This article is for the guy or gal out there who likes darts, no not just likes darts, you love darts. Heck, lets face it you are downright addicted and have maybe spent a little tiem and effort trying to get better.
Your hard work and enthusiasim pay off and before you know it, you're starting to put darts more or less where you want them and start to feel good about yourself and your game.
All is not perfect though, as you may find yourself running into a problem or two, and they are the problems that have plagued pretty much anyone who has ever picked up a dart.
- In practice you can throw tons, but once a match starts your form falls apart and you throw ones
- The opponent you could have, would have and should have beaten has just stolen a game from you that should have been yours
- You throw the game of your life, well that is until you spend forty minutes throwing at double one.
- Noisy bad venues and other distractions throw you off your game.
- You get psyched out or intimidated by certain players.
- No matter how good you get in patches, you just can't find any consistency on the oche.
Of couse these things often ocour due to a lack of confidence or getting 'psyched out' or letting ourselves focus on the wrong things.
The following are a few ways you can adjust and/or rethink your attitude that will go a long way to building your confidence and making choking on the oche a thing of the past.
One: Winning is for losers
Of course we all want to win, but it is an ironically dangerous habit to make it your focus. This is for two main reasons. One is that 'winning' and 'being good' are not the same thing. Would you rather win a hundred games in a row against a toddler, or would you be more satisfied losing a hundred games in a row to Ray Van Barneveld, but getting down to a final deciding leg each time? Which one do you think has the champion attitude?
The second issue with making winning your focus, is that winning is the result of a bunch of different factors coming together in the right way, and while you may control many of these factors, winning is not actually something you can directly control. It is something that may be a future result of what you are doing right now (I.E. Throwing a dart) but all you actually control is how yu throw your dart.
Two: Failing is for winners
The champ is not the one who never gets knocked down, The champ is the one that never stopped getting back up again.
Losing and failure can be a hard pill to swallow, but if you embrace it each time as an opportunity to learn and grow then you will only become a stronger player for it.
This means adjusting from looking at each game as a chance to prove yourself to looking at each game as a chance to learn and grow and to use as feedback to become a more skilled and mentally tougher darter.
Some might say a 180 is three darts in the triple 20 bed, but really a 180 is about 1,500 26's.
You need to pay the price. If you aren't winning enough then ask yourself if you have failed enough!
Three: Stay in the present.
One of the biggest, best and maybe simplest bits of advice that can help your dart game is where to keep your head, and that is simply on yourself and what you are doing at that exact moment. Not on what happened the throw before, or what your opponent said, or even whether the dart you are about to throw will hit or not and what that all means. No, just focus on you and the simple action of delivering the dart to the board.
Stay in the now and don't dwell in the past or think about the future. Don't think about the consequences of the game or what your team mates or opponents might think.
Just do what you are doing.
Four: Its all in your head
Do you know who that jerk is that makes you miss doubles,or gives you the shakes during a big game?
Yup, that's right it is you and only you!
The good news is that now you know who the culprit is, you can stop blaming bad music, bad boards or 'unbeatable' opponents and do something about it, because if it is only something going on in your head, then with time and the right attitude you should to a large degree be able to control it, because well you are the boss of you, and that should be empowering!
Five: Don't fight bad thoughts.
The music sucks, the venue sucks, the other player takes too long and you really don't feel any confidence at all.
A lot of people will tell you to just block those things out, evict them forcibly from your mind!
The only problem is that not only does not work, but will likely escalate your frustration and anxiety levels.
Instead what you should do is recognize these distractions and emotions, and recognize your feelings as legitimate, and fully understandable, but that these are all things outside of what you are actually doing, which is delivering a dart to the board, all the other stuff is just the 'other stuff'.
Six: Recognize when your focus drifts.
Everyone has lapses in concentration and focus, it is simply a part of human nature. The skill that a champion has is to recognize that it is happening and to quickly re-focus without beating themselves up over the lapse.
Once you make a conscious effort to do this you will get better and better at it, and get better and better at staying on your job of delivering darts to the board.
Seven: Focus on the right things.
The only thought (other than being friendly and generally a good sport) you need to give towards your opponent is that you are happy that they exist because they allow you to see how good you are right now, and the better they are the better it is for you as it will challenge you and give you a chance to learn.
Other than that, the amount of thought you should give to your opponent or how good or not good they may be or how well they have thrown before or are throwing right now is nothing,nada, zilch. Not one single brain cell should be wasted on it.
Simply put, you can't control how well your opponent throws, and thinking about it will only cause you anxiety and affect how well you can throw.
Keep it all about you and the job at hand.
Eight: Avoid practice routines that are contests
Practicing can have goals, and it can be challenging, but it should be focused on learning and perfecting a skill, and should be achievable In a reasonable amount of time for your skill level.
(and by that I mean how good you are, not how good you wish or think you should be).
What you should avoid are practice games that are contests as this will only get you in a mind set of beating your last 'score' and not focused on learning the skill you need to learn.
It is also a rocket ship straight to frustration and lack of confidence.
Keep your actual games as the place that you compete, and leave practices for learning!
One excellent (and free) darts learning program that you can use, and doesn't use contest oriented practices, is Flight School which was created and is run by an old American dart pro named George Silberzhan. You can learn more about it HERE.
Nine: Coach a four year old.
Imagine you are coaching a small child. A small innocent, sensitive child that only wants to please you.
Would you yell at them and tell them they 'sucked' and were 'crap' if they missed? No of course not, instead you would forgive any mistakes they made and encourage them and make them feel good for trying. You would also praise them for their successes big or small, because you would know that for better or worse they are doing their best and that yelling and criticizing (other than being a horrible thing to do to a kid) will only discourage and demoralize them. Instead of being motivated to learn all they would do is learn that they don't like darts because that is when they get yelled at.
Well, if you don't think yelling and being critical will help a four year old learn and get better, what makes you think that it will work for you?
Be your own best coach, supporter and source of encouragement. Every victory no matter how small deserves a "way to go!" and every mistake is forgivable.
Doing this wont stop you from having negative thoughts, or getting frustrated with yourself, but it will steer your mental conversation in the right direction, and because doing the opposite will only work to sabotage all you are hoping to achieve.
Ten: Out work everyone else.
No matter what I did it never seemed enough
he said I was lazy, I said I was young
He said, How many songs did you write
I'd written zero, I'd lied and said, Ten
You won't be young forever
you should have written fifteen
-Lou Reed, 'Work'
Out working everyone is not about spending more hours and hours on the board until your arm falls of than the other guy or gal. It is about the quality of that time and your commitment to staying focused on getting better and maintaining good habits and a healthy positive champions attitude.
It is about finding new ways to get better when other people are just throwing at the board learning nothing or doing what they already know.
Study some out shots, practice your doubles and check out combos, go to the gym to let go of some tension and increase your stamina up on the oche.
Pay the price and you will get to be the best you can be.
Eleven: Keep your head held high
At first I was going to call this section 'never quit until it is over' but really, just never quit, even if the game is over and you have lost, stand proud and confident. Even if your opponent doubles out and you are still somewhere in the three hundreds and they are walking over to shake your hand you should do this. It will make you a much stronger player and a much tougher opponent and ultimately will increase your enjoyment of darts.
In so many games I have got ahead early on or in the middle of the game, and all of a sudden an opponent who I thought was throwing well and a good challenge suddenly deflates, their head droops and it is all just a matter of time before I have won. Heck, it has been often enough that I have been the one to be deflated.
Just simply stop doing this! Give a 100% of your effort for 100% of the game and play with pride and determination. Some games may feel like a foregone conclusion, or may feel drawn out and something you just 'want to get over with', but that is not a champions attitude.
Recognize every challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow and be tenacious right until the last dart finds the double, with your head held high.
Above all else believe in yourself, and believe in your own potential to learn and grow as a dart player.
Twelve: Patience and humility
You may not want to hear it, but I am afraid that at the end of the day the only real route to developing a champions attitude in darts is starting from and accepting the understanding that you will only get there with hard work and determination.
There are no tricks or quick fixes or magic elixirs for you to reach your darting potential.
Countless hours of trying to tweak your darts sets up or hours and hours of analyzing and fiddling with your form will not help you progress wherever your potential can take you.
You may feel some pressure to get better right away, whether it is so you don't look bad for your mates, or because you want to help your dart team do better, you just have to suck it up and accept that progress will come as it comes not as you want or think you need it to come.
All you can do is put the time in for constructive practice, and keep a positive champions attitude.
A final word
At the end of the day it is your love and passion for the game and your dedication that will carry you the furthest. That is something that is true in darts as it is in most things.
Everything I have written I try to do for myself in my own journey of darts learning and for myself have found the difference astounding and very satisfying.
I hope these tips work for you as well, and if they do please come back here to tell me. It would make me very happy to learn that I was able to increase someone's enjoyment of darts!
© 2015 David Sproull