The great debate.
Maybe the only thing that has ruffled more feathers is the question of whether or not darts is a sport.
But with that also comes the logical argument about who can be considered an athlete. Are we all athletes or not?
Are darts players athletes? Darts players can be considered athletes because they do have to follow extensive training in order to develop and improve their throwing consistency and skill. However, many people argue that darts players cannot be considered athletes because they do not exert high amount of physical effort while playing darts.
I have dabbled in a few different sports, and after being asked that question quite a few times, I decided to do a little digging around.
Below I share with you what I have found in combination with my personal opinion as a person that has participated in various sports.
The thing is that I am not biased one way or another. So I tried to have an as open-minded and unbiased view as possible.
What is the definition of an athlete?
Let us start by better defining what the definition of an athlete is.
The definition of an athlete, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is “a person who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports, or games requiring physical strength, agility, or stamina.”
What this means is that basically, you have to be participating in some activity that requires physical exertion, agility, or stamina. Okay. Fair enough.
But according to the Cambridge Dictionary, an athlete is “a person who is very good at sports or physical exercise, especially one who competes in organized events.”
Now this definition of an athlete is a bit more lenient. So you have to be good at sports or physical exercise. It also adds the need to participate in organized events.
Now let us take a look at another definition of what an athlete is.
According to Wikipedia, it is “a person who competes in one or more sports that involve physical strength, speed or endurance.”
Again we see the need to be doing something physical.
But then Wikipedia continues, “The application of the term to those who participate in other activities, such as golf or driving, is somewhat controversial.”
So this is where we can first see the problem arising. Okay. Let us try to get to the bottom of this (at this point, I realized that things would not be that easy).
Why can darts players be considered athletes?
Let us try to take a more organized approach here.
First, the terminology seems to revolve around a few things. An athlete is somebody who:
- Participates in a sport, game, activity, or competes in an organized event; and
- Performs some kind of physical activity, often requiring endurance, agility, or physical strength.
What do darts players participate in?
The first thing is that an athlete is somebody who participates in a sport.
So the logical question we can ask here is, “Is darts a sport?”
And arguably, darts is considered and recognized as a sport in quite a few different countries all around the world.
Of course, there are countries where darts is not considered a sport. So depending on where you live, darts may or may not be regarded as a real sport.
So if we go by the definition that a darts player is a person who participates in a sport; therefore, they can be considered an athlete in some countries.
According to the definition from Cambridge Dictionary, an athlete participates in organized events, which darts can be. Especially when we are talking about participating in tournaments, leagues, and just overall playing professionally.
This also covers the part that an athlete needs to participate in some kind of competition.
The other terminology used was that the activity could also be a game. Darts can surely be considered a game. So this checks out.
Do darts players perform a physical activity?
The other thing that is frequently mentioned is that an athlete is somebody who is participating in an activity that involves skill, agility, endurance, or physical exertion.
And this is where things get real tricky.
The main problem is what exactly is considered a physical activity. So one again, I decided to look for some explanations.
According to Wikipedia, a physical activity is, “… any bodily movement produced by skeletal muscles that requires energy expenditure. Physical activity encompasses all activities, at any intensity, performed during any time of day or night. […] This integrated activity may not be planned, structured, repetitive or purposeful for the improvement of fitness, and may include activities such as walking to the local shop, cleaning, working, active transport etc.”
And according to the Kansas State University, “Physical activity can be defined as any movement of the body that requires energy expenditure. This includes any motion you do through the day excluding sitting still or lying down. For example, walking to class, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn, and even cleaning your house can be considered physical activity.”
Darts requires a steady hand and, despite being small, a certain level of physical exertion.
I feel like people often mix up physical activity with exercise. Physical activity encompasses a lot of things. Even simple movements of the body can be considered physical activity. And exercise is a type of physical activity.
The physical activity can be of varying intensities. It can be light, moderate, or vigorous.
An example of light physical activity is slow walking. While standing still, sitting or lying are usually not considered physical activities.
So do darts players stand in one place or lie in bed?
Not really. They are constantly moving around, aiming, and throwing.
Granted, the physical exertion and movements are small and somewhat minimal. But in the worst case scenario this is still a light physical activity.
Each throw requires great amounts of balance, consistency, and control over one’s body.
To have consistent throws takes a lot of training and practice; it requires mental toughness and endurance as well. Keep in mind this is a competition after all.
People can say what they want, but to be good at darts does involve high amounts of skill.
Which darts players are not considered athletes?
Just because darts can be considered a sport and it does involve low levels of physical activity it does not mean that we all are athletes.
Of course, anyone can pick up a dart and throw it at the board and even hit it. But so is the case with football, basketball, and even baseball.
I can pick up a basketball and throw it and make the basket, but that does not automatically make me an athlete.
Darts can also be a hobby.
After all, darts started as a pub game, but it grew into something a lot bigger.
However, playing darts for fun, as a pastime activity, or just as a hobby does not really require you to invest any time practicing, developing strategies, and brushing up on your performance.
This is something that I personally believe is part of the daily routine of somebody who is participating professionally in a sport and can be considered an athlete.
So to the definitions mentioned above of an athlete, I would add a few more caveats.
- To participate professionally in a sport (You don’t necessarily need to earn money from it); and
- And to invest a great deal of time into improving your skill and performance.
Of course, this can change. But as long as darts is played for fun, that does not make us athletes.
There definitely is a fine line between a hobby and a sport. But it can be felt.
What makes darts such a controversial topic?
One of the arguments is that darts is not a real sport. And I see the reasoning behind it. However, I cannot really agree with that.
A few other activities and games that are falling into the same controversial category are also golf, billiards, bowling, curling, and more.
People often argue that these are not real sports because a real sport involves running, jumping, and feats of physical endurance and strength.
But all of the examples mentioned above do require some physical activity that needs to be honed in the physical body. However small they may be.
However, lately, we have seen that more and more activities are becoming more widely recognized as a sport like computer games, for example.
Although there is much weight to the fact that darts cannot be compared to say football, this does not mean it does not deserve to be labeled as a sport.
All sports are different and can require various feats of strength, skill, agility, or endurance.
Figure skating is also a sport, but can you compare it to say boxing or rugby?
No, not really.
And just because in figure skating, you do not require raw physical strength, does that mean that figure skaters are less of an athlete compared to boxers and rugby players?
So just because darts players are performing less strenuous physical activities does not mean that they are not worthy to be called athletes.
On the other hand, chess is another endless debate. Many consider chess to be just a game and not a sport. Because although it involves a lot of mental thinking, there is almost no physical exertion.
Do athletes need to be physically fit to be considered real athletes?
This is another controversial topic.
One of the arguments many have is that many darts players are overweight. And this is not very sportsman-like, or athlete-like if you will.
One can be fit without being an athlete, but cannot be an athlete if they are not fit.
Can you call somebody who may fall in the overweight category an athlete?
Some may say yes.
So where do we draw the line?
This is where we can take a few different examples like the sumo wrestlers. They are athletes, but are they considered fit or overweight?
First, they are strong, but it is hard to say how fit they can be considered. Sumo is a contact sport that involves a mixture of skill, strength and, well, raw weight.
Darts do not require the players to be upheld to the same strict regimes long-distance runners, gymnasts, and other athletes need to follow.
This naturally triggers the response that they are not worthy enough to be categorized as athletes. But this does not mean that dart players do not need to do frequent and extensive training on a daily basis.
The other thing is that darts has always been considered a pub game or a past time activity for the working man. This has been the case for many, many years.
Something that recently has started to change.
So naturally, there has been a lot of discussion and controversy around the topic. Many people are for or opposed darts being considered a sport, and darts players considered athletes.
Should darts players be considered athletes?
So what is my opinion on this topic?
I think that a darts player can be considered an athlete when they start playing professionally and get seriously into darts, start playing leagues, going to tourneys, and earning money from darts.
This is when things get really serious. Darts is not a hobby anymore. You will need to practice, develop throwing techniques and routines.
To be really good, it requires you to practice frequently and persistently.
You also need to improve your math skills. You need to incorporate planning and strategy while playing; otherwise, you are put at a severe disadvantage. And you need to be able to adapt on the go.
Just ask anyone, who says that darts does not require any skill, to throw a triple twenty.
Frequently you will have to work on your mental toughness (just as most other sports).
The pressure is huge when playing a tourney, and you need to learn how to relax when playing darts.
Playing darts as a hobby and pastime activity makes me a darts player not an athlete.
Being an athlete is a title that needs to be earned.