How to get out of dart throwing slump in the middle of a match

What to do when your darts game falls apart during a match.

Every dart player – even the pros – go through times when their game seems to deteriorate; where they can’t seem to do anything right.

Know that this is totally normal and is just a part of being human, We all have outside stresses, physical highs and low and biological rhythms that will cause to  to have bad days (and amazing days!)

Here’s a few ideas to help you when you catch yourself in a slump. These are for when you’re in an actual match. Ideas for breaking longer slumps are in another post.

1) Calm down:. The calmer you are the better you will throw. Concentrate on controlling your breathing and think about something pleasant, like your last vacation.

Take an extra few seconds at the oche or while waiting to throw to just get in a couple of good, deep breaths.The goal is to slow down your heart rate and minimize any nervous jitters you may have.

Don’t get mad. Remember that we all have bad throws and nights and trust that it won’t last forever.

Put all your focus on what you want to hit next and the outs you need to achieve. Think of your next 3 darts and all the possible out combinations you might have (“if I hit T20 my next dart is at S18, but if I hit S20 my next is at T18”) This will keep your brain focused on the game and not on your performance

2) Don’t make adjustments Staying focused on the numbers you need to win the current game is the only thing you should be thinking about right now.

This is not the time to “go back to” your old stance or try that new grip you’ve been working on. Adjustments to your game should occur at the practice board not in live games.

A slump is a psychological issue, not a mechanical one so you need to work on your head not your hand.

3) Let it go. So you threw some bad darts. Big deal, life is short, move on. I guarantee that you will throw better darts in the future. Look forward to those moments.

Also remember, one thing that even the best player in the word can’t change is a dart that’s already thrown. Keep focused on the next dart, not the last one.

4) Believe in Yourself Have you ever thrown a perfect dart? A perfect Ton80? 3 triples in cricket? That’s all the proof you need to know that you are capable of throwing perfect darts.

  • You can hit what you need.
  • You will get your next out.
  • You are ready to win your next game.

Positive self-talk is essential for any competitor – Use it.

What do you do when you’re in a slump? I’d love to hear your tricks for getting out of a slump, especially during match time.

Darts and Zen

Found an interesting post connecting  darts and Zen this morning.

It talks about the need to clear the mind and free yourself from analyzing what you’re doing while throwing your darts.zen and darts practice

I’ve been trying to get there forever it seems, and when I do, I’m always at my best. Some people refer to this state as “flow” and, if you want to go deeper, there is a lot of literature about flow and sports performance . I’m pretty sure this is the definitive work on Flow

If you practice hard and smart – breaking down all the small components of your throw and drilling them – you will train your body to perfom the actions without conscious “monitoring”.

You already do this when you tie your shoes or start your car – you’re not thinking about the mechanical aspects of those. Throwing your best darts should be like that.

(Come to think of it, this goes pretty well with my earlier post on Darts Imagery.)

Check out the orignal article for a different spin on this and let me know what you think – do you see a connection between throwing darts and Zen practice?

Darts Imagery

Using Visualization to Improve Your Darts Game

Reading a little on Sports Psychology I found this gem from Karlen Sugarman, M.A:

You can’t ignore the evidence of  how visualization is important to your performance in any physical activity.

(There’s even a section in the Darts Perfection course on exactly this.)

A couple of key points from the article…

1) Practice your visualizations on a regular basis

You don’t need a lot of time for this, just make it a habit. Sitting in a chair with your eyes closed is good, especially when your other-half has one of those cooking shows on TV.

2) Bring all your Senses into play

“Feel” the weight of the dart; “hear” the dart hitting the board; “smell” the pub – well, you might skip this one if you’ve played in some of my locals

3) Visualize your best game

Always see your desired outcome and make it real.

I know this sounds a bit cosmic-hippie for some of you, but there’s solid research showing it will help.

If you’re a science geek, here’s a related study using basketball players shooting free-throws (which, if you think about it, is kind of like darts)

“Dream it, Be it”


Darts Across a Crowded Room

The imperfect world of pub darts. How to deal with the weird and unexpected.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Ceiling Fans!  Drunks!  Disco on the Jukebox!

Yes, this is the life of a Pub dart Player. People are shouting, there’re strange shadows across the board from bad dart lighting, some girl just bumped into you at the oche while “dancing” to some horrible overhead music, your Team Captain seems drunk.

Just another night of darts.

Until you become a Pro however, this is your lot, so either you learn to adapt or you start writing that story of how you “used to play” darts.

Having played in both England and America, you’ll often find the U.K. pubs have a lot more “atmosphere” (i.e. stuff going on) than their American counterparts, possibly because in the States, there’s more room to build and more planning can take place to include a Dart section. In the U.K., pubs are often in 500 year old buildings and there’s little opportunity for renovation.

Things you can or can’t control:

Ceiling Fans/AC vents near the dartboard.

I used to live in South Florida and just about every room in every house or office or public place had a ceiling fan. Now you really can’t live without them unless you want the A/C blasting 24/7, but breezes don’t belong anywhere within 3 feet of the area from the oche to the board. You can often get these turned off if you ask nice but, if you have to play with “unsteady air”, be prepared for your game to suffer.

Here’s a few things I’ve had to deal with playing darts in pubs:

  • 3-light setups that look like their purpose was to provide three time as many shadows
  • spotlights mounted on at head-height on the side wall.
  • a sloping floor at the oche so that in a normal side-stance you feel like you’re on a hillside
  • A light-box so low that 2 out of 3 shots at double 20 hit the box. (but only for someone 6’4″. Like me.)
  • An oche that abutted the wall of the pub, almost preventing left-handed throwers from playing
  • Walls and ceilings settled so badly that the board could never look straight
  • Open windows (for the breeze!) along the flight path.
  • Ceiling fans directly over the board.
  • A drunk at the bar shouting “f*cking American” as I threw (Thanks to Big Gary for sorting that out)

To quote the Great Rosanna: “It’s always something”.

How to Cope:

A couple of things may help you when things aren’t “right” in your environment.

  1. What’s bugging you is bugging them. Bad lights affect everyone. Old boards cause everyone’s darts to bounce. Write some things off to “the way it is” and don’t feel singled out.
  2. Focus. I know it’s easier said than done but staying laser focused on your next dart, your outs and the current game can occupy your mind enough so that you don’t have time to notice the other stuff. One thing I do on my practice setup at home is play loud music and vary the lighting a lot. Sometimes I turn the TV up loud as well. It makes the pubs seem less chaotic.
  3. Control your attitude. Bitching about the situation only makes you tense and prevents you from thinking about your own game. The most important thing to remember is that all these external issues affect everyone playing the game, so they all share the same disadvantages as you. The best thing you can to when playing in a new setting is to get as much practice time as you can on the new board. Fiind the weak spots and make a plan to deal with them. Don’t take it personally.

Let me know if you have any more ideas for dealing with less that perfect dart rooms.

The Focus of Phil Taylor

Phil Taylor plays better the more pressure he’s under. Here he throws his 2nd 9-dart out of the match for the win.

Phil Taylor focus

Another Taylor legend – two nine dart games in a single match. Not in a tournament…in a single match.

As usual Taylor continues to set the bar for every dart player in the world.

The lesson that I think people may miss here is that when he hit the second 9-darter he was shooting for the match. At 7-7 tied with James Wade (who is himself one of the all-time great darters) Taylor was playing match game against a player who held even with him for the last 14 games…    [Correction: I realized that this was not match game but rather a race to 10. Changes nothing…]

Phil Taylor focus

What continues to amaze me about Taylor is that he simply does not crack. Ever. And he always plays his best when he’s under the most pressure.

At his level, it’s not about darts anymore – it’s mind-control.