Darts league aims at kids

Royal Canadian Legion
200 Broad Street, Parkhill
Youth dart league
Ron Wilcox: (519) 294-6344

Story & photos by Casey Lessard

Competitive darts isn’t at the top of the list of things to do for most young people, but area Legions are hoping to change that. The Parkhill branch of the Royal Canadian Legion is hosting one of Canada’s top dart players, two-time world champion John Part, who will spend Friday with local kids and dart lovers. (The event is sold out.)
“He’s a great ambassador,” says Ron Wilcox, who coaches the youth dart league with Kathy Bullock. “He’s the only non-European to win the world championship twice. He works with youth leagues around the world. This is the only time he does it in Canada. Without the youth players ten years from now darts will be gone. We’ve got 200 teenagers in this area and we have five players. We want to get more kids in here.”
“The first time I played darts was at a dart exhibition with John Part,” says Wilcox’s nine-year-old son Steven, a member of the youth league. “I was a little nervous. I almost beat him in the third game on double-4.”
Now hooked, Steven says he will likely play darts the rest of his life.
Sara Carter, 15, agrees.
“This is something I’ll do forever,” she says. “When I get up in the older group I’m going to play with my dad.”
The family connection is how many of the young players get involved. Eleven-year-old Dakota Duval’s parents encouraged her to join the league after playing darts on their board at home.
“I tried it and I really liked it,” she says. “It’s been fun because we’ve been going places and playing against other teams. It feels really good if you win. It gets you more motivated to play the next game. I win sometimes.”
The squad almost won the provincial qualifier for the premier Darts Ontario league last year, placing second to the only team that advanced to the provincial championships.
“I like the experience,” Carter says. “You go to tournaments and you learn more. You’re self-conscious. There’s a lot of noise at tournaments so you have to be aware and be able to block that out while playing. When you go up and you’re playing there are lots of people who like to watch you. You have to be confident and focused otherwise you might not shoot what you want.”
“It gets them off the streets, gets them interested,” Ron Wilcox says. “Their math skills are great. It gives them confidence. Gives them different opportunities to travel and meet other people.”
All of the young players agree the hardest shot is the pressure cooker of doubling in or out.
“It’s a planning thing,” Carter says.
“It’s really frustrating,” adds Duval. “When we were in Ontario Darts my teammate and I kept trying to hit double and I’m the one that could hardly ever shoot double one, so luckily she got it.”
The league’s roster of five players is expected to grow to about 20 as the small Grand Bend and Parkhill leagues merge when the next season begins in the fall.
“If we got more kids involved we could do it two or three nights,” says Ron Wilcox. “As long as kids are interested we’ll keep going.”