MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — In a game of precision, such as darts, it’s natural to think that taking aim begins with line of sight.
For players like Shawn Bangsund, accuracy has nothing to do with his ability to see.
Shawn lines up in front of the dart board with a blindfold covering his eyes. Even without his vision, he can still visualize a dart hitting the board.
“I try to be centered and hope for the best,” said Shawn Bangsund, a blind dart player.
Shawn is a member of the Twin Cities blind audio dart league, a competitive club tailored to the blind. The league started in the mid-1980s and has dozens of members who participate.
“I can see a tiny bit of light and some shapes but nothing that does anything for me,” Bangsund said.
Without the ability to see the target, Shawn and his fellow competitors rely on a modified game.
“We use a toe board here on the floor to line up,” Bangsund said.
Players square up to a board using a seven foot piece of piping placed on the floor. The board is outfitted with software designed to describe location. After a dart hits, the board tells a player exact location on the board and a clock perspective.
For example, if someone shot a dart into the 5, the board would say that number and whether they are in the interior or exterior portion of the board. It would also say “11 o’clock,” to give the dart location based on the clock.
“It allows you to know what you’re hitting,” said Phil Sporer, league president. “We could not play without it.”
Phil Sporer found the league six years ago after an invite from a friend.
“I’m high partial, low vision person,” Sporer said. “I was never good at sports so this is kind of a sport that I’m able to do well at.”
Phil attends practice and the weekly Tuesday games on a regular basis. He discovered proficiency take time, patience and practice. Also, just like any other sport, players have their good days and bad.
“This provided a good challenge and it was fun,” Sporer said.
While the majority of the players have some degree of blindness, some teammates have perfectly clear vision. Annie Giddings is one of those players. She joined the league several years ago and is an important contributor to the game.
“We always need someone who can see, to see where darts are hitting or if they need to be picked up,” said Giddings who plays on the dart league.
To create a level playing field for both the blind and sighted, every player must wear a blindfold while throwing darts.
“The first time you throw, you think you’re going to hit the board perfectly and you miss the board,” Giddings said. “It makes it more fun and more competitive to be on that same level.”
What would seem a setback has actually helped these players develop their expertise, and has redefined how many see the game.
“I actually throw better when I’m blindfolded,” Giddings said.
“This is just one thing to prove that we can play on an equal footing as sighted people, if not better,” Bangsund said.
The dart league is open to anyone. They play tournaments on Tuesdays and practice on Sundays.