By Logan DeLeon
At 13 years old, Aidan O’Neill competes in baseball, volleyball and basketball, but one of his favorite sports is darts. This month he will play in Ohio for the chance to win an all-expenses-paid trip to England.
“I have loved darts since I was two. My dad has always loved darts and competed. When I was little, I used to pretend to be the professional dart players,” Aidan said. “I have been playing darts with my dad since I was seven years old. I just started competing two years ago as a 10-year-old.
“My nickname is “The Kid,” he added, “because I play every week with nothing but adults. The nickname came just from what they all call me. So my dart jersey says ‘The Kid’ on the back.”
Aidan said he likes darts because it is an individual sport, him against the board. It also requires not only physical skill but also mental and math skills.
To understand and know your way around the board takes years of practice, he said, and knowing how to add, subtract and multiply while playing is learned only through many years of competition.
“Aidan excels over so many adults who have been playing for years. His math skills are amazing,” said his mother, Lisa O’Neill.
With his dad having more than 30 years in the sport, darts is not a new experience for the family.
Both Aidan and his parents make sacrifices for dart competition, including extensive travel.
“I compete all over California,” he said. “I will be traveling to tournaments across the country this year. I was just selected to be part of a United States Youth National Team called the Shot Puma ‘Young Guns,’ which is an honor for me. I will be going to Ohio the weekend of May 19th and playing in the CDC (Championship Dart Circuit) youth event for the ‘Young Guns,’ with a chance to win an all-expense-paid trip to play in England.”
Professional darts equipment is expensive, but Aidan has help.
“I am sponsored by two companies, Shot Darts and Horizon Darts. Horizon gives me my flights and shafts, and Shot gives me my darts. I use 23-gram Shot Harrier darts and use Fit Flight shafts and flights,” he said. “I bring my darts, shafts and flights in a dart case. I wear a dart jersey with my sponsors on it.”
The shaft is part of the “body” of a dart, along with the barrel, which is the place where the thrower holds it. Flights are like “wings” at the back of a dart, which make the dart aerodynamic.
Aiden works hard for his success.
“For training I try to practice as much as I can. Just like any sport, practice makes you better in many ways. I believe that I need to practice more so I can beat anybody I face. I play in a blind draw every week. I go to dart tournaments once a month and compete with adults mostly all of the time. I only play with players my own age a few times a year.”
In a blind draw, players draw cards and play against the person who draws the same card. Tournaments are held throughout the year in various places.
“I practice daily and before the tournament, and I try to not to let my nerves get to me. Playing with adults really prepares me to compete with kids my age,” Aidan said.
“My biggest event was playing in the DPLA (Dart Players of Los Angeles), and I competed against some of the best shooters on the West Coast. I was the youngest player to play in any Dart Players event in the country. I competed against adults, and it inspired me to emulate the best players. I hope to be like them someday.
“One of the most exciting out-of-town events I have gone to was the PDC U.S Masters in Las Vegas. I got to watch all of the pros around the world compete, and as well got to watch my dad compete in the qualifiers. This was really fun and I am excited to go to it this year.
“My favorite tournament was the Camellia Classic in Sacramento … because I competed with my dad in a youth-adult shoot and we won first place.
“My family supports me by encouraging me to be the best I can be. I am very lucky as a 13-year-old to have the kind of support I do every day. They come to all of my sporting events and help me along the way, and I want to thank them for that,” Aidan added.
“We have been supportive to Aidan in darts like we have in all of his sports,” his mother and father said by email. “As long as he enjoys playing the game we will support him. It has been extra special to have him play darts, as it has been more of a father-son event and has brought us much closer with both of us competing in the same sport.
“Aidan is respected by top players in the country for his sportsmanship and respectfulness towards the sport and his competitors. We are so proud of him!”
Meanwhile, Aidan has confidence in his ability. He practices hard and, he says, “I’m Irish. I don’t need luck!”
Logan DeLeon is a seventh-grader at Solvang School.