For many of our Player columns, we tend to focus on the challenges that every day players face and how they handle the situations, and share our advice and insight on the different intricacies of the game. This month, I wanted to take a bit of a different direction and change things from playing advice to teaching advice.
It started sometime last year, when I received a random email from a publishing company in New York City, and they asked me to write a book about darts for them. It was a year-long project that will soon be seen by the world. In that book, they wanted me to put together a tutorial for people that have never seen or heard of darts, in order to teach them how to play. It got me to thinking a lot about "how do you teach?" How do you teach the game of darts to someone that has no clue about it? Where do you start and what information do you consider of vital importance and what information do you consider that they should learn on their own? How do you tell them how to choose a dart, a shaft, a flight, when we all know we've probably played with a bazillion different set-ups struggling to find the perfect match for ourselves? Well all know how much a lot of the players love the math involved with scoring the game. How do you teach the math skills to help a player excel? Then there is the whole mental aspect of the game. How do you teach mental toughness and confidence? And most of all, do we remember to teach that the game is one that begins and ends with a handshake and good sportsmanship should prevail at all times?
Years ago, I taught my first student of the game how to throw darts. It was my mother. Myself and my siblings had been playing darts for about a year, when one day, she came into the room while I was practicing by myself and asked me all about how to play. I taught her all about the scoring surfaces on the dartboard and that the maximum score is not achieved by hitting the bulls-eye, but by hitting the triple 20. I explained that all three darts in this section of the triple 20 would be the maximum score achieved in one turn. We then moved on to the equipment and how to hold the dart. At the time, I was still new to the game and threw some pretty heavy brass darts. And then we covered the mechanics of throwing. After about 15 minutes, I figured mom had all the ammunition she needed to make a successful first attempt at throwing darts. She stepped to the line, got herself set, raised her arm and threw three of the most perfect darts I had ever seen someone throw. Yes, my friends, she hit a 180 with those first three darts. Mom was forever banned from the dartboard since then (lol) and has never thrown any darts ever again, which in my mind, I think "why should she, she was perfect the very first time". But it goes back to now 30+ years later and once again being put in a position of having to teach new people how to play the game. Explaining all the little details that we all take for granted every day that everyone knows.
So it brings me to that question, "how do you teach?" Or do you teach at all? Do you as a player take the time to reach out to the non-playing public to show them your love of darts? Do you take the time with new players to share with them your mutual love of the game and offer advice, help or hints to those up and coming players to help them better their game? One of the other aspects of the book that I am really excited to share is the advice section, where I asked 25 of the best players in North America what advice they would like to give a new player. There was quite a variety of advice in there and I am confident that many players will find it very useful information from those guys and gals that have been there and done that, and are now in the position to teach others how to get there.
If we all took the time to show one person how to play, what effect would it have on the growth of the game, not only nationally, but also globally? Or even better, what about if everyone took the time to send this type of information along with weekly league statistics for their local paper to print? How about players getting together at local kid's clubs to teach a class on how to play darts? There are so many opportunities out there for existing players to reach the masses and share the game with the general public, so my advice for this month is to encourage all of you to go out there and "teach the world" one person at a time.