Stages of Dartitis

by Karl Hartmann

From the hallowed halls of research and the depths of my own beer induced meanderings into the field of psychology comes the definitive explanation of dartits. What exactly is dartitis? Dartits, as the word is commonly used, it is a significant drop in the dart playing performance over an extended period of time. In the worst case, a player may be unable to release his or her dart. More common, are significant periods of "slumps" in performance - nothing a player does or tries to do improves his or her game works. I tend to view these as spurts of growth where our body and mind are resisting new ways of doing things.

Regardless of perspective, dartitis occurs in distinct, but not always separate stages. Borrowing from the great Kubla Ross, these stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. My intensive research indicates that some darters pass through these stages quickly while others may get stuck in a stage and find it difficult to move on. Understanding these five stages will help darters understand the process and recognize where they are in their own recovery.

Denial, besides being a famous Egyptian river, is the first stage of dartitis and frequently the most difficult to get through. Our average example darter will be throwing darts on a Saturday night, playing in the local blind draw, and suddenly, WHAM! DARTITIS! And it's only one week before the big tournament. Our dart player is throwing so bad that he could not drop a dart on a slow moving turtle with a bulls-eye on it's back. He couldn't hit the Pacific Ocean if he were standing knee deep in waves. In fact, he is throwing so bad that he probably couldn't hit the planet Earth from where he is standing right now! So what does he do? Deny! Deny! Deny!

Our example shooter will attempt to convince him-self that the darts he has just thrown are not a measure of his real darting ability. His mind is so amazingly creative that this denial can perpetuate itself for years. In fact it could be argued that the more creative and intelligent you are, the more likely your bout of dartitis is going to last for a long time. Our creative minds are capable of turning any average event into an excuse for missing an intended target. And once all the average events are used up, our minds will turn to voodoo, sunspots, acts of God and barometer readings. There is no limit to the creative mind's ability to deny and this denial usually happens in two ways.

  • A. Blaming Internal factors:

  • The first thing our minds do when we begin to deny is to focus on our self. We begin examining our stroke, stance, concentration, technique, thumb position starting point, breathing, how we hold our darts in our off hand, whether we are left or right eye dominant, or a thousand other small things that we never question or even notice when we are hitting what we aim at.

    As our darts continue to miss their intended targets, things get worse and we begin having somatic symptoms; small aches and pains in our bodies. Now, these pains have always been there and if we were shooting well we would not notice them at all. But now we notice our stomachs, eyes, feet, backs, fingers, and even the feel of our shirts on our arms. We can feel our hair growing and wonder if the energy being used is effecting our stroke. We become acutely aware of of how much food or alcohol we have ingested and the fullness of our bladders. And all of these serve our denial and become dart excuses.

  • B: Blaming External Factors:
  • Finally, as the internal factors wear thin, our minds begin searching for other ways to avoid personal responsibility. We completely ignore the fact that we are actually throwing the bad darts and and we begin begin blaming our partners, team mates, stray drafts of air, music, smoke, a person who sneezed, shadows on the board, too much aiming fluid, a passing airplane, not enough aiming fluid, the barometer, an uneven floor, temperature, bouncing kangaroos in Australia or noisy koalas scratching their ways up trees, the butterfly effect, evolution, genetics, the quantum theory of optical dispersion in a parabolic curve, Santa Clause, Jesus, and the Easter Bunny. But these rationalizations are simply symptoms of denial.

Hopefully our minds will get through the denial stage quickly and realize that Santa Clause and the Easter bunny are imaginary characters created to amuse small children. Whether or not Jesus is real becomes a side issue because, real or not, he is number one, no one can beat him, and he really doesn't care if you have dartits. Little by little our minds logically or actively overcome our excuses. We are on the road to recovery. Finally, with no place left to turn and all of our mind's reserves of blame used up, there is only one thing left to do. Get Angry!

Anger has caused many a darter to throw their darts into the nearest floor and never return to the game. Have you ever been at a blind draw and watched a darter heave his darts into a nearby wall, the back of a chalker, or a crowd of innocent onlookers? Darts can be a dangerous sport when a player is in the grips of dartitis. Sometimes anger and determination can work and pull us from the pits of despair, other times it only makes our sport and us look foolish. When our minds give in to anger, we are transformed from kind sportsmen to vicious mumbling candidates for intensive anger management programs. No one knows what we are mumbling about. We donβ?Tt even realize we are doing it. It's a mystery how we even walk from the oche to the board; pull his darts after a throw. We are not really in the room and we are not really playing darts, but we think we are as we stomp up to the board and stab our intended target several times as though he were the psycho in an Alfred Hitch***** film.

Our anger is loose and it is free floating; this means we have nothing specific to pin it on. Our minds can direct it towards anything or any one without warning. I've seen darters in the grips of anger kick dartboards off walls. In the final stages of anger, there is nothing left to blame. We are out of energy. Our minds have made us into the very people we used to laugh at. Our game sucks and we know it. Worse than that, we realize that getting angry is not fixing anything. Now at this point, any animal with common sense would simply return to basics, take a break or perhaps practice more; however, the human mind is much more creative. Our larger brains allow us to invent bigger and better possibilities for our poor dart performance and so off we go into stage three, bargaining.

Our minds, not yet accepting our current situation, begin to beg. There is no more anger and no more excuses. We simply cry out: "How long will this last? Please let this end. What have I done to deserve this? I promise I will practice more!" The bargaining stage is at its peak when we begin logging into chat forums and begging for some small kernel of help that will enable us to grow from the depths of dartitis once again into the light of the winner's circle. But alas, all we hear from our fellow darters are things like "Yea, man dartitis sucks, mine lasted 6 months." Or "Just keep practicing and work through it." Or "Take some time off, when you come back you will be better." How is anyone supposed to know what to do?

Defeated, beaten down, tired, out of energy and ready to throw in the towel, there is only one thing left to do. Get really depressed.

As uncomfortable as depression is, it is probably the very thing we should have done first. Our minds are tired, we have no energy, we no longer feel like practicing or going to blind draws or tournaments, there is a loss of hope and a lack of desire with regards to the game of darts. We feel lost. Dealing with people becomes an ordeal and it often seems better to sit at home watching cartoons while pigging out on Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream. That is, if you have the energy to turn on the TV. Sitting on the couch and watching the Chunky Monkey melt is also a pleasurable activity for the sufficiently depressed mind.

Somewhere in the stage of depression, we quit the denial, we stop being angry, we give up bargaining (begging), and we are left with a feeling of hopelessness, and then something remarkable happens, a paradigm shift in ones perspective. Some will find all their previous techniques and beliefs shattered. Others will find one simple change that makes all the difference in their game. Perhaps a new perspective amid the ruins of the old will manifest and allow us to move on to the final stage.

STAGE 5, ACCEPTANCE: (The light at the end of the tunnel.)
Acceptance is the reality of change. Fight it all you like but in the end, happiness and getting back to your game only come with acceptance. Your body and mind accept the changes you have been forcing on them. What? You didn't know you were trying to change? What do you think practice is all about? Did you think change would be easy? Have you ever tried to quit smoking, swearing, biting your fingernails, or watching so much TV. Change is hard and acceptance harder. It's easier to deny, blame or beg than it is to change. That's why you have arrived.

I know of no darter who will disagree with this. After every serious bout of dartitis a period of growth occurs. It is a horrible process to go through and even though we want to change and want to get better, our bodies and minds fight us. We do not want to give up the things that have been working so far.

The way to get through dartitis is to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is no secret to getting through it. You will deny, become angry, bargain, get depressed and eventually realize that one of the things that make this game so attractive is dartitis. If this game were easy, it would not be worth playing. Endure your struggles and you will get better.

Good Darting

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