On the evening of Friday 29th August, I will be heading for Thornaby Sports and Leisure Club, not just to watch the fourth annual Boro Boys event, but (rather scarily) to take part... a very small part.
Before this year, if anyone had told me I’d agree to throwing a few darts on a stage in front of 300 people, I’d simply have laughed at the idea. But all that changed in January, when I met England international Glen Durrant for a few games of 501 at North Ormesby WMC as part of my ongoing challenges for the mental health charity Mind.
I loved darts as a teenager, practiced for hours and wasn’t a bad player: not great, but not bad. Then, totally out of the blue my arm and hand started to shake when I tried to throw. It got to the point when I could barely actually let go of a dart, and it wasn’t too long before the embarrassment became too much and I simply stopped playing.
Fast forward over a quarter of a century and although I’d become quite proficient at hitting the board in an often bitterly cold garage, I hadn’t thrown a single dart in public... until Glen agreed to play me.
It’s hard to put into words the effect that a mental fear of failure can have on the body. You know you can throw three darts fairly accurately, but remembering you might not be able let go of a dart sows a seed that basically grows into a self-fulfilling prophesy. You’re so scared of making a fool of yourself, so that's what almost inevitably happens.
So when I met Glen, I genuinely wasn’t sure where that first dart was going to land – and I did make sure Glen was behind me. It hit a single 20, as did the next two... I was partly incredibly relieved, but inside I was ecstatic. I was well beaten in the games that eventually followed, but hit a few decent scores along the way and by the end, I was almost enjoying myself.
And then came Boro Boys.
When I attend training courses at work, I have heard the phrase “fight or flight” a number of times. Sometimes it’s possible to avoid the thing(s) that makes you most apprehensive – however trivial it may outwardly seem – but a few of the challenges I set myself were intended to push me, whether that be mentally or physically (or both).
It was incredibly generous of Glen to extend me the invitation to play him on stage – after all, he’d made arrangements before he’d even met me - and there was no way I was going to turn down the opportunity.
Last night, the event was posted on a well known social media site, with Glen adding a comment about how he was going to “destroy me.” I must admit that made me chuckle, after all he’s one of the finest players on the planet, I’m not even sure if I’m in the top ten in our street, but maybe that’s missing the point.
Believe me, I will practice as hard and as often as I can, because I absolutely intend to give Glen a game, but let’s be realistic, he will beat me, probably hammer me, but that actually doesn’t matter. Glen might be my opponent on the oche – and it will be a genuine privilege to share the stage with him – but my real opponent on the night won’t be Glen Durrant... it’ll be me.
So if you’re around Teesside at the back end of August and looking for a great night out, with loads of quality darts players, a special mystery guest, and the old bloke who gets the shakes, then here’s a link to the event... just remember it’s me you need to cheer for!!