New Zealand Darts Council Inc.
Starting up a Junior/Youth
New Zealand Darts Council Inc.
Starting up a Junior/Youth
The sport of darts can provide a constructive and educational outlet for the competitive spirit of youngsters and a controlled release of the emotions and struggle of simply "growing up". The constant inter-mingling of darts competitors stands in glaring contrast to the emptiness of the immaculate battlefields that separate individuals and whole teams in other sports. Before/after game handshakes create friendly and personal contact in lieu of controlled, pre-programmed collisions. Darts is an excellent pastime for developing eye/hand coordination and concentration, and as a game of numbers it offers a world of experience for the inexperienced. There are few limitations and prerequisites to becoming one of the best in a sport that recognized its best by the ability to continually exhibit mental and mechanical expertise while surviving the roller-coaster of emotions encountered in endless rounds of competition. A definition that could be used for life itself
The sport of darts is unique in several ways; the equipment required to play is reasonably inexpensive, a relatively small amount of space is required to play, and special clothing is not required. Age, gender, size and physical strength/endurance have almost no effect on a player’s ability to do well. These factors we believe combine to make the sport of darts appealing to just about anyone and especially young people.
Local association fees will be determined by association committees and shall be separate from the NZDC fees. These Association fees may be used in any manner the local association chooses so long as the method is consistent with the Bylaws of their association and the NZDC.
Because the success and/or failure of any league activity is usually in direct proportion to the thoroughness of the original guidelines, documents have been included in the appendixes of this guide which contain information required to start a young players league, i.e.; Rules & Regulations, Consent forms, etc.
These documents will provide the necessary footing to establish a rewarding and lasting youth program and will provide young players with the knowledge required to form new organisations of their own when they "leave the nest".
League play may be conducted throughout the year with the association determining location(s), dates, times, size of the competition, etc. Competition at this level will provide all young players with exposure to the fun, competition, sportsmanship, and pressures of the sport of darts. Leagues may send players to the N.Z. finals and other such tournaments as prescribed in the NZDC rulebook.
Starting a Junior /Youth league can be a rewarding, and sometimes frightening experience. If you have doubts about your own abilities and capabilities, rest assured others have survived your same trauma; and you'll survive too. You're sure to learn a little more about yourself and you'll meet some of the greatest people on earth; New Zealand’s youth.
Before you begin to organise your league, get a good feel for the number of youngsters that will be able to participate. One of the better ways to determine potential is to conduct a series introductory session’s and/ or coaching days. Nothing special here; luck-of-the-draw, a weekly routine, some trophies, demonstrations of darting techniques by local "experts", etc. Many darters will gladly shave the plaques off some old trophies and donate them to the kids. New plaques are a fraction of the cost of the whole trophy and an old dust collector will find new life in an honored place of a proud youngster's home.
It is not uncommon to start with only a dozen or so young players. That number may vary both up and down over the months you run your league. But, stick with it, you must be there each week to establish consistency.
Sincerity creates the very core of any adolescent program. Young people have the uncanny knack of being able to see right through any half-hearted attempt to pacify them and parents of the very young tend to be highly critical of the unknown when their children are involved. Encourage parents who are not familiar with the sport to attend and help with your league activities and explain to them the benefits of the program to their children. Be prepared to do anything within your power to create a consistent environment for organised play. This may include spending a little money of your own, or staying a little late because a parent is tied-up in traffic, etc.
Make up your mind in the beginning there will be sacrifice; yours. The leadership you demonstrate will become infectious to others.
The very fact you are taking on this challenge indicates you are a special person to the sport of darts. But don't let your newfound power ruin your efforts. If your attitude portrays an "I'm gonna show these kids how to play darts." your efforts are doomed. You must teach and guide with a gentle hand to earn the confidence and respect of the players, the adults, and your assistants. The use of association coaches can play a vital part in your success. You must demonstrate you are willing to venture into uncharted territory and to cross a few established boundaries so long as it benefits your young players.
You must continually reward what is done correctly and reprimand the negative in private. Don't forget that peer pressures in this age group are extraordinary. No young player will work with you if you scold him/her in front of the whole group. Be prepared to listen. Be quick to praise, slow to criticize, and always, always, try to "Catch them doing something right.....".
Having determined there is enough interest to create a more formal league, your next steps will be crucial. As an organiser you will be faced with two main chores; establishing, and maintaining the league. Approach your association officers for their support and approval. The sooner you get others involved, the better your program will be. One person can make a program work, but if you are absent for any reason, little more than semi-controlled chaos will exist. Get the young folks and their parents involved from day one. You'll feel much more confident when you field your program plans for the approval of the players, parents, or your association committee because you will be speaking on behalf of the majority of the young players.
Your league will be based on several documents that must be in place before the first dart is thrown. Examples of these documents are included at the end of this guide.
There will probably be one or more creative individuals involved with an effort of this type that can come up with a design for a logo for you league. Adding this logo as a letter-head along with the "member of" NZDC logo can make your memos, forms, and correspondence take on a professional look that will draw attention and respect. (Make sure you are a member of the NZDC first....).
Now that you've gathered all the material and artwork you need, you can finish personalizing your own documents:
Without Bylaws there are no reasons for rules and regulations because league officers won't be able to enforce them. Bylaws define your organisation, create individual responsibilities, and establish order. You can establish a sub-committee that can be composed of parents, players, coaches and/or association officers. In this manner your organisation will be run by those that participate and yet there will be experienced guidance to make sure things don't run amuck. You will also be teaching the young players something about the real world as well as the sport of darts.
Rules and Regulations: These define the order of play and establish standards for equipment, dates, times, match profiles, individual responsibilities, team composition, rules of forfeiture, rules of scoring, awards structures, protests, personal conduct, time-outs, and disciplinary procedures. In preparing any rules it is a good idea to solicit the opinions of the players and their parents. You will find it much easier to enforce any such rules if all parties involved have agreed to them first.
Register: A register is simply a listing of the names, addresses, phone numbers, and pertinent information about each player in the league. This is your primary source of communications, so don't accept partial information. Be sure to include coach’s information also. (Coaches have an integral part to play and can keep you up to date on individual player progress).
Consent forms: This form is used to obtain the written permission of a parent or legal guardian for a child to participate in your organisation. Although rare, injuries are a possibility. These possibilities should be outlined on the consent form as well as the methods you will employ to minimize the potential of accidental injury. This form may or may not provide legal protection, but at least you've informed the adult(s) of the circumstances their child will be exposed to. The parents should sign this form or the legal guardian of each player, and by the player before the youngster participates in any organisation-sanctioned activity. Note: You should talk with the owner/manager of the establishment or venue where you intend to hold your leagues activities about liability insurance to cover potential injuries. A little extra protection might help avoid some very complicated situations.
Bank Accounts: You will undoubtedly be opening an account for your league funds. It is advisable to have at least two signatories on any such account (preferably either your associations President or Treasurer as one of them) The placing of league funds into an individual's private account is a dangerous practice. The NZ Darts Council discourages this practice, and strongly urges Association officers to follow standard guidelines to avoid unnecessary and unwanted legal circumstances within your league.
Planning League Activities
The games played during your league activities will have a significant effect on the acceptance of your program by not only the players, but by the adults as well. The game formats supplied by the NZDC will provide a sampling of the most popular dart games while providing a playing time that maintains interest without over-doing it.
Attention Span: Ah, yes, hadn't thought of that yet had you? About the first time a match runs three hours you'll scrape kids and parents off the walls. Tournament play can run longer because it's an occasional thing, but league play should be kept to about an hour and a half.
Equipment: You will of course need darts, dartboards, board surrounds and/or stands. As with old trophies you may find there will be adult players who have some old sets of darts lying around and who may be more than willing to donate them for this worthy cause. If your adult association has portable stands that can be used, you're all set. Otherwise you may have to build some board surrounds. Local dart suppliers will sometimes contribute a tournament board or two and most pubs and clubs have used boards you can have for the asking.
Game play: All dart games can be fun. The mixture of games will expose young players to individual and team competition, "see games to play". For the more serious players, tournament formats will provide experience in multiple-leg matches and round-robin competition.
Individual Play: When starting off, most leagues will not have sufficient numbers tomake up teams. Therefore most of your sessions will be either be singles or pairs play. Play a multitude of different games rather than just one type. This will make your sessions more enjoyable. You will find that some games will be better than others and the kids will soon tell you which ones they enjoy the most.
Team Play: The size of teams will be dependent on the overall size of your league. In general, four to six players per team will allow you to adjust your playing time to meet your needs. Try to mix the age groups within each team to establish parity. With young dart players, parity is essential. "If winning is easy, then why compete? If winning is difficult, then why try?" Immature? Maybe, but remember that you're dealing with youngsters that will assume this attitude if you allow strong and weak teams. They must feel they have a chance each time they step up to the oche.
At first the kids will want to play with their friends on the same team. Don't make too many waves. This is usually caused by unfamiliarity with the others in the organisation, and will subside as time goes by. But, you will sometimes "have to do what you have to do" and move players to keep your program from dissolving right before your eyes.
Age Ranges: What can I do for the younger, smaller players that have a hard time reaching the board?
Don't move them closer to the board!!! To get a dart to the board requires a certain amount of energy regardless of who throws it. When that dart strikes a wire, it will expend energy into the wire and into bounce- out. The toe-line is at a distance that will keep the majority of bounce-outs from coming back to the player.
Very young or short players are confronted with pulling their darts from boards that are much higher than their reach. You can avoid accidents by: -
A way to make things a little more even: If you find you have insufficient numbers to split players into comparative age groups then a handicap system may be the answer. Just be careful that you don’t disadvantage the stronger players too much or they will start to get disenchanted and eventually quit.
Where to Play
Okay, so you've got everything set and the kids are ready to go. Go where? If your own association doesn’t have their own clubrooms there are several organisations and locations you might consider.
YMCA's / YWCA's are very responsive to youth programs. If you approach a Y about a youth program, make sure the facility supports both adult and youth activities. Otherwise, you may run into a hassle from the main membership. You will be able to set up an effective league with minimal costs to the parents and youngsters and still provide protection to the Y. The Youngsters are typically charged a set fee for each "season" through the dart organisation.
The Y may charge each player a "Basic" membership fee for one year that entitles the youngsters to most of the other organised youth activities within the Y. This membership provides some income to the Y and covers the required insurance protection.
Community Organisations: Lodges, Rotary, and Lions Clubs etc. Most of these organisations are children oriented. If they have the facilities, they will usually discuss your program plans openly and will provide assistance in the form of time, facilities, and sometimes, contributions. Try to work out a plan where your activity helps their organisations cause also.
Police and Recreational Departments: City and Community Recreational Departments will help you locate a place to hold your league activities if you don't have one. Most will let you set up a board somewhere in a shelter, hall, or other recreational facility. Talk with both the city councils recreational and police youth officers, they always have something going on with youngsters. It will also help to establish an understanding about your program that could be valuable down-stream. Police are usually more than happy to be involved with youth programmes and other charitable activities. They are very responsive, but already overloaded. They do enjoy sponsoring teams and will sometimes drop in to see how their "kids" are doing.
Scouting Organisations: Most scouting organisations can't figure out how to work the sport of darts into a merit badge. Just kidding of course. Because these organisations concentrate on both the individual and the team, darts seems a natural. You may find interest at the local level, but don't expect to see a "Darts Jamboree" in the near future.
Bars/Clubs/: Some bars and clubs are acceptable. It all depends on, the layout, the atmosphere, licensing restrictions, and your gut instincts. Game rooms that can be isolated from the actual bar area work well. Parents can get the kid's refreshments and, if they want, some of there own without tempting fate. (It is perhaps preferable to keep this area free of alcohol and cigarettes as other parents may object, and ultimately withdraw their children).
Other Organisations: Don't hesitate to talk freely about your program with any organisation that will listen. Spreading the word is one of your responsibilities. But, be prepared to defend your program (See Note Below).
You will encounter those that don't feel you should be promoting an activity that, in their mind, will eventually lead youngsters into bars. You can explain you are trying to introduce the sport to other establishments so the choice of going to a bar will be left to the individual rather than dictated by the sport.
Note: Local schools – Holiday programmes Term activities
Local schools, especially high schools are always looking for activities to fill in gaps in term and holiday programmes. There are however some drawbacks and concerns you should be aware of.Local school boards might be concerned about the "potential" of injury due to the careless use of darts. It is a delicate situation and acceptance is usually in direct proportion to the local crime rate. As much as local school boards would like to advocate organised youth programs of any nature, they frequently have to say "sorry, it's just too risky". Unless you are extremely well organised and/or have a good reason to pursue this avenue, you may be better to arrange an exhibition type activity. Alternately encourage the school to send students, or a-team or two to your facility instead of trying to introduce the sport on school premises.
You may need some financial help getting started. Trophies, engraving, supplies, etc. all cost somebody something. Sponsors can help you with a minimal contribution and can sometimes be coaxed into getting team T-shirts with a logo to boot.
How much you establish as a sponsorship fee and how you solicit that fee is purely up to you. $50.00 is not unreasonable as a team sponsorship. Donations can come from anywhere; something as simple as a jar placed strategically at your next region or association’s play-offs and a P.A. announcement will relieve you of many hours of solicitation.
So, who are these sponsors? Use your imagination a little here. You can sometimes get a local soft-drink distributor to sponsor the whole league! Or, you can talk to the fast food outlets, service stations, the establishment where you play, supermarkets, sports shops, dart suppliers, your place of work, etc. Adult teams can usually come up with $50.00 between the lot of them and love to sponsor a youth team as a source of future players. You may also create yourself a problem here by suddenly having more coaches and volunteers than you really require. A nice dilemma indeed.
Your young folks can get sponsors you couldn't touch with a ten-foot pole. Make sure they have a well-written description of the league, it's purpose, names of adult contacts, etc. before they set out. If your kids really want the league and understand it requires funds to get it started, they will charm the wool off a sheep’s back.
Don't let the ball drop once you have established sponsorship. Your sponsors are human also; they wouldn't be spending money if they didn't feel they were getting something in return. Exposure is what they achieve through your organisation. How much exposure comes from your organisation is as much your responsibility as the sponsor's. Wave the sponsor's flag every chance you get. Use your sponsor's name and products and encourage others to do the same. Whenever you write an article about your organisation/association make sure the sponsor is mentioned. Put your sponsor on a pedestal, and don't forget the thank-you letter at the end of the season.
If your sponsor is large enough, advertising will often take care of itself. The sponsor will promote your activities through normal channels, and cover the expense of doing so. This does not relieve you of any of the support outlined above. In fact, it puts an even greater burden on you to reinforce his efforts.
Assuming you have created a mutually rewarding experience for your association and the sponsor, you should expect a return deal the next season. So long as this co-existence fulfills the needs of each group involved, you should always have sponsors for you efforts.
In most cases, simply trophies will be the prizes that are awarded for winning or special achievements. There may however be occasions such as end of year prizegiving or tournaments when something of a monetary value will be on offer. It is preferable to give goods such as cassette radio’s play station etc. rather than giving straight cash rewards. Cash rewards can alter the amateur status of youths, not only in darts, it may also affect them in any other sports they might be involved in.
Getting the Word Out
You will probably ease into your league activities with a "core" of youngsters who tugged at your sleeve until you were able to get this whole thing started. You may also want to spread the word to attract those who are interested, but haven't heard about the organisation. Fortunately there are several media forms available to you.
The most obvious is a brief newspaper ad. But, don't forget there are also "money-saver" type newsmagazines where you can advertise and announce for free. And how about your adult leagues newsletter if you have one?
If not, you can still print up a one-sheet flier to distribute on adult league night or to put in the dart establishments around town.
The kids can use the school bulletin board(s) to announce upcoming events. Don't forget to ask permission to post this information, and make sure the folks in the office know what your association is all about. A call from an association representative first will help establish an excellent communications path.
Local Television and radio both have community bulletin boards for the purpose of announcing upcoming events. Make sure you allow enough lead-time for the station(s) to work your announcement into their schedule (usually about 2+ weeks).
Reporters and editors are seldom interested in regular league-type activities. The media will sometimes report your league results for you, but don't expect any cameras or microphones until you have a special tournament, coaching day, or some other human-interest story. Once you've got them in "your" place you can get into the details about your organisation and the youth.
If you are successful in getting photo coverage for one of your events, make sure you don't let things show up in the background that will discredit your efforts. For example, if you are playing in an establishment where "stronger" beverages may be served, (but aren't being served during your activities) take down related advertising until the cameras are gone. Make sure any drink cups are free of advertising unless it is your sponsor's product. Keep down or ban smoking while the photos are being taken and try to get everyone on their best behavior. You have only one chance to make that first impression.
Once you've established your communications system, use it! Don't throw away your efforts. Let some of your youngsters maintain communications and carry on conversations with your media contacts on a regular basis. They can provide an approach to media information that is refreshingly new and appealing. The media may not use all the information that is supplied, but somewhere along the line you'll strike the nerve you've been looking for. You've got to be stubborn as a mule and persistent, almost to the point of being a pest.
Parents: "I've got this parent who criticizes every move I make....." Anyone who has dealt with organised youth programs knows of the problems parents can create. Although they genuinely feel their intervention will help, they often create confusion for both the organisers and the youngsters. It's time to test the water.......
Be positive in your approach to relieve tensions before they start. Get the parents together, explain the program, your methods, and what you will expect of the youngsters and the parents. Solicit input; even if you don't use all the suggestions, give the parents a chance to speak. By creating the image of a cooperative effort, the comments and actions of parents will be far more constructive.
Be prepared to discuss even the most absurd ideas. Some parents won't know which end of a dart is sharp, but you must listen as though they've just come from the final round of the New Zealand Champs.
Let your young officers set the pace. Remember that you are the organiser, not a participant. You'll minimize conflict when those that live by the rules also create the rules. Parents are neutralized when you tell them "the kids may that rule at the beginning of the season".
Parents simply want the best for their children. To broaden their scope a little, give them a job on a team that does not include their own youngster(s). Chalking, statistics, advisor are all good jobs that keep parents constructively involved. Make sure they do have some time to watch their own youngster(s) play.
If you are not into "baby-sitting", don't take this job. Players are often dropped-off for darts so mom and/or dad can go shopping, work on the car, etc. You'll find the kids enjoy getting away also.
Be smart; mix the age groups of your teams so the older youth relieve you of most of the chore. You'll be pleasantly surprised as some of the odd friendships that evolve and feelings that are displayed.
One problem you will encounter is extremely controversial, and must be treated cautiously. Children sometimes come home with poor report cards; ZAP! darts is the first thing to go. Contending teams can be literally wiped-out as a result of a single "black Friday". As a parent I agree; as a coach, I do not. (How's that for fence-riding advice?!) Address the issue with the parents and youngsters before it happens. Explain that you understand the actions of the parents, but also explain how these actions affect others on a team. You can help the parents by establishing "Honor Roll"-type awards and by setting high standards for the league. Parents may still elect to take the same actions, but at least they will be aware of something they may not have considered before. If they choose to pull the youngster from weekly competition, you will have to respect their right to do so and carry on the best you can.
Being in a position to perpetuate a tradition, to pass knowledge and skills to another generation, and to promote better human relations is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. Teaching younger people the sport of darts is no less a commitment than that of the teachers in the schools of your community. If you intend taking on this role yourself, you should either take a course in coaching or have your association coaches present to give you advice on teaching methods. Your program plan may, in some cases, have a significant impact on a youngster's life by creating an environment he/she finds easy to excel in. If this is a new experience the rewards can be staggering. The opposite effect can occur if a talented youngster finds darting skills hard to come by and has to learn to live with recurring defeats. In either case you must be prepared to respond professionally and consistently to their cry, be it for joy or for sadness.
Your first chore in coaching will be to train those who will be working directly with the kids a method of creating a functional interface. This is not as easy for some adults as one might think. For example, you must be cautious with your wording and emotional displays around youngsters. "Don't do that" is insulting, "Let's try something a little different" has a completely different tone.
Most of the joy you will derive from working with young people will come when they accomplish things you wouldn't expect of them. They can only provide this joy if they are bestowed with the tools and the freedom to make it happen.
You will be dealing with both moral objectives and the written objectives of your Constitution and Bylaws. They must be prioritized:
1. Must be the betterment of the lives of the youngsters you serve. No exceptions here. The environment, the personnel, the activities, the goals and objectives must all be focused on teaching our youth how to cope with the rest of their lives and providing them a technique for controlling the release of competitive emotions.
2. Support of your organisation's Constitutional objectives must come next.
3. Is the teaching of the sportsmanship, etiquette, and professionalism of the game of darts. You must teach the kids how to win and how you lose. You must set realistic standards of dress, especially at the tournament level.
4. After the "quality" items are instilled, the mechanics of the game of darts can be explored.
5. The game(s) of darts, oddly enough, is the last objective to be accomplished.
Obviously, you have your work cut out for you. The objectives outlined above are also listed in the order of difficulty to accomplish. You might have to generate some unique methods to achieve the results you seek, but stick to your priorities.
Objective #1: By creating a sub committee that is comprised of the young players you will be headed toward achieving your most difficult goal. The sport of darts has many facets; the games, the strategies, organisation, promotion, records keeping, communications, etc. If you teach the game(s) of darts you will be developing players; if you teach the methodology you will be developing organisation Presidents and professional people that can perpetuate not only the sport, but also our country. Teach them the business of darts.
Objective #2: Supporting your association's Constitutional objectives is an extension of your moral objectives.
If you train everyone to promote the positives of your organisation whenever they discuss it with others, you'll attain these goals a lot sooner than you might imagine.
Objective #3: Volumes of information have been written about the sportsmanship of darts. Make sure you are consistent with your praise and reprimands. A good method to assure continued sportsmanship is an award that provides recognition of the traits you want most to develop. Spread the wealth by awarding several trophies for age groups, skill levels, boys/girls, whatever you think is best. Make the award your "Oscar" and establish a presentation fitting for the award. Have the players and coaches’ vote for the recipient(s) by blind ballot and make sure the player's name appears on the award. Don't forget to set the example.
What kind of darts does the NZDC recommend for young players? Brass darts are inexpensive, but are much larger in diameter than the newer tungsten alloy darts. Tungsten is more difficult to machine and fabricate into darts so is much more expensive. Tungsten darts provide the serious player with the small diameter necessary for high scores and a broad variety of weights, styles, and sizes. Brass darts provide the beginner with good darts that will allow the player to determine if he/she enjoys the sport enough to take the more serious approach through tungsten alloy darts.
Shafts & Flights:
Shafts and flights can be used as tools to modify the behaviour of a dart on it's way to the board. Let's say you just can't seem to find that grip that allows the perfect throw. It feels great, but is sometimes inconsistent because the dart wobbles slightly. Try different lengths and different weights of shafts to alter the balance of the dart.
Observe any changes and correct accordingly. Changing the area of a flight adjusts its correcting power and can provide additional help. Keep in mind that you want to keep the size and weight of these items as low as possible so the dart can do it's job and your target on the board isn't blocked with excessive hardware.
While teaching young players, always try to encourage the best behaviour. Don't let the players rattle their darts, hum, sing, whistle, stand too close, or demonstrate their mastery of other bad manners while another player is at the oche. Don't let any player walk away without shaking the hand of his/her opponent, be it victory or defeat.
Young players should be encouraged to practice about an hour per day. This in itself is usually not a problem. What and how they practice sometimes can be. Enforce league guidelines whenever young players gather to play.
Following the rules of conduct will help prevent accidents and will help make sportsmanship second nature. They should compete with and against their friends and others in the league as much as possible.
The average dart turn takes from 30 seconds to 1 minute at the oche. Train your young players to concentrate completely on their dart throw while at the line and to relax completely while away from the line. This will focus their energies on the game rather than what is happening around them.
And finally, THE GAME ISN'T OVER UNTIL IT'S OVER!!!!!!!!!
For further information, please contact:
The Director of Coaching or The Chief Executive
NZ Darts Council Inc. NZ Darts Council Inc.
P.O. Box 907
Ph (06) 353 8180
Fax (06) 353 8182
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