Bulls eye: Faculty, students enjoy darts competition as way to relax, meet new people

Consistency, accuracy, precision are all characteristics associated with athletes and the sports they participate, but most people overlook darts as a competition because it’s seen mostly as a hobby where people just joke around. While many people are unaware of the sport itself, its unique requirements make the game challenging while providing the opportunity for competitors to be highly competitive and pursue championships matches across the country. School provided a way for biology teacher Hayley Ask, algebra teacher Paul Ruiz, and senior Sara Ruiz-Payan to find the sport of darts.

“Another teacher brought me into darts,” Ruiz said. “When I first started working here, Mrs. Zalmanek invited me out one night because I was a new teacher, and I’ve been playing in the league since.”

Dart players can compete when different dart leagues form and get sponsored by a venue.

“Each team has their own dart venue, which creates a home and away location for teams to play,” Ruiz said. “You get a restaurant to sponsor you and your team plays out of that venue.”

After being invited to play darts with a group of friends and enjoying it, Ask joined Ruiz’s league.

“We watched them play,” Ask said, “and eventually that night I picked up a set of darts and started throwing and became pretty obsessed after that. I think I had my first pair of darts within a week.”

Darts is a unique sport in its uncommon nature and little knowledge people know about it.

“I like that darts is different,” Ruiz said. “Everybody shoots pool, but darts takes a little bit of skill, and you can be competitive with it as much as you want. You can do it for fun, or be involved in competitive tournaments, leagues, and get the chance to meet new people. It’s actually pretty cool.”

Dart competitions are distinguished by league play and tournaments, both providing different forms of competition.

“I mainly play in the league competitions,” Ruiz said. “There are different leagues that run year round and are normally four person teams. If you get to the end rounds, you qualify for the final tournaments. Tournaments are a little bit of a different format because they are double elimination and are normally much more large scale.”

Participation in darts has allowed the team to meet new people who they never would have met otherwise.

“I’ve gotten the chance to meet so many new people,” Ask said. “Dart people are always really nice, and I’ve enjoyed meeting people that aren’t just from the College Station area through away tournaments.”

League play, tournaments, or even pick-up games can happen anywhere. Due to the accessibility of darts, a game can be found in almost any city.

“We have gone to a lot of out-of-town tournaments,” Ask said. “When you go to places like Houston, Dallas, and Austin, you are going to find a tournament. Sometimes we have been traveling in different towns and have found a dart tournament to enter.”

While metal-tipped darts are the traditional darts used in play, there are also soft tipped darts which are used with an electric board.

“In College Station, most competitions are steel tipped,” Ask said, “but soft-tipped can be used too and are cool because you can hook it up to the internet and play people across the world.”

Participating in darts has also provided Ruiz a way to bond with his daughter, Sara.

“As I grew up, my dad would take me to play darts, which was so much fun,” Sara said. “I got better and better just by playing him because he would never take it easy on me or let me win. Now when I play him, I’ll occasionally win and won’t let him hear the end of it.”

Rather than just playing for fun, Ruiz and Sara have taken their competitive nature and applied it to tournaments to earn several first place finishes.

“Last spring we played on a team together and ended up winning the championship,” Ruiz said. “We are currently on a team now that is one of the top teams so hopefully we can repeat our championship again this year.”

While darts can be competitive, the sport provides players with an outlet for stress and a way to spend free time with friends and family.

“I love having darts as a hobby,” Sara said. “Playing in tournaments every now and then is something I enjoy and will definitely continue.”

Sara sees darts as a way to meet new people, enjoy a hobby, and learn about life.

“I like the people,” Sara said. “I definitely would not have met any of them if it wasn’t for darts. I appreciate all the strategies they have taught me about darts and about life. It’s nice to have something unique in common with people and grow off of that.”