It’s Sunday afternoon and one corner of the Langford Legion lounge is a beehive of activity.
It’s not what one might expect, only pop and fries being consumed and no one glued to TV screens showing the sports of the day. No, it’s the dart boards that have captured the attention of a group of young players, members of the Darts Victoria Youth League.
Three siblings from Colwood’s Lilleston family – their dad, Wayne is looking on – are here having fun and honing their skills with other local members of Team B.C. that will compete at the National Darts Federation’s Canadian Youth Championships in Saint John, N.B. in June.
To say that darts run in the Lilleston family would be rather an understatement.
Wayne Lilleston was introduced to darts by his friend Bryan Masters, who encouraged him to try his hand at the game. It wasn’t long before the Lilleston youngsters – there are five in total, and they’re rather competitive – wanted in on the action.
“My parents gave me a dart board for Christmas a couple of years ago and I’ve been playing ever since,” says Cole, at 17 the oldest of the three Lillestons on Team B.C. He qualified with a gold medal finish at the B.C.’s in Langford in January and will compete in the male senior youth division at nationals.
While learning from Masters, who coaches the group at the Legion, has seen Cole and the others improve their throwing and aim, the constant counting required to keep score in darts has improved his math skills, Cole says.
“I’m hoping to go into schools next year and talk about it,” he says, noting that using darts to make math fun may also help recruit new local players in an area that could use more competition. Team B.C.’s youth group at the 2016 nationals in Vancouver was a bit sparse last year, with most players fairly new to the game.
Spencer Lilleston, 14, won B.C. gold in 2016 and will return to nationals after placing third this year in junior boys. He said while the team did “not bad” given their experience level last year, “this year we’re going to do even better.” Like his siblings – 11-year-old sister, Bree-Anne, won her second straight junior girls B.C. title in January – Spencer plays every day at home, where there are now two dart boards in the family’s living room.
“I finally fixed my throw, now I’m throwing straight,” he says, noting that his motion was a bit awkward before. “We all teach each other.”
Bree-Anne likes the fact that there’s virtually always someone to throw with at home and “tactics” is her favourite game. She’s excited about travelling to New Brunswick this year and says her hope is to improve upon her 2016 performance.
Fellow Colwood residents Blake MacDonald, 12, and his sister Lacey, 9, who both finished second at B.C.’s, will also be making the trip, as will Devon Abbott, 15. In total, nine players from B.C. will represent their province, six of whom are from the Island.
For his part, Masters is thrilled with the growth and the interest level. A huge fan of the game and the positive impact it can have on players of all ages, he especially likes the changes it has brought in the youth players.
“Being math-oriented, darts is one of those games that offers solutions,” he says. “I see them gaining confidence, which is great … it’s good for critical thinking and problem solving.”
Masters co-founded the youth league with Betty Mackie, who secured the Legion for these practise sessions. He says they’re always looking for new members and will be doing fundraising in the lead-up to the nationals.
For more information on the group, or to help with sponsoring or future fundraisers, visit Darts Victoria Youth League on Facebook or call Masters at 778-679-4503.