IMPORTANT – Whether you are a tournament, league, casual, novice or just a sales clerk trying to gain Product Information and Experience, if you take your time, and go through this section very slowly, digesting everything, you will increase your skill level a full two levels or more! So take this very seriously.
Personally, I’m an extremist when it comes to doing well at something, but I’m lazy at practicing. I play to win, I hate to lose, but I’m a good loser. I do many things well at a high skill level. Besides darts, I also play chess, table tennis and pool. It’s tough to find the time to do anything, let alone practice multiple sports. How do I get away with it? I’ve learned a secret that helps tremendously in reducing the amount of the down-time (practice) needed to achieve the desired higher skill levels.
The secret is to become a copycat. It doesn’t sound too appealing, but it’s extremely effective in a short amount of time. If someone is the world’s greatest tennis player and I made it a point to mimic, copy, imitate, duplicate everything that they do, I probably still wouldn’t be as good as they are, but I’d be pretty dam good just the same. Once you have a grip on everything involved and have control, you then can fine tune their style into a style that you’ll find more comfortable.
Don’t try to imitate the better players, instead, imitate the best player. Study everything that they do, no matter how small it is. Analyze it to the max. If you’re unfamiliar with the top level of professional darts players today, the man you really want to emulate is a guy from England by the name of Phil Taylor This guy is unconscious! He’s won the World’s Championship 12 times and of those 12, 10 of them were in a ROW! Need I say more?
Incidentally, there currently is Professional Darts on TV; unfortunately, the times are odd hours so you’ll have to “tape-it.” Check your cable’s Listings Guide weekly by doing a day by day search for “darts” under the “theme” search. The listings for the entire following week come out on Sunday.
This just in, the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) now has their Website (www.planetdarts.co.uk) set up so that viewers, who pay either a monthly or annual fee, can view professional darts matches from previous and also current tournaments, as well as tournament boards in progress, live commentary, interviews and classic footage of previous match highlights. You can find it by searching Google for “DartsTV”. This will be a huge boost to darts popularity!
Ok, let’s get on to the basics. Keep in mind that no matter what you do, it’s an “ART.” Everything you do is a “SCIENCE.” The more you think about it and the more you do it, the more accomplished you will become. Be persistent and unsatisfied.
Anytime, I repeat, ANYTIME, you do something differently for the very first time, it will feel funny, awkward, unusual, strange, etc. It’s ok. This is expected, but the more you not only practice this change, the more common and natural it will feel. This is what practice is all about. It’s about incorporating beneficial changes into your shooting technique through conditioning If you get a customer saying that to you after they tried a suggested change that you just made, you should just sooth them and tell them that the feeling is just a part of the adjustment period. Darts is a game of adjustments just like bowling. The better players will make and fine tune these adjustments all the time! Always, if something is working well, don’t change a thing. If things aren’t working, do something different, immediately! Simple, but changing is difficult.
Logically the basics start from the foundation of your feet upward. What dictates where you plant your feet to begin with, is the imperative need of a fully extended arm and shoulder, directly out from your face, which is looking squarely at the dartboard, with your head at about a 30-40 degree angle to your shoulder line and also directly in front of your dominant eye. Your shoulders need to be angled so that your “sight-line” (the line of your vision as you are looking at your target) should be just in front of your shoulder. It’s a MUST that your dart is shot from directly in front of your dominant eye. Any other position will result in total inconsistencies. Many players make the mistake of standing at the oche (throwing line) with their shoulders parallel with the oche. In this stance, you might be steady, but either you’re arm extension will be stunted by the position of your shoulder or your darts will always veer to the side that you’re throwing from (right handed thrower’s darts will veer to the right, lefty’s to the left). When you are putting yourself in position for the first time, don’t stand at the oche with your foot parallel to the oche. This stance is too unnatural and it is a stance that stimulates body movement. Try to think “natural” all the time.
When you walk up to the oche, the way to set yourself up for a particular shot is to first turn your face directly at the target and then turn your body so you get the natural angle to produce maximum arm extension. A HUGE mistake by many people here is that some shooters will stay in the exact same spot on the oche for shooting every target. This does nothing but crucifies yourself. You have just complicated the variations of the ways to throw a dart by a hundred fold. People have a “natural” straight line that they throw on to. Being able to throw on a straight line is 50% of the battle in darts. If you can do that, you will be able to comfortably focus on the remaining 50% horizontal planes, which is much easier.
Posture is a part of your stance. If you’re stance is awkward, your posture will equally be uncomfortable because they are connected. When people are uncomfortable they tend to shoot too quickly, and then the control doesn’t materialize. Once you don’t feel the control, it registers psychologically, confidence is deflated and then the only thing that can help is luck, which never happens often enough.
The biggest question about posture is: Can leaning help? We all have to answer this question to ourselves. If leaning to your desired extension produces any movement in your body through the act of shooting, it then, is not a good thing. What I do for “body control” is that once I get to my positional stance, I make it a point to keep the end of my nose, perfectly still. The rest of the body just seems to tag along. It works for me. Try it. Also what you might want to try is leaning slightly. Pretend that the dartboard is directly in front of you just out of arms length and that at the end of your follow through, by leaning slightly, you will be able to physically push the dart into the board as if it were a thumbtack. With this method, your groupings will become more centrally positioned.
In only one practice session, you can pull up your skill level, one full level if you do this. If for just one practice session, you spend a good hour plus on being consistent with this proper breathing technique and incorporate it into your practice session, it will be cemented in solidly. Do not aim at a specific target. Just limit your throwing to three horizontal level areas of the board, the trip 16/trip-15/level, the bull level and the trip/12-trip/18 level. Always start at the bottom and work upwards.
This breathing technique will solidify your body internally. It’s necessary for foundation, control and consistency. It joins with your stance and posture in harmony for a necessary foundation. This breathing technique will allow you to throw the dart at the point in time where your body is most still.
The three worst times to throw a dart are while:
1. Holding Your Breath – This produces tension which actually is movement.
2. Exhaling – This is definite movement, lungs, tissue, muscles, nerves, etc.
3. Inhaling – The same as above.
From a normal breathing pattern, exhale to your fullest until your exhale stops. It is from this point in time, after the end of the exhale, until you begin to inhale that there is a 2 to 3 second gap where you are actually not breathing and your body is ultimately STILL. It is within this time that you should throw your dart.
This is the most complicated topic in darts. Everyone’s fingers are different and everyone’s darts are almost equally different.
In a nutshell I can tell you three beneficial things:
1. Your index finger and thumb need to have an opposing grip. In other words, these two fingers need to be the last two fingers to leave the dart, and most importantly, SIMULTANEOULSY! If you have your fingers staggered, not opposite each other, the dart, when it leaves your fingers, will be moving from side to side, fishtailing, as the dart is coming off your fingers.
2. The next thing that would be beneficial is that you will find more control on the dart if these two fingers are just slightly behind the balance point. To find the balance point, stick out a finger and try actually balancing a dart on your finger. For a test, try firmly holding the nose of the dart, and then try moving the back of the dart side to side. It moves easily. The same thing will happen gripping too much to the back of the dart. So if you’re in the middle, the dart will come off your fingers in a very controlled fashion.
3. Lastly, our dart’s ergonomics design, allows a naturally grip release with the proper grip, and also, due to the pivoting action of the forearm from the elbow, a person receives more consistent releases (control) if they angle the point of their dart, instead of directly at the target, instead, point it at 11 o’clock, about one half inch away from the center of your target. In essence, a dart doesn’t actually go straight. It curves slightly to the right, if you’re throwing with your right hand, and the opposite for a lefty. What also contributes to this affect is that there’s much more skin surface area on the thumb as compared to the side of the index finger.
MAJOR FAULT: If you hold the dart in your hand, by your finger tips (the very ends of your fingers), you will struggle forever. Your real motor skills come from the meaty areas of your fingers. For the thumb, it would be, on the front of your thumb naturally, and opposite the base of your thumbnail and for the index finger, it would be just below the second knuckle. To test this out get a long bolt with a matching nut. Try to put on and take off the nut as fast as you can just using your thumb and index finer. This will show you where your controls are.
Having a good rhythm will increase your probabilities of having successful throws and it will increase your confidence level. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re playing 501 and you have 123 left, and your mind goes blank, you’re going to take more time than you usually do and that will detrimentally affect your throwing accuracy. Your rhythm is also tied into your breathing technique, so when you’re practicing your annual breathing technique, also be conscious of your throwing rhythm. You must maintain your throwing rhythm always.
Typically if you are either a normal right handed or left handed person, and you don’t do anything else with your “other” hand, then the chances are that your normal eye (right-right and left-left) will be your dominant eye. However, if you do other things with your other hand, things might happen and this might be the reason why you’re having a difficult time.
ASCERTAINING YOUR DOMINANT EYE
You can determine your dominant eye simply. Look at an object, any object. Keeping one of your eyes open (take turns) while you close the other. Of the two variations here, the one variation where there is “NO CHANGE” to the object visually, will be the “tell” for the dominant eye. The eye being tested, was the eye that remained open.
In billiards, being a one planar game, it is relatively easy to become consistent in shot making due to the concept of the “Proportion” Sighting and Aiming System. With darts, it’s a very difficult game. There’s very few perfect games.
True control in darts comes from the “sight line” that is coming from your eyes to your target. This is your life line. Once your dart and hand go off that perspective, you’re success is going to crash and burn, big time! For consistency, you need to aim down your sight line in much the same manner that a marksman sites down the barrel of his gun.
There is a high percentage of people that have a major fault in sighting. Their mistaken impression is that their vision is just that, their vision. What they don’t realize is that their vision is actually working as an invisible guide for their hand and arm to follow. You might be one of these people yourself. Many of these people shoot the dart from everywhere but from the point where they should be shooting it from, which is directly in front of your dominant eye. They shoot the dart from the side of their head or off the top of their head, or from a lower position in front of their chin. These methods need to be eliminated forever if you want success to come to your door.
The “Feeder Hand” feeds the darts to your throwing hand. Don’t take this hand for granted. This hand if NOT used beneficially, can eliminate any chances for you to be successful at darts. In analyzing this functioning situation you first need to understand that this hand needs to be “ever ready” in its tasks. It’s not just good enough to pass the dart, but what is important, is that for consistency’s sake, the dart should be in the exact same position in relationship to it’s flight every time. This can be accomplished prior to walking up to the throwing line. The correct method to hold the darts is by the VERY ENDS of the points. Why is this? Well, the more you cover the darts with your feeder hand, the more time it’s going to take for you to pass the dart. Fumbling usually occurs. This will interrupt your throwing rhythm. Even though Phil Taylor is the best dart player that will probably ever be, his one flaw is his feeder hand. If you watch him on a match on TV, notoriously he drops 2 or 3 darts per match. You think he’s nervous? Not one bit.
The second thing you should do with this feeder hand is to position the darts so that they are almost directly under your throwing hand. This is important because it prevents your throwing hand and arm from making any lateral movements, which could affect your throw. Keeping it straight, keeps it safe.
Lastly, very few people do this correctly. If you hold your feeder arm loosely at your side, it will produce movement which will affect your balance. Try this. Stand at the line as you would if you are shooting. Now take your feeder hand and slowly raise it out to your side. The result will be that you will lose your balance to that side. The solution is to physically pull your arm into your side so that the inside of your forearm is somewhat attached to your stomach area. Once you make this adjustment, the control will come.
Novices have a difficult time having success mostly because they DO NOT hold their dart in front of their dominant eye when shooting. How can you aim IF you don’t have something on your sight line that will help you to fine tune the alignment of the dart to your target? If you don’t have the dart in front of your dominant eye, then you really aren’t aiming at all! If you aren’t aiming, then what you are doing is guessing and hoping. Common sense? YES!
When the dart is properly positioned it allows you to gain control and consistency by following your sight line to your target with your dart. If you find that using the dart doesn’t work, then try using the inside of your thumb, next to your dart, as a guide to your desired target.
Think of this situation as similar to bowling. Bowlers use the arrows that are on the lanes as a guide to roll their balls onto the desired paths. Most professional bowlers never look at the pins until the ball is off and away. Correlation!
These are just a handful of the different tools you could use or be doing to improve your performance levels. If you have an idea for a tool, think about it. Dwell on it. Zone out on it. Everything in this world today started as a dream. Use your creativity and think outside the box! Bring it to fruition!
For those of you with an aptitude in spatial relations, this is pretty easy. The rest of you will have to work for this tool, but it’s worth it. Basically, visualization is the skill of imaging a 3-dimensional object as if it were real. By being able to do this, you can put an imaginary dart in a specific spot in your target, complete with the angulation of the dart. Once you do this, your mission, is to connect the real dart in your hand with the imaginary one that’s already in the dartboard, almost totally displacing it. Naturally we aren’t talking about shooting the dart out of a gun. What you are trying to do is to put the real dart onto the exact trajectory that the imaginary dart would have taken to arrive at its exact position. Basically, that’s it. It does work and lots of shooters use this! It takes time, but if you have all of the other BASICS down pat, this will be next in your bag of tricks.
Most everyone is familiar with this term. Muscle memory is developed through repetitiveness. We all know what it feels like to do something that we’ve done before. The goal behind this concept is to simply duplicate that same action. In darts, we all typically shoot the same shots over and over again. It just becomes second nature to hit these targets, so we try to repeat the same actions that we did before when we’ve hit our targets.
It’s important to be proficient at shooting, but it’s clearly not enough. Not only do you have to focus on the shooting, but you have to clearly handle the pressure, the scoring, the environment surrounding you as well as what your intended future targets will be. There will be many variations of any and all of these factors. What will increase your success, will be ample amounts of experience in all situations, whether it’s pub darts, leagues or tournaments. If you think you’re “not good enough” for any of these areas of competition, you’re selling yourself short. This is where you need to be, no matter what skill level that you might be. If you love playing darts, just do it!
Math is as much a part of the game of darts as throwing the darts. Developing your math skills takes time. To get yourself started on the “MATH TRAIL,” do yourself a huge favor and any chance you get, you need to be keeping score for other people’s dart game. Knowing the numbers will allow you to keep and also improve your rhythm at the throwing line. They will make you more confident contribute to improving your skill level. It’s a must!