|Posted by Julie Lambie on January 23, 2016 at 10:50 AM|
January 22, 2016
National Championships in America
The Cricket National Championship is today. No one who plays darts in the U.S. wants to miss it, least of all me. I have to say I wish I was able to be a part of it. So how is it that one of the top shooters in America isn’t going to be competing for the National title? If you are not familiar with how you qualify to compete in an ADO National Championship currently, let me explain.
The ADO created a playoff system to qualify players to compete for a national title. It starts at the local league level with players competing for spots in their region. These are usually called qualifiers. The cost to enter is usually around $10 or $20. The format is a one-day round robin format event (every player entered, plays every other player in the room. The player with the best record on that day wins.) The winner of that days’ competition gets to compete in the next level up: the Regional. So all the winners of the local qualifiers (in a good region, there will be several) get their spot secured for the regional. Anyone can play in a regional, as long as they belong to an ADO affiliated league or pay their ADO membership individually…but if you didn’t win your spot at the local qualifier, you have to bring the $110 entrance fee. The winner of this regional gets the big prize: not only the chance to compete for a national title, but also a paid round trip flight to the destination of the National and a stipend to help with hotel costs. If you drive to the National, you get reimbursed according to mileage.
I must admit, in the early years of my darting, I really didn’t know much about darts events outside of my local league. I knew when sign-ups for fall/winter league were, and I knew when summer league sign-ups were. Beyond that, I didn’t really give much thought to other events. After a few years in league, I found out about qualifiers, regionals, nationals and the whole ADO system. My region, which includes all of upstate New York, was pretty much hit or miss on having enough women to hold a regional. Too often, the night before a scheduled regional, I would get a call from the Regional Director, that there would not be enough women, so to not bother coming.
This was very discouraging to me. Many times, I would just have to carry over my qualifier win to the next regional, until finally, we would have one. Then, when we finally did have one, I didn’t win. It took quite a few years of this process before I finally won a cricket regional and got to compete on the national level.
I finished in the top 8 that first year, and from then on, I was hooked! As a player that didn’t travel but to just a few close tournaments, it was quite an experience for me. I enjoyed everything- the skill level of the players, the people I met and became friends with, and the tournament that followed..with so many great shots from all over the world. When I got back home, I had to tell all my friends how cool it was and encouraged them to come out and play the next qualifier!
After several years of having hit or miss regionals, I decided to take matters into my own hands and become the local ADO rep. I held qualifiers often, trying to find ways to raise the money needed for each player to make it to the regional. Syracuse had quite a few women shooters who would compete in these and I felt things were going well. We had a few regionals in a row, where we had enough women. There should be at least 8 people to hold a regional, however it can be done with as few as 4 or 5. The problem there is that either the winner has to raise the balance of money to actually go, or everyone has to pitch in the extra money before the matches start. The amount of money that has to be raised to send one person to the National? A whopping $880.00!
The great thing about this process, is it takes a local, league-only player and exposes him/her to the experience of traveling to dart tournaments. For me, after attending my very first national, I became so immersed in practice routines, running qualifiers, and going to as many tournaments as I could afford, it was almost like a drug. I just loved it…And it all started with that first chance competing at the Nationals.
In that respect, I have to say, it is a great grassroots program. It took me from league player to one of the top players in the country. Of course, my success is also due to a lot of hard work and determination; But I feel the whole process kick-started my climb to the top.
Moving on to present day…I now hate regionals. Not because I don’t want to play in them, but because there is never one to play in. On the scarce occasion that we do have a regional, I hate having to play in it; Chances are it has taken numerous tries to get enough women qualified to actually have one, to coerce a few more to show up , and then I walk in the room… I’m not blind to the fact that most women don’t want to play against me; for that matter, most men don’t want to play me…(but that is a topic for another blog.) The point is, after all the effort to finally pull a regional together, if I win, how many of those women will bother to come back?
One year, it was assumed that I wouldn’t be able to make it, being at a tournament over 9 hours away… but I managed to get back in time just before they closed registration. There were 8 of our best local shooters ready to compete…but as I entered the room, I felt the excitement and hope of those players leave it. I played 24 games that day, and dropped only 1 leg, to win my spot for the Nationals…but I never felt so awful about a win. It was such a rare occurrence to have so many women participate; it was such a great start to the future of our local dart scene for the women, it was what I helped grow through the qualifiers I held as our local rep; it was new players who were quite good and had a future if they continued to play…. and I haven’t seen half of them ever again. Was it just because of me? Was it the cost of the event? Was it that other things in their lives became more important? I hazard a guess that it was probably a combination of all those things.
Whatever the case, we have not had a full regional for the ladies since. That was 4 years ago. How can we grow the participation of darts, if the only way even the top players can play a national is to attend regionals that I always felt should be exclusively for the local player who doesn’t have the sponsors and can’t afford to attend distant tournaments. My point is, keep the regionals/qualifiers for the “up-and-comers” to get the opportunities they otherwise may not have had. As for those top players, give the top 8 or top 16 in the country (or even just those that make the US National Team) an invite to play the Nationals. If money is an issue, have the top players pay a qualifying fee to enter. Either way, in order to have a National Championship, shouldn’t the best players in the nation be there? Otherwise how can you call it a National championship?
I see that in the letter to the members at the beginning of this year, the ADO president hinted on some much needed changes…
“…The current ADO board, which I believe is filled with the right people who all have a vision on how to move the ADO forward, will be constantly working together to achieve the goals of giving back more to the players. We are looking to increase National Championship payouts, give added benefits and awards to US National Team members and past National Champions, provide more opportunities for players to represent the USA overseas and provide more opportunities for all players to participate in ADO National Finals....”
I am hoping these changes happen soon, as we are in what i would call a spiraling decline in participation. Players are losing interest in the game, and I can’t say I blame them. If we want darts to grow, we have to not only reward the players who put everything they have into the game but also find ways to start enticing and encouraging the new player as well.
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