, many female players will continue to play to lower level standards so that they will be able to pair up with higher rated players to win. I have also been told that many of these ladies will resort to pretty much anything to get those higher rated players to be their partners. I remember when I first met JK over 30 years ago. People thought I was with him because I was willing to trade myself, so to speak, for a great mixed doubles partner. Right. The man was paired up regularly with a lady who was one of the top players in the USA. Obviously a silly notion, but as usual even back then, rumors abound and needed to be addressed all because of the idea that women were using whatever wiles they could in order to snag good partners. Thankfully, I preferred to get my own partners based on my talent and abilities as a darts player. I was just using him for sex….lol…sorry….he was really hot back then.

“After each game, I want to be able to say: I gave it all I could, I gave it my best.”

Events: I recall somewhat of a problem at a major steel tip tournament regarding ladies singles events. It seems that for specific sanctioning from another governing body, the format for the singles events was supposed to be longer than what was advertised and played. The mistake was caught and the men were allowed to play their matches over, but the ladies were told that the longer format was “only suggested” and that they were not going to replay any matches. It seems that there was no respect allowed for the women at this event. They paid the same amount for their entry fee as the men, yet could not be afforded the same courtesy of being allowed to play the longer format. And which of course always brings up the topic that if more women would play, the payouts would be higher. That is comparing apples to oranges. Many of us women were not born yesterday and understand this concept. What we are asking for is equality. If we are paying $25 for our singles entry fee and so are the men, then we should be allowed to play the same extended format that the men do.

Even the American Darts Organization, the governing body for steel tip darts in America has jumped in to take a stand against the ladies in their National Qualifier Program. For those that do not know the program, it involves two National Championships, and two other events to field international teams such as World Cup, America’s Cup and the World Masters. Players from each region compete and the winner goes on to the national event for their chance to make the National Championships or an international team. Of course, some regions are better than others when it comes to fielding enough players to be able to have the required funds to send someone on to the national event. It can cost each player $110 to compete in the regional event (called a National Qualifier). For someone to advance from the regional event (National Qualifier) the fee is $880, which means they need a minimum of 8 players to do so; otherwise, the winner needs to make up the difference in some way, usually out of their own pocket, to advance to the national event. As I mentioned, it is not always easy to field a group of 8 women in their region to be able to have a playoff, and more often than not in a lot of areas, they struggle to field enough to even warrant having the playoff at all. Each National Qualifier is now open for anyone from anywhere to show up to play, as well. So someone from California, can go play in Texas if they so choose. For more years than I can even remember, all over the country, when these issues occurred for either the men or the ladies not having enough players to play, those players that did show up were allowed to compete in the other gender’s playoff. More often it was the ladies joining in with the men, but it was also open for men to join in with the ladies, should the roles be reversed. And yes, there have been times where the ladies have joined in to compete with the men and won the regional event to go on to the national event. Some said it wasn’t fair. Yet these ladies paid the same amount of money to enter the event as the men. They all played the same format. They all went head to head against each other with no difference. Yet someone complained that this was unfair and caused the new rule to be written, which states that in order for a player of the opposite gender to enter into a playoff, the competitors must all agree to let this person play too. If even one person says “no”, the player is not allowed to pay their money and compete with the rest of them.  But then it got worse. Now the rule is that no gender can cross over into the other competitions if there are not enough people. It’s quite simple now. Not enough to play? Then you don’t play. The whole thing just goes against the point everyone makes that there is no difference between a man and a woman competing at darts and we should all compete together. Well, apparently not according to the ADO. They simply chose to drive a divisive wedge between the male and female players in regions all over the USA. Not to mention, what happened to the concept of actually fielding an international team based on qualified, experienced players? Now you have regions where if there are not enough to compete, some of the best and most experienced players in the country are not given the opportunity to represent our country in international competitions. I don’t know about you, but I would prefer to have the best of the best representing us each and every time we send a team out to compete. If my money and the money of other dart players are footing the bill for the expenses, then shouldn’t we be the ones to decide who represents us? If you look at the statistics, the players from the USA had much more success in international competitions when the ADO chose the team based on the point standings, as this reflected who the best players in the country were at the time. If you compare the stats from then to the stats from when the ADO started the national competitions to field the international teams, you will no doubt see that the players have had much less success since. Now this is not to denigrate any of those players who competed and won their spot on international teams. Heaven knows I said it years ago in a darts forum and nearly got my head ripped off by a majority of players on the eastern seaboard.  It is simply a commentary on the process of choosing those competitors and the fact that I, quite simply, don’t agree with it.

So if we continue on with the theory that “there is no difference between a man and a woman when it comes to competing at darts, so women should be competing with the men”, when did we stop doing so and start to compete against ladies only? A long time ago in a land I am far away from now, also known as Southern California, there was a time where all events at tournaments were listed as OPEN. There were no ladies events or men’s events. One such tournament time, a group of ladies staged a boycott of an event to demand that “ladies only” events be added to the tournament schedule. And so, the ladies only events were born. Quite frankly, there are women today who would still like to compete against the men, but now they are being limited to only playing in the ladies events, as the once named “open” events have been changed to “men’s” events.

I read this suggestion on another Facebook page and it resonated very well with me in regards to this subject. And ironically enough, it came from a newly formed all ladies dart group in the Philippines. In the post, it was discussed that they should conduct a simple experiment of when you find yourself at a dart tournament, try counting how many ladies are there to play. Their total posted was 1%, which led to the creation of their group to try and promote women’s darts and get more women out playing. Obviously in America, we have a larger number of participants, but yet compared to other sports, our numbers pale in comparison. However, they made a very valid point in their comments about the reality that there are more tenured players than new blood coming in. At some point, those tenured players are going to stop playing and leave no one for the new players to learn from, emulate or look up to. They will lose the chance to benefit from the earned wisdom of the senior female players.

“Girls compete with each other. Women empower one another.

Up until now I have not pointed out any specific examples of players or named any names, however, for this blog, I asked for some feedback on what was written from Jennifer Mounts. Many of you know Jennifer as the newbie on the block who has achieved quite a bit during her short time competing at darts on such a large scale. I asked her because she has had to endure a lot of what has been said above with regards to her treatment by not only female players, but male players as well. She recently made a video blog about this subject and mentioned how she received hate messages on a regular basis because of all of her success lately. I remember when she first came on the scene, started posting video blogs and offered up many things in her effort to make a name for herself. As a result, she has since obtained a few sponsors to help her in her quest at darts. For some reason, this has instilled a lot of animosity from many other players. Again, it seems we can’t celebrate someone’s achievements; we have to try to kick them down a notch or two. I happen to like and appreciate all that she does because it brings more to darts, especially to ladies darts. I am actually jealous of her, but not how you might think. I spent years doing what I could to promote darts, but I was never anywhere close to being as talented with technology as Jen is. She puts herself out there and gives herself over to the public in a way that no other player does. It is not hard to wonder why sponsors have jumped on board with her. She gives them so much more exposure than those players who sit there and are pissed off at her success because they think they have won so much, that they should have those sponsorship deals.

When asked for some additional input to this blog, Jen had this to say:

“I would offer up the solution that we can't continue to allow ourselves to be the inferior, subpar gender in this sport. The passivity we've been promoting involving the issues you mentioned keeps leading to dead ends with the growth of women's darts. If we only focus on numbers and having an unbalanced ratio of male to female players, then these issues will continue to exist. So even if we find a way to attract a larger number of female players into the sport of darts, they will still experience these social injustices and eventually quit at an alarmingly higher rate than men quit darts, as I've seen many women quit already within my two and a half years of playing.

My main point of view is that women should be more concerned with the injustice of our situation then the lack of female players currently in the sport and the lack of opportunities we get because of those low numbers. In a universe where we have equal representation between men and women in darts, gender oppression, sexism and specious reasoning will still exist. People will forever come up with superficial reasons why women are inherently inferior to men at darts that are plausible, but innately wrong and inaccurate.”

“Women putting other women down is like telling the world that you are more worried about your “competition” than your own progress.”

So with all that being said, not everything in the world of women’s darts is negative. There are many positive things going on for the ladies and I wanted to take a moment here to focus on them. Growth has to start somewhere, and some of these events are showing to be a very successful starting point for that growth to occur. It takes a lot of time, effort and dedication to start up and run events and I applaud all who take the time to do it, as I appreciate them and their efforts. They allow us all an opportunity to compete and we should all be grateful for it.

We have Suzanna Kovach in New York, who started the Atlantis Ladies Darts Club and now with the help of Holly Young, has created the Ladies State Team Challenges, where ladies teams from two different states will get together for a competitive match. There is no prize money; however, they are aiming to have some in the future, but since it is a new concept, they have yet to secure a sponsor that would allow prize money to be offered, so for now it’s all for bragging rights. So far, there are teams from New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, as well as North and South Carolina getting into the competitive spirit and joining in on the fun. That’s a lot of dedicated ladies playing just for bragging rights.

In Tennessee, we have the newly formed ladies group Tuff as Nails, whose purpose is to raise the caliber of darts for the ladies and to encourage play, competition and growth among lady darters.

A few years ago, the Ladies Pro Cricket Shoot (steel tip) in Virginia Beach was launched, has been a great success, and is one of the highest paying ladies events in the USA, however, due to concerns with support; the event only allows 32 to ladies to move into the final round. The staff of the event would love to have participation increase enough so that they could change the event to allow 64 ladies to move into the final round, similar to the men’s event. Take note, sponsors!

For many years, the Las Vegas Open steel tip dart tournament had only one ladies doubles event. Thanks to the push from many ladies, a few years ago, a Ladies Cricket Doubles was added to their line-up.

Of course, up in Canada, we have the NAPDA Ladies Spectacular held in conjunction with the Men’s PDC World Championship qualifier. This event is one of the highest paying, longer format singles event in North America for the ladies.

Robyn Bishop of Maryland shared with me all she could about the “It’s a Woman's Thing” ladies event that was created by some former tournament ladies to promote and support women in competitive darts. The idea is to bring ladies into a tournament environment where it is competitive, but not quite as stressful as a major event. They strive to provide a fun and friendly atmosphere and the symbol of the tourney is the yellow rose (friendship). Their cost is low, $5 per until last year when they added $1 that goes automatically to their charity fund. They started raising money for breast cancer charities when a local player was diagnosed with Stage 4 Breast Cancer.

Jonathan Gambino started the Long Island Dart Tour featuring a ladies and men’s event. It is a long format singles event that is open to the players in the area and is formatted similar to the DPNY Long Format Singles events.

Kelly Gallagher tells me of the WOPEDL (Women of Philadelphia English Dart League) that plays on Monday nights and has 6-10 ladies on each team.

Troy Nordlund of Minnesota recently held a ladies soft tip event that featured a Friday blind draw and a Saturday bring your own partner A and B level doubles where cricket was played in the morning and 501 doubles with the freeze rule was played in the afternoon. Troy is hoping that this will be an ongoing event.

Mylinda Mannion of Pennsylvania tells me that the LAC Dart League in Lansdale run a ladies only remote league on the G3 boards. Also, in Pennsylvania, John Kuczynski hosts a remote online handicap ladies doubles league that plays on the Phoenix boards.

Then we have Brenda Roush, whose local league team in Colorado, “The 8 Year Old Girls” hosts four women's tournaments a year. In addition to the event pay outs, the top finishers are qualified for the next ADO National Qualifier.

Dart Junky down in Georgia hosts a remote PCL Women Singles League through the Phoenix Dart Board from coast to coast (HI to NY). They also host 4 vs. 4 State Remote Challenges for the ladies on Phoenix Dart Boards.

There is also the Moonspinners Ladies Dart Club that has been going in Southern California well over 35 years. They host multiple events each year in their effort to promote women’s darts.

Then we come to North Carolina, my new stomping ground. The North Carolina vs. South Carolina Challenge Cup is the oldest interstate challenge series in America at 35 years strong. I was honored to be one of the new competitors in this long standing tradition. Unfortunately, we came up short and South Carolina retained the cup. The team was led by Sandy Hudson, who is not only a strong force as a player, but as I watched her throughout the day, when she was not playing, she was up behind the other players, offering advice, incentive and encouragement and in the end, the SC team produced the results that were needed to win. Sandy has once again shown why she is a great player, as well as a great mentor and role model for ladies darts.

North Carolina also has a City Cup program where teams from different cities are scheduled to compete against the other city teams either at home or away, and has quite a few ladies teams competing for the City Cup. Matches are scheduled throughout the year and it’s like one, long traveling match which culminates in a final playoff to see which team retains the coveted City Cup trophy.

Apparently there are also a few events throughout the country that center around the opening of deer season. Basically, it’s a deer season widow’s event for the ladies while the guys take off for the hunt. What an awesome concept!

And I have been told that in 2017, RedEye Rhino will be launching an inaugural ladies Premier Cup (soft tip) event where the payouts will be raised through the online qualifiers and will be aired the same weekend as the men’s event. However, there is a concern about participation, so it is important that everyone does what they can to support the event.  RR really wants to grow a ladies event, but there is a huge risk. If the event is not supported then it will be cancelled and probably never considered anytime soon. So far we have only seen events catered to the men. This will be the first ever dedicated solely to the women. This is a huge deal, ladies. It is up to us to prove that the risk to prove women's darts has a rightful place in prime time is worth taking and that we are all behind it 100%. There is also the possibility of a “ladies only” jersey designed specifically for the ladies and with 50% of the proceeds going toward the ladies Premier Cup payout.

In closing, I would like to say that I have met many amazing and fantastic women while traveling and competing at darts. When I was given the task to write my book, I made sure that in the advice section, I not only got advice from some of the best men in North America, but I was also able to include advice from some of the best and most accomplished female players in North America, which I plan to share as a follow up to this blog. They certainly did not let me down and have so much to offer new players. Their experience and mentorship is an important part of darts if we wish to achieve greatness in the ladies game. I hope this column inspires those players to reach out more to newer players, as well as encourage those newer players to get out there and achieve the greatness that they are capable of. Step up ladies! Toot your own horn for all that you do! There is nothing wrong with being proud of yourself, your hard work and your accomplishments.

“There is never a need to worry that someone will outshine us. It’s not a competition. We all need to shine as bright as we can, in our own unique way. It’s not possible for there to be too much light in this world. Shine and let shine.”

Anne Sleepy Kramer

www.sleepykramer.com


Supporting The Troops

Many people know I work for a large, major insurance carrier. Not hard to figure out as we put all our life’s details on Facebook these days. But what most people don’t know is that I work specifically with the TRICARE Military Benefits Program and have been for the last 4 years. There are days where we all complain that we have to go to work and wish to win the lottery, but even so, at least I can sit here day after day and know that I am helping to support our service men and women, along with their families. As we sit here just passed Memorial Day, and recently celebrated Flag Day, we turn to summer time and the patriotism flies as we look forward to the 4th of July. This time of year always strikes me as one of the most memorable times for everyone to honor and support our military and our fallen heroes.

In the last few years, I have been blessed to be a part of a few different efforts to collect darts, supplies, dartboards and donations for what I like to call Darts for the Troops. This program was created for many of us to get together to collect these items and send them to our troops who are deployed overseas.  This allows them some great fun to experience during their downtime while living in an extremely stressful and uncomfortable situation.

dartworld

One of the biggest contributors in the effort to support our military has been DartWorld. DartWorld is located in Lynn, Massachusetts and is owned by Don & Mark Amirault. The company is the distributors of Anheuser Busch and Harley Davidson products, and is the exclusive distributor for Harrows Darts of England. I recently was looking through their Facebook page and noticed quite a few posts from our military members, who had contacted DartWorld, and received supplies from them to enjoy a few games while deployed. Below are some of those photos and short stories regarding them:

Hey there Mark! It's SrA Brett Watson from the 62 ERS deployed squadron that you and your company so graciously donated to, finally getting around to getting this pic to you! Sorry again it took so long, but please allow me to extend the utmost appreciation from us to you for everything you have done for us! It really means the world! SrA Watson, Brett 62 ERS/ Reaper APG 

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We are AMMO troops who maintain and build the munitions our unit expends, and we often have free time when we are waiting for the drones to land or take off so we can do what we do best. Having this dart board and everything that came with it will really help us to pass the time. Also, it really felt like a Christmas present for all of us opening up that package today. We do get care packages from time to time, usually consisting of candy and toiletries, so getting something that is made for fun was something special for us. We sincerely thank you and hope you, your family, and everybody at Dart World has a wonderful holiday. Best Regards, Robert Shaner (pic below)

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Another great contributor, whose efforts most times go unnoticed as well, is A-Z Darts in Sacramento, California. A-Z Darts is owned by John and Kelly Baxter and have been in the darts business for more years than even I can remember, and I have been around a very long time. A-Z Darts has a specific page on their website called “Military Corner” and features quite a few photos from our deployed military members and their new darts set ups.

39th Operations Support Squadron in Incirlik Air Base, Turkey near the city of Adana. John B is sharing the awesome dart set-up they did for their Heritage Room and also a sweet picture of his squadron. John hopes you like their set-up... I know we do!!

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Great to hear from the US Marines on deployment in Afghanistan and hear the donated Shot! set-up for their down time is going well and some good darters are being created! (pic below)

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A couple years ago, I received another request for help from a deployed fellow dart player named Chris Stone. Chris and his team were deployed in Afghanistan for a while and were looking for some help with getting some boards, darts and supplies sent over.  Thanks to the greatness of a lot of my friends, many sets of darts and lots of supplies were donated to be sent over. One fellow player of the Genesee Valley Darts Association in Rochester, New York also donated a considerable sum of money to help facilitate sending lots of supplies to any troops that needed it, and to assist in the costs of shipping all these items overseas.  Some pictures of the guys with the stuff were sent and it was totally cool for me to see one of the guys with a set of my signature darts looking at his phone as he was checking out Google to look up my name (which was on the darts). I mean, how cool is that? After some time, I heard back from Chris when he asked for my mailing address. I figured the guys were going to get a card signed and sent over as a thank you. Quite a few weeks later, this huge package shows up at my door and I saw that the return address was from Chris in Afghanistan. Shown below is the item that was sent by the crew as a thank you.  I have to say that after the 30+ years I have spent supporting darts and doing whatever I could to help people out, this was absolutely the most incredible thank you that anyone has ever given me. It certainly brought a few tears to my eyes.  Enclosed in the hand painted display is a folded flag and a certificate that says “So that all shall know, this flag was flown in the face of the enemy at the 211th Military Police Company Headquarters in Parwan, Afghanistan on June 14th, 2014. Illuminated in the dark by the light of justice, and bears witness to sacrifice and courage of those men and women fighting terrorist forces threatening the freedom of the United States of America and the World.”  It was presented by SPC Christopher Stone and signed by the Company Commander and Company First Sergeant. It even has a battle scar in the glass from the shipping. This gift is precious and something I will cherish and keep with me forever.


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So as we sit here an honor our military, we should also never forget our fallen soldiers.  One recent story came across to me from the Collier family of Illinois. Matthew Collier’s son, Alic, joined the Air Force to become a Defender: Security Forces. On September 15, 2015, after a training exercise with his unit, Alic was resting and fell asleep in his military vehicle.  Upon reaching the destination, the driver attempted to wake Alic up and was unable to do so. Emergency personnel were called; however, Alic could not be resuscitated.  Alic died from hypertension cardiovascular disease with complications. He was 19 years young.

As the family pushed through the grief, they were determined to find ways to honor Alic and his service.  The decision was made to start a college scholarship fund in Alic’s name. An annual dart tournament was scheduled to take place each year around Veteran’s Day in November to help raise funds for this cause. Another way for funds to be raised was done with the help from Charles at RedEye Rhino/Ultimate Team Gear, who with a little help, created the “All Gave Some-Some Gave All” jersey in order to honor those veterans that signed a blank check to this nation that they would stand to protect it. 50% of the sale of this jersey will be donated to the Alic Collier Memorial Veteran/Family Scholarship Fund. This scholarship will be awarded every year, on January 23rd, which is Alic’s birthday, to a veteran or a family member of a veteran for college expenses.                   _troop9

Thank you to those veteran’s near and far, along with their families, who make the sacrifice daily to keep this great land of ours safe and free.

Anne Sleepy Kramer
www.sleepykramer.com9dartBanner