When you think of the term athlete, it’s likely you instantly picture sporting stars that are in peak physical shape and condition. Athletes are often used to describe individuals with great physical performance, be that strength, stamina, speed, or a range of other physical attributes.
In fact, the definition of an athlete according to Wikipedia is someone who competes in a sport that requires physical strength, speed, or endurance. Now some sports are easy to identify as having “athletes”, however, there are those that offer significant debate and one of them is darts.
An amusing question (or argument) is therefore are darts players athletes?
For the extensive level of training, skill, and motor control required to become a darts player, many argue that darts players deserve recognition and should be considered athletes. The counter argument, however, Is that a lot of darts players are overweight and require minimal physical attributes and should therefore not be considered athletes.
As you can see, there are firm and fair arguments to both sides of this question. It’s a surprisingly debated topic, mainly down to the fact that there has been a push for darts to be included as a sport in the Olympics and a key argument against is that darts players are not athletes.
I’ll therefore look at some of the common arguments on both sides in this article and determine whether or not darts players actually are athletes.
** Just as a disclaimer, I’m a certified nutritionist, fitness instructor, and writer for the supplement industry. I work out daily and do not look like the average dart player during league games. For this reason, I try not to take a biased opinion in this article as I personally see athletes as those with exceptional physical abilities.
Are Darts Players Athletes
I just put in a small disclaimer, I share a common opinion that true athletes are those with exceptional physical capabilities and attributes. Strength, speed, power, endurance, finesse, and control are all components of a natural or trained athlete.
On the surface, darts players do not appear to have any of these characteristics. In fact, darts is almost a stationary game. Besides walking a few feet to and from the board in order to collect your darts, in order to be a good dart player nothing should be moving during a throw except for your hand, wrist, and arm.
The more a player moves during a throw, the less accurate the throw will be and therefore the key to being a good dart player is actually to minimize movement, which is something in direct contrast to athletes who are noted for their ability to move better than anyone else!
This lack of movement, however, is one of the key reasons why darts players can actually be considered athletes. Darts players have to put in surprisingly extensive training sessions that easily match any other sport.
In order to be consistent, you need to repeat endless throws at the board on a daily basis to build the motor skills required for repeated accuracy. You can’t just throw 100,000 darts at triple 20 and hope that over time it naturally results in repeated 180’s (though 100,000 throws will help).
The practice has to be deliberate and focused. Darts players need to be stable during a throw and produce the exact same movement on every single throw for grouping and accuracy. This sort of motor control requires elite level skill similar to an NFL quarterback or NBL pitcher throwing countless balls so that they can repeat it in competition.
If you are new to darts and spend 1-2 hours throwing, you’ll notice that your arm will ache the next day from using muscles that you’ve never used before. The skill in darts is not noticeably physical but it’s certainly physical no less.
The level of physical skill is easily comparable to other sports and that isn’t even taking into consideration the mental skill and focus required to produce consistent and accurate throws under pressure. These factors are therefore one of the key reasons why darts players should be considered athletes.
To further demonstrate this point, darts players are drug tested which is not something that would be necessary if there was no physical or mental skill involved to win.
Having said this, we do still need to cover the physical appearance of dart players.
Why Are Darts Players Fat
One of the biggest arguments that people put forward as to why dart players should not be considered athletes is because a significant proportion of darts players are overweight and fat.
This is a harsh statement and a bit of an unfair generalization but darts (especially in the UK and other parts of Europe) is traditionally a pub game. This means that training sessions are often accompanied by drinking alcohol.
You only need to look at a list of the most famous and accomplished darts players to see that their physiques are not one that screams physical prowess. The truth is that dart players do not need to be in shape in order to excel.
Their training can be mentally and physically tough as practice sessions can range from 6-10 hours for most pro’s but it’s also something that most people could do. To train for more intense sports that require physical attributes is significantly different and often requires hours being put in at the gym on a daily basis.
While I’ve covered the fact that darts players do have a high level of physical skill and control, it’s in a very specific aspect that does not necessarily translate to other sports. An athlete can be gifted in one sport and as a result of their physical ability, they can transfer to another and still be competitive.
Michael Jordan is the best example of this. One of, if not the, best basketball players in history took a well-documented switch to baseball midway through his career, and while it didn’t turn out to be successful, it was still an accomplishment as his athletic ability gave him the advantage when he didn’t have the technical ability.
My favorite example of this is former rugby player Gerwyn Price. Gerwyn went from professional rugby to winning a grand slam against Gary Anderson and breaking into the top 10 PDC rankings. Gerwyn is undoubtedly an athlete.
Similarly, former professional footballer Rafael Van Der Vaart also replaced his studded boots for shoes on the oche. While both of these athletes made the transition from professional sports to darts, how many high profile examples are there of dart players moving to a more athletic sport?
The answer is none and therefore the physique and physical condition for most darts players (along with the reputation for heavy drinking around games and practice) is the main reason why darts players are not considered to be athletes.
Does Darts Count as a Sport
The final consideration for whether or not darts players can be considered athletes is whether or not darts is even considered a sport. Darts is traditionally referred to as a game but by the definition of the Oxford dictionary, it can certainly be classed as a sport.
“An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.”
By this very definition alone, it’s clear that darts can be considered a sport, it’s boomed in terms of entertainment and popularity at a staggering rate over the last few decades, and anyone that practices for 8+ hours per day can certainly be said to exert physical expenditure.
The key issue is that darts is not recognized as an Olympic sport, its rapid rise in popularity does not yet outweigh the fact that it is traditionally a pub game and associated with rowdy drinkers. This image is far from that associated with the traditional Olympic games which were a gentleman’s sport.
The fact that so many people don’t consider darts to be a sport (in spite of the growing number that does) is another key reason why darts players are not considered athletes.
While I personally wouldn’t consider darts players to be athletes, there is no denying that physical mastery and skill is required to make it to a high level in darts. Professionals are engaged in elite competition and while they may not display obvious signs of athleticism, they are very much present.
For this reason, I’d say it’s fair to consider professional darts players to be athletes, the level of competition in the modern game means that it can no longer be considered a casual pub game and there are serious considerations and arguments as to why darts should be considered a sport.
While this will always be open to individual opinion and debate, you should still appreciate the level of skill and training required to be a professional darts player and accept that they do have an athletic skill, even if it’s not the more obvious kind.