Relax, it’s just a game!

Having played this game since I was just a teenager (that’s quite a few years), I have worked out a thing or two about this game we call darts. There is plenty that goes behind the successful dart player including many hours of practise on both a normal and for the more experienced a “pro-trainer board” (with the half-sized doubles, trebles and bull).

What most competitive dart players realise is that whilst the training done at home, in your garage or at your local’s dart board is very important, playing darts at a competitive level is more a matter of mind over just skill.

It doesn’t matter how many 180’s you get or how high a checkout percentage you have on the practise board, if you get nervous or suffer from anxiety, your game will never get to the level that you want it to.

I’ve played games, even at my local footy club playing against players I play every week where my nerves can get the best of my game. It’s a horrible feeling that can overtake and undo all the hard work you may have done on the practise board only to find you couldn’t hit a barn door.

So, here’s a few tips, nothing ground breaking really, but tips that will help you deal with the nerves in your game and help you become a better player.

Many people I have played against use beer to calm the nerves. Whilst some may say that this works for them, I can guarantee you there are few (if any) pro’s that use this as a technique to deal with your nerves.

Remember that competition will see adrenaline start to flow in the body. This will naturally cause a fight or flight response and is the body’s natural defence mechanism to deal with the situation by sending more oxygen and blood to the major muscle groups. This can cause some stress but is purely natural. So, remembering that some stress is expected but is also good for you can help when in that situation.

To help deal with nerves, I recommend playing outside your comfort zone as much as possible. Just playing at home against your friends or against the same competition will not help you deal with nerves or anxiety. Try going to the local pub, RSA or football club and play against other people you wouldn’t normally. If that’s not an available option, playing online is an easy way to join up and start playing people you’ve never met. It’s also a soft way to playing new people as you don’t have to be in the same room as your competition.

Remember to ask yourself, is it really that important? If you lose this game what’s going to change? Of course, no-one wants to lose, but really, it’s just a game at the end of the day. Realising this can help to calm yourself a bit.

I’ve heard plenty of people who use the saying to “play the board” and not your opponent. This is so true! Take a look at the pro’s, many look down at their darts, focus on themselves and don’t look at or care what the opponent gets. I won a competition once where my playing partner had a saying, “if they can get it, so can I”. So, his view was if the opponent can score a 140 or more, so what? So can he. It also helped that he actually believed he could too. This belief came from time on the practise board. He went on and played on the big stage many years later in Melbourne mid-2016 and played against the Dutchman Jelle Klaasen in a one-off game (and had the walk on song “Stayin’ Alive by the Bee Gees”), proving anyone can do it with a little self-belief.

Focus on the present or the now. Remember you can’t do anything about the darts you’ve just thrown. You score 26, is anyone ever going to say to you “oh no worries, that was rubbish but here have another go”? Also, don’t ever show emotion where your opponent can see. You throw 45, just take your darts out with no emotion then when behind your opponent, give yourself a mental uppercut if you want, but don’t dwell on it. You show any negative emotion, you’re only letting your opponent know that he or she has got you. Don’t give them that benefit.

Find a routine off the oche. Some use breathing techniques, others count to five, some fix their flights as a way of staying focused but find a routine that works for you. Focus on you and only you and what your next throw is going to be.

For those really serious, work out. Working on your arms, chest and most importantly your core. Being fitter will reduce muscle tension which will help your overall game. But this needs to be done slowly and over time as the stronger body will change your throw somewhat, so little and often is the best approach.

Remember, no matter what level you play, it’s still just a game, no matter how badly you want it.

All the very best, be safe and straight arrows.

Paul Webber

Owner – Bullseye Darts

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