Currently ranked World Number 2 by the World Darts Federation and the First Woman to beat a male player in a major televised darts tournament, Deta Hedman AKA ‘The Dark Destroyer’ explains how to stay cool when a male competitor ‘fist pumps in your face’ and tensions run high on the mixed competition oche…
‘Try not to approach your passion in terms of winning or losing’
I think about a darts match simply as an enjoyable experience, not as something I have to win or that I might lose. That’s what stops a major competition becoming too daunting.
‘If you’re outnumbered – use it to your advantage’
The ratio of men to women in darts is around about 4 to 1. But having to always play against men is what made me so good at what I do. So it’s a benefit, not a challenge.
‘Being a woman in a man’s world can actually be more challenging for the men’
Basically, because of the stigma. There is huge pressure on men ‘not to lose to a woman’. Whereas I can just play and learn and enjoy myself. But I do love to see them squirm when they do lose…
‘Be a gracious loser’
I have had a man fist-pump in my face after beating me. They can be that rude. I just smile and say ‘enjoy it.’ You have to stay calm and congratulate them. Save the scream of frustration for when you get home.
‘Beware: the biggest challenge comes from playing the underdog’
Darts is a sport where there is no space between you and the spectators. There are no stands or barriers. The audience don’t have to be quiet and sometimes the venue is so packed your opponent’s supporters are literally touching you as you play. It is incredibly hard to stay calm in that sort of setting. My mantra is “I throw when I’m ready”. That’s how I take back command of the oche. The supporters will try and push you – to hurry you up or slow you down – but you have to play to your tempo. It’s the only way to take the power back.
‘Don’t engage in banter’
Some competitors like to chat to ease the tension. I let my darts do the talking. I let the darts say, ‘if you want to be better than me, this is what you have to do.’
‘I think women have to work harder in sports because they have so much going on in day- to-day life’
When a woman is at the oche she has to work pull her focus in from all the things she’s holding – her kids, responsibilities, work, domestic responsibility, etc. I think men can step away from all that much more easily. A woman’s time of the month can also affect her play. You can get triggered much more easily and be more nervous than usual. That isn’t openly acknowledged within in the sport but I can see it when it’s happening as clear as day.
‘As a woman you have to love the sport because you can’t make a living from it like men can’
Championship prize money for men’s darts is 100k. For women, it’s 12k. I often play then go and work a ten-hour shift. To be a female Darts player in this world you have to really love the sport.
‘Losing a game is simply a bad day at the office’
Write it off. Don’t beat yourself up. Move on. You can’t win them all. If you dwell on the losses you won’t play the next game well. Remember that a lost game is a one off – you have to move on. It really is just a game.
Deta Hedman – First Woman to win a mixed major televised Darts match
Interview by Deborah Willimott