More Dressing Room Darts...

Staying in the dressing-room, we now move on to "target" practice.

Back in 1978, my dad spent a few weeks in the US doing exhibitions and promotions for Halex-MY Darts. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to the Houston Astrodome; not for vacation, but for a sports and trade fair. Yeah, how many of us have had our name up in lights at the Astrodome???
Anyway, he was practicing, and went something like 140, 100, 140, in consecutive shots. This was being witnessed by a spectator with a somewhat puzzled look on his face. "I thought you were supposed to be good? I've watched you throw nine darts, and you haven't even come close to hitting the bull's-eye!"

That is a true story, but it illustrates the first item that I will be discussing here - grouping. Obviously, the fact that my dad threw nine darts all within an inch of each other meant absolutely nothing to the person watching. Grouping is one of the most important factors in the game, yet it seems that the concept is very alien to many.

I watch players practicing - particularly at local events - and it seems that they are just happy to be lobbing darts at the board, hoping to be able to slop on occasional triple (or double!) or two. They rarely seem to be workin on grouping. You know, I love seeing a player walk up there and go something like, T17, D14, T18, and his - or her - team-mates and friends are yelling, "Great darts!!!" Really? Do you not realize that there is no direct correlation between good darts and high scores? You just watched someone get extremely lucky, and you're telling them how good they are?

One of the first things that my dad made me do when I started was to work on my grouping. The best way to do this is to throw the first dart, and wherever it lands, simply try to hit it with your other two darts. It matters not where the first dart went; just throw your others at it.
Once you have mastered the art of putting three darts together, you are well on your way. It will then be a relatively simple task to move that grouping around the board. The fact is that, without the ability to group darts, you will never get anywhere in the sport.

Of course, missing by a millimeter or so can be very frustrating, but surely it's far better than saying that the closest your darts got to each other all night was when they were still in your dart case? Even if you are missing, the fact that your darts were close - not only to the target, but to each other - is something of which to be proud.

Moving on, what else should we be doing as far as target practice? Many seem to feel that practicing on doubles is the most important routines, but for any players of a reasonable (but not top-level) standard, I don't feel that it's as important on working on the combination outs.
So often, my opponent will come close to matching my scoring down the board, but when they get under 200, they start to fall apart. That is invariably the result of not being comfortable with what they need to be shooting at this stage. That may be because they don't actually know what to shoot, but most likely it's because they are not that good at switching around the board.

Naturally, we have ways to remedy that. Start at 60, and attempt to take it out in three darts. If you don't hit it, just go back and try it again. When you hit it, move up to the next. If you want to work on something a little harder, start at 120 say, and do the same thing. There are variations on this, if you want to make it a little more interesting; try jumping THREE numbers when you hit it, and drop back one if you miss. Whatever numbers you choose, this will increase your comfort level when needing to move around the board.
After all, you don't have any problem hitting a T20 do you? That's pretty easy. Taking out 81 in two darts doesn't worry you at all, does it? Now, put those two shots together. I'm sure that you aren't quite as relaxed or confident when it comes to shooting a 141 out, eh? This will help.

One of the things to remember is that generally, your practice should have a purpose; you should be pushing yourself. Quality of practice is far more important that quantity, and should you only be able to practice twice a week, for 20 minutes at a time, it shouldn't be a problem as long as you make it GOOD practice. There are many different routines you can use, but the main thing is to set goals for yourself. If you keep your figures, and constantly try to improve on them, that is a realistic goal for you to aim for next time.

There are two basic routines I would suggest.
Firstly, concentrate on the 20's, which is usually our main target in '01. You will be taking 100 turns (300 darts) at the 20. On paper (or a spreadsheet for you computer geeks and lazy individuals) make a grid of ten columns of ten. The reason for this, as opposed to one big one, is that it should be easier for you to concentrate. You can focus for ten throw, relax, then refocus for the next ten. It can be easy to get demoralized if you are struggling on something longer. So, record your scores as you go, finish a column, and then move on to the next. Total each column, and then add these up to find your overall score. Whatever your score, just try and beat it next time. This gives you added incentive, know that the target will ALWAYS be within your capability. Of course, simply divide each column total by ten (or the overall total by a hundred) in order to find your points-per-turn average.

The other routine is to practice the cricket numbers, by throwing three darts at each. Do this ten times. In addition to keeping track of your marks-per-game, keep your marks-per-number. This can help you pinpoint possible problems you may be having with certain numbers.

Obviously, you are not always going to improve on your previous best, but at least you will be trying, and the simple fact that it is meaningful will help.

That's it for now, so I'll be back next time to look in detail at the mental aspects of practice.

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