New Jersey Dart League

New Jersey Dart League (NJDL) Kearny New Jersey

Contribution by Henry Magee – 2004

This is an English steel tip league.

NJDL covers Hudson, Bergen, Essex and Passaic County We’re in the Tri state area and can be in four different counties in a few minutes by foot. We have enjoyed teams from all parts of those areas. Teams/sponsors come and go. The league is broken into conferences and divisions so teams leaving don’t hurt the league as a whole.

Right now the league is carrying 28 teams and each team consists of minimum of 6 maximum of 12. A lot of the teams sign up the minimum of 6 then as the season goes on, who doesn’t show, who quits, who moves away, the teams end up carrying up to twelve players on the roster.

I would say I could name thirty of the players in the league that have been playing here for 19 years or better. Many of those players are of the highest level. That’s not exclusive to the high level players; many lower level players have been around a long time also, fifteen, sixteen, twenty years. Usually it’s the novices that don’t have a lot of playing time. They come to check out what the attraction is, play two three four years and quit for various reasons. For the most part players like what they see and they stick around. Besides being a great sport, it’s obviously a great way to socialize, it’s, it’s – I just love it.
You know, once they get exposed to it, they understand what it’s all about also.

The entire league is run right of this dart store, the Magee’s Dart & Game Shoppe. This is the league office. An advantage when you’re running a league. Most leagues when there is a problem or have a question you play telephone tag for several days trying to track down league officers. Our league has an office with regular business hours 5 days a week. We also have a league night Captains Only “Hot Line,” when you call you get an answer immediately and any rule questions or interpretations are resolved on the spot. This allows the match to go on without a dispute.

Typical members are male / female, black / white, fat / skinny, tall / short, handicapped / athletic, it runs the entire gamete. Anyone can play this game. And everybody can play this game competently. The membership is so eclectic I can’t come up with a single description. They’re blue-collar white-collar father sons mother and daughters. I think it’s that way in most leagues. In my experience traveling around this country twenty something years all the leagues are basically the same, they’re made up of the same type of people. The make up of league players has a lot to do with geography and demographics. For example if you drive over to Hoboken they are what I describe as the up and coming yuppies living in their brownstone town houses. If you go to bars, pubs and restaurants over there you’re dealing with the young professionals. Hoboken has its own league. Due to density and proximity to NYC most residents use mass transit. That makes it difficult to play a traveling league outside of town. It’s also difficult to accommodate visiting teams due to the lack of available parking.

The league is broken down into Conferences and then 3 division skill levels (gender plays no part). There are no directors, none, this is a dictatorship. I’m the president, the secretary, the dart player, I am everything. No committees, no committee members, no volunteers. I set up tournaments myself. That doesn’t mean a couple of guys don’t show up to help me out. I found out over the years that in any volunteer organization all the work is done and ends up on the shoulders of a few dedicated people. Everybody has suggestions, one or two end up doing all the work and the president get all the criticism
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At this time the league is not associated with any national organization. We have aligned in the past with the ADO & ADA and many members carry memberships to various national bodies. With a national affiliation come additional fees. For most leagues money is tight. It could cost upwards of several hundred dollars a year. National affiliation, in my opinion, only benefits a very few top tournament players. It didn’t make sense to me to, to spend hundreds of the leagues revenue so that a handful of players didn’t have to pay for individual membership of $20-$30 per year.

I do however maintain a good relationship with the presidents of both the ADO & ADA. They have friends of mine for many years. I try to maintain the same relationship with officers of other area leagues as well. All the area leagues are independently operated and are autonomous from one another. We all try to support one another with tournament promotion an attendance.

NJDL members pay weekly dues and sponsors pay annual fees. Members pay $5 a week, each week they play. That’s not less than $30 for a team. If only four guys show up the team still has to pay the minimum weekly dues of $30. This is necessary in order to prepare an annual awards structure & budget. Many teams avail themselves to the “Annual Dues Option” a discount that can save them two, three hundred dollars per season. Sponsors pay $175 per year to sponsor a team.

The NJDL has extensive rules, always a work in progress. When we started twenty-three years ago the rules consisted of, bring your own darts, stand behind the line, and throw at the board and no fist fighting. There were a lot of things we weren’t happy about with and the league needed improvement. When I was traveling around the country, chasing down the Lucky Strike tour I started collecting rules everyplace I went. As the years went by I would read those rules over and I’d say, gee – this is a good idea, so our rules, which are now around forty five pages long and read like a legal manuscript are actually a conglomerate of rules I picked up all over the country. When it was formed several years ago the Hoboken league I spoke of earlier, adopted our rules and with minor changes. In my opinion, a compliment, for 20 years of hard work. Over the years, even when you think you have everything covered, there is always that unusual situation that crops up. I’d make a note and make the necessary changes over the summer. Probably the most important part of any league is having a comprehensive set of rules to govern the league. They eliminate disputes and make for an even playing field. They remove the human factor in making critical decisions. You know the old “Henry, you’re my friend” or “Why is the rule different for me.” Not everyone is not going to like all the rules but everyone knows that here the rules are the same for everyone. No exceptions! Ninety percent of the time players like the rules until it impacts to them. Then its not a good rule anymore.
The rules are basically self-sufficient. It’s all quite clear in the rules; the idea is take the human factor out. The rules have to be clear and concise, I don’t make any decisions.

The most difficult rule to enforce is timeliness, you know, showing up on time. The rules state that start time is eight O’clock and the late start is eight fifteen. If the team is not present by eight fifteen, any member present shall act as captain and complete the line-up for the first set of games (If no one is present to act as captain the entire match is forfeit and fines are now applied). The acting captain now has a difficult predicament. In completing the line up, you can leave a line blank and forfeit the game, or put the names in and hope they come through the door when the game is called.

In the beginning it was very difficult, but now I’d have to say my league is one of the few where matches start on time, the penalty for being late is severe.

There’s nothing you can do about a team that doesn’t care. Teams or sponsors with this attitude are a detriment to the league overall. My first reaction is to contact the captain. The captain has signed an agreement with the league and accepts responsibility for his team in all matters. The captain is the leagues link to the players and visa verse. You can’t have several hundred players contacting the league office nor can you expect the league to contact 1 on 1 the hundreds of players in the league. I explain to the captain the repercussions and how it will affect his team as well as other players in the league. He has a responsibility to correct any problems the league is having with the team and or player. Players have individual goals and awards they are attempting to achieve. When they personally are affected they have a tendency to straighten out their own teammates.

In the case of “No Show Forfeits” Fines are added to the required weekly dues. Weekly dues are required regardless of whether you play or you don’t play. It’s going to cost you thirty dollars dues and on top of that for the first offense there is a thirty dollar fine, it costs you sixty dollars not to go to your match. Second offense: thirty dollars dues – sixty dollar fine, third offense: thirty dollars dues – ninety dollar fine, it costs you one hundred twenty dollars not to go to your match. And if a team fails to pay all members of the team are automatically banned from participation in the league and forfeit awards earned to date. As I said before, most players think darts is such an enjoyable thing they want to stay, now the problem is the team owes one hundred twenty dollars. I’ve had players offer to pay “Their Share” of an outstanding balance. It doesn’t work that way. It was a team effort, a team failure. The outstanding balance must be satisfied in full. It’s not the money that’s important it’s accepting responsibility as an adult. Let him go chase down the players and bring the money in. That’s the frustrating part for league officers all over the country, having to chase down people to get the money these “responsible adults” owe.

I think the most aggravating thing is the whiners, bitchers, and complainers. It’s aggravating when everybody knows what they are getting into, like I said, the rules are the rules, are the rules, and they are all great until it applies to you. And here we are all grown adults and instead of accepting responsibility for doing something wrong it’s always easier to blame your captain, your team mates, the league operator or how the league is run. There aren’t a lot of those but it only takes one to give the whole business a bad image. This is nothing personal. The league has to be run like a business. That’s the way it has to be done. Everything is in that comprehensive forty-five page rules and every captain is required to read it and sign an agreement, along with the sponsor.

Being banned last forever, until the money is paid. This directly affects the sponsor (usually a tavern, pub or bar) and their revenues. The sponsor will not be permitted, to field this team or a replacement team the following season. If a sponsor previously had two teams and one is banned he’s restricted to one team next year. The sponsor has one of two things he can do. Chances are the players are customers of his; he can talk them, or pay the money himself and field a different team the following year.

The league recognizes that on occasions through the year a chance exist that a match needs to be postponed. Deaths, Funerals, Weddings & weather are factors. When a captain needs to postpone a match, and there are all kinds of reasons, in that case the captains all have each other’s phone numbers and at the time of contact they must then and there agree on a make up date. Both captains are now required to call the league office to notify that “Henry we had to postpone the match until what ever night” and now I’m expecting a call from the other captain. The reason we have both captains call is usually when captains are on the phone more than one date is discussed and one thinks they agreed to one date and sometimes the other thinks it was another date, so by calling me I can make sure they are both on the same page. I’m the clearinghouse.

Format: The NJDL match format is as follows. Three games of doubles cricket, three games of doubles 501dido, six games singles cricket, six game singles 301dido. Two points awarded for doubles matches, one point on singles matches, Twenty-four total points no tiebreakers. All games are one and done.

The NJDL plays 8pm
Tuesday nights and the season runs September through June, approximately 30 weeks.

We attempt to hold an annual “Qualified Players” tournament at the end of each season. Players who have competed in 50% of the seasons scheduled matches are considered “Qualified” and as such may participate in the annual tournament for free. Non-qualified or non-NJDL members are required to pay various entry fees’ to participate. Players from all the various conferences now have the opportunity meet and compete for substantial prize money and awards.

We the league don’t have a formal teaching program but I personally am frequently asked to go to a bar & clubs. Individuals frequently come to the store for help with their game. No I don’t charge. I’m flattered by the request. Especially new teams and players. I think it’s beneficial. When I get new teams and see novices playing over the summer months, when they’re trying to put their team together, it’s not uncommon for me to go to the bar and spend the night with the guys and just talk to them about the game. You can’t teach them everything in one or two nights but you can give them the basics. Point out the bad the habits and offer tips and advice on everything from the stance, the stroke, the grip, you know, just the basics to get them started on the right foot.

No, the NJDL never has meetings. I would be the only one there. I don’t need anybody’s approval for any actions I take but I do seek everybody’s ideas and input regarding changes for the better.

Teams are divided into Conferences geographically then placed in divisions by skill level. The skill level is determined by the NJDL rating system. The rules state that every player, on an annual basis, shall receive a skill level review. A skill level review is based on the players previous year’s win percentage. His singles performance only. The rating system determines what skill level a player is permitted play the following season. In our league all skill levels play all other skill levels. A novice player will play a high-level skill level sometime during the season so the average is pretty much an overview of how you stand among all the players. I ‘m not saying it’s ideal or perfect. That is the ratings and it has served us well for several years.

At the start of a match a captain completes a line up for the first set of games. This is done on the Blind, captains don’t know the other captains line up and matching players takes a bit of strategy. Captains who have been around for a while take great pride trying to successfully out wit each other with their strategy. Many have played against or with each other in prior years it’s pretty much an intelligent guessing game. A lot of teams come in to the shop to get the stats of the other teams, (they can go on line); trying to find out how the other captain plays his game.

Gettng Started: I would say, 90% of the time players get on teams, because they just happen to be in one of the sponsoring locations on league night, see the activity, make acquaintances and ask questions. Captain picks them up themselves or they are directed to the league and I get involved. Teams are kept on parity level through the rating system and the “known player” rule. I’ve been playing in this league and others for oh, thirty something years. Having been around for so long and being the only dart shop in the area I pretty much know everybody that plays the game in the area. If I don’t know the player, there is a good chance that somebody I know knows the player. So if a “Known Player” (non-rated) shows up on a roster I can assign him a rating. This prevents stacking teams at lower skill levels. Stacked teams are welcome at the highest level. I love playing against stacked teams. I have no problem with captains recruiting from other teams as long as they play at the appropriate skill level.

Communication: Key to operating a league is communicating with the membership. I use several ways to contact members: Captains, telephone, Internet web page, email, & weekly mailings. We have a lot of options today that we didn’t have twenty years ago and it makes it extremely easy. League statistics are mailed weekly to all Captains and sponsor as well as being posted to the NJDL web page hosted by www.njdarts.com. If you have an irresponsible captain (doesn’t provide required information to team members), any member can access the data to see what’s going on. There’s no excuse in this league for not knowing what’s going on because there’s just too many ways to obtain information and be informed.

Twenty years ago I was looking twenty years ahead, nineteen years ago I was looking fifteen years ahead, eighteen years ago I was looking ten years ahead, every year I found out that because the league, players and their makeup’s were so unpredictable it became very difficult to build the league with a long term vision. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a long-term vision, I’m just saying that to get two to three hundred people to have the same vision became very difficult. Now I find that I look forward, I would say, one season ahead.
A problem I see is money. We should never have made the league a money league. It changes the complexion of the league when you put money on the line. It took some of the fun out of it.

Florida
had the right idea. I brought that concept back here to NJ and tried to foster it among the area leagues with no success. Each league savored its autonomy and league officers didn’t want to give up some of the authority

I’ve been trying for years to get other leagues to kind of work as a cohesive unit but after twenty years of banging my head against the wall I found out that all I’m getting is a headache. So I tried to do it on my own by establishing new conferences through out the state and the 21 counties. Geography is no longer of consequence. We could start a new conference in Trenton tomorrow, or in Camden County tomorrow. The electronic age has brought everything closer together. I played a number of years in Florida and the benefit I saw in Florida was that they had a state association. One authority that kind of over saw all the member leagues and kept them all on the same page, focused in one direction. It also added little bit of excitement. Members of the various participating leagues had the opportunity to play for a state team and represent it in tournaments. It’s my experience, that members, (with few exceptions), don’t play for the money, they play for recognition. To be recognized as one of thousands around the state to make the State team is an honor.
That’s why the name here is NJDL. That was my vision when I incorporated. The goal being to form conferences through out the state under one banner, NJDARTS. Hopefully one day League Champion will be synonymous with State Champion.

I have twenty-two years of records. No hall of fame but I’d love to do it one day.

I regularly update my database of bars around the state, I have thousand of them, and they automatically receive mailings from the league, whether they are in the league or not. If they throw them in the trash, that’s fine. A lot of the sponsor and player recruiting are generated from the mailing. Potential sponsors (new bars) see an opportunity to increase revenue on an otherwise off night (Tuesday). A great deal of it is because of the length of the season, we play thirty plus weeks. That’s at least 15 weeks of league darts in your establishment with the sponsorship of a single team. A league match can increase the nightly “Ring” by as much as $200-$400. There is a minimal expense for a sponsor. The sponsor is required; obviously, to pay the sponsor fee and maintain what we refer to as the dart “pit” which is the dartboard, scoreboard, proper lighting and the oche. There are minimum standards the sponsor has to agree to before the start of the season. It is easy to enforce the minimum standard once a sponsor has seen the benefits of league participation. If I get a complaint about a particular venue I’ll go down and check it out then give the sponsor one week to comply. If he doesn’t comply all his matches become away matches until his place is brought back into compliance. And compared to putting up a $45 dartboard to losing a $200 to $400 dollar ring, there’s no problem at all.

I make up the schedules myself from things I picked up around the country. As anyone will tell you it is very difficult to make a schedule to accommodate multiple teams out of bars without conflicts. Because I’m not a mathematician, Glen Remmick’s group, the ADA, did one of the best scheduling schemes I’ve ever seen. If you look at Glen’s schedules its possible to schedule as many as 2 teams per available dartboard without conflict.

Potential players see an opportunity to go out one night a week with their friends, go to new bars, pubs and clubs they otherwise wouldn’t because there is something to do when they get there and they are sure to know at least 6 people when they arrive. Before the season is over you’ll know and make friends through out the state. The separation by skill level gives teams at each level the opportunity to earn championship recognition and the corresponding awards.

We have an annual awards party that is held the week before the new season starts. Recognition is everything. The season ends in June and that gives me time to make sure all the stats are compiled, all the awards are ordered and received. All the awards here are specific. If you earn a trophy or plaque it would say George Silberzahn, member of, and recognize your accomplishment. No “T” shirts from vendors or umbrellas from the Meadowlands Race Track. There are prizes for a lot of things team and individual alike, and including the prize money. The most coveted awards are the Championship Jackets, Plaques and traveling trophy. The league is broke at the end of each season. For over fifteen years the league has actually run a deficit. I write it off as part of business.

I’ve gotten to meet and play with a lot of phenomenal people over the last thirty years. Guys I met years ago and I still talk with them to this day. It’s an amazing friendship building activity especially with teammates.

I hope people want to be a member of the NJDL because it gives an opportunity to meet a lot of people from all over the state on a regular basis. After all these years it’s still a pleasure to go out on Tuesday night in an organized fashion, and know what you’re going to find when you get there. If you’re new to the area and you don’t know anyone and are looking for a place to go find a dart team, every time I go out I meet somebody new. The game only adds a little bit of excitement that we all share. It doesn’t start out as a passion but it becomes a passion.

For more information or questions: njdarts.com web site, henry@njdarts.com

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