When I first started playing darts over 10 years ago I didn’t even know that professional dart players existed. As I grew in the sport and learned about the world of professional darts, I came across a number of discussions on dart forums where there were lively debates about whether top dart players could be categorized as professional athletes compared to traditional sports like football or basketball.
Are Dart Players Athletes? Yes, competitive dart players are athletes. The skills, training, and physical demands required to be a competitive dart player at the highest levels meets the criteria to be considered legitimate athletes. Top dart players have many similar athletic attributes and preparation approaches as other athletic sports. Darts is a sport that requires skill, concentration, and physical abilities like hand-eye coordination. There is also a demanded mental aspect to playing competitive darts that is on par with other competitive sports.
Darts has long been associated with pubs and taverns, viewed by many as merely a game for leisure and enjoyment over drinks. But in recent decades, darts has gained popularity and legitimacy as a professional sport requiring athletic skills and talents. This debate over whether dart throwers can be considered skilled athletes has raised questions about what defines an “athlete” and “sport” in the first place.
Upon closer examination, there is a compelling argument to be made that dart players demonstrate many attributes of true athleticism through their physical abilities, mental discipline, and competitive drive.
Physical Demands of Darts Players
Anyone who has started playing darts knows that the first couple of times you play your throwing arm will be sore the next days are only 30 minutes of throwing darts. I know from personal experience that it took a couple of weeks for my arm to get used to throwing darts. Whenever I increase the weight of my darts, my arm is a little sore the next day after a darts match.
While traditional sports like football and basketball clearly involve cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, speed, and overall athleticism, some argue darts does not require such physical exertion.
However, research studies have shown that dart throwing actually requires a complex array of physical and mental skills. Exceptional hand-eye coordination, muscle memory, core strength, stamina, and even proper throwing techniques are all critical for success.
Elite players utilize proper throwing techniques and posture to generate power and accuracy, executing the same precise motions for hours on end during tournaments. This puts physical demands on their muscles. Experts note that repeatedly executing precise bodily motions over long periods of intense focus requires impressive muscle control and athletic conditioning.
Throwing a dart requires incredible precision, with the best players able to consistently hit targets smaller than a square inch from 7 feet away. This takes immense focus and visual-motor control.
Darts also takes endurance and stamina. Matches can last hours at top levels of competition, requiring players to stay dedicated through mental and physical fatigue. Studies have shown that a dart player can burn anywhere from 148 to 216 calories per hour playing darts.
Training Regimens for Dart Players
These physical demands are why you’ll often see professional dart players adopt fitness and training routines similar to other athletes. Top ranked players commit to regular practice sessions, often throwing hundreds of darts per day to develop their abilities.
Many also engage in cross-training, cardio, and strength training to enhance their conditioning, core muscles, and stamina. Professional dart organizations have even warned players against using performance enhancing drugs to gain an unfair athletic edge. This further reinforces darts status as a sport and that competitive dart players are athletes requiring true physical talent, skill, and training.
Mental Side of Darts
Yet dart throwing requires more than just athletic ability. The sport’s unique mix of intense concentration, fine-tuned technique, nerves control, and strategic thinking exemplify the psychological demands involved. During high pressure tournaments, a player’s mental fortitude can make all the difference.
Many now argue that excelling at darts may depend more on mental abilities than pure athletic talent.
Maintaining laser-like focus through long matches tests players’ mental endurance as well.
Darts also involves adapting strategies, analyzing opponents, and controlling performance anxiety. Elite players use practice routines to enter a zone of peak concentration before throws, similar to how athletes psych themselves up before competing. They also utilize methods like visualization, breathing exercises, and positive self-talk to manage nerves.
The ability to perform and make strategic decisions under pressure is a key sign of mental competitiveness and discipline. As darts continues to gain popularity as a professional sport, sports psychologists have taken greater interest in the mental skills and training dart players utilize. Many now argue that excelling at darts may depend more on mental abilities than pure athletic talent.
How Many Steps Can You Get In
Often overlooked in the game of darts is the amount of walking steps you will achieve in just a single match will amaze you. Keep in mind that where you throw the dart from – the throwing line (Oche) is more than 7 feet away from the dart board. Every time it is your turn to throw, you will be walking at least 14 feet. When practicing for over an hour you will walk just over 1 mile back and forth to the dartboard to retrieve your darts.
Is Darts a Sport or a Pastime?
The debate around darts as an athletic sport has led to it gaining increased legitimacy and formal recognition over the years. Darts competitions were once viewed as sideshow novelties rather than tests of skill and prowess. But dart organizations worked to change perceptions by implementing official rule books, tournament circuits, international championships, and world rankings. Darts was officially recognized as a sport by the UK Government in 2005.
This professionalization of darts reached a turning point when ESPN began televising World Darts Championship tournaments in the late 1980s, bringing the sport to mainstream American television audiences. Seeing players compete for championships and top rankings made the public reconsider darts as a true athletic endeavor.
All evidence points to darts having a recognized professional structure that mirrors mainstream professional athletics. There is a defined progression from youth leagues to top circuits like the PDC World Championships where players compete for millions in prize money.
The financial opportunities allow players to dedicate themselves to training full time – an opportunity only available to the most elite athletic professionals. All signs point to darts being on par with other sporting professions.
Conclusion: Dart Players Are Professional Athletes
Competitive dart players require the same physical skills, mental abilities, competitive dedication, and performance optimization as professionals in any sport. As darts continues to gain popularity and financial incentives, we can only expect the sport’s athletic merits to become further solidified.
Darts are now included alongside traditional Olympic sports like archery and shooting in many international games competitions. Few can now argue that darts does not require world-class abilities and competitive drive that qualify it for sporting legitimacy.
Of course, darts maintains its social traditions and recreational players. But at the highest echelons of competition, elite dart athletes train and perform no differently than professional basketball, football, or baseball players striving for championships.
Both their physical skills and mental discipline are tested under intense pressure where only the most well-trained excel. While darts may not have conventionally looked like athletic competition in the past, modern research and its emergence as a professional sport make a strong case for considering today’s top dart players true athletes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is dart a sport or a game?
Darts is considered both a sport and game. As a game, it provides entertainment and recreation. As an organized sport, it requires athletic precision skills and has professional leagues and championship events.
Do you have to be fit to play darts?
Being physically fit is not required, but it can provide advantages. Fitness provides the stamina for long matches and strength to optimize throwing power. Many top players cross-train for these benefits.
Is darts mostly luck or skill?
While there is an element of chance, dart throwing requires incredibly precise muscle memory and coordination skills developed over years. Hitting targets repetitively requires skill far beyond just luck.
Can anyone become a professional dart player?
Becoming a professional requires both innate abilities and tireless dedication to practice. Only a small percentage will have the talent, determination, and access to training to reach the highest competitive levels. But recreational play is open to anyone.
Do dart players make good money?
The very top professionals can make multi-million dollar salaries from tournament winnings, sponsorships, and appearances. Check out my article on how much professional dart players make.
What age do most pro dart players start?
While some may start in youth leagues, most do not begin intensive training until late teens or adulthood. The hand-eye coordination seems to peak between ages 25-45, though there are many successful older players as well.