I have been playing darts for almost 10 years now and I am glad to say that I have been able to greatly improve my game of darts over that time. During those years I have done regular Google searches looking for practice techniques, drills, and other dart resources online that could help me improve my game. Unfortunately, I have never found a large amount of relavant material. What is out there is good material (check my Dart Links page, especially the 'Nice Darts' link), but  at the same time, I like different points of view and different ideas. So, I have decided to start writing blog posts about techniques, strategies, and ideas that I have found to work for me personally. Like I said, I like different points of view and different ideas, so I look forward to feedback from my readers.

I am going to start with this post being a very simple, but as I have found out recently, the very serious topic about how to structure practice sessions. If you are a newbie to darts, or a veteran, having a productive practice session will make all the difference in the world. I have heard many times that people believe that you cannot become great at darts unless you play/practice for hours a day. While we all wish we could play for hours a day, the amount of time you play is not what will make you a better player, it is how you utilize the time you have to play/pracice.

I believe that there are 3 main factors that help to make a great dart player.

  1. Technique - basically being able to throw the dart the same way consistently so that you have any hope of being able to aim and hit the desired target
  2. Strategy - understanding each of the games that you play and fundamental tactics for handling different scenarios that may occur during those games
  3. Mental - not pertaining to a person being insane, but rather being able to focus, control nerves, being able to stay positive after a bad round, game, match or even a tournament, etc., etc. etc.

Each time I practice I try to make sure I work on each of these points. I accomplish this by following a particular routine and guidlines. I will outline how I see each of the following topics affecting the 3 main factors.

Multiple Short Sessions

Rather than aiming to practice for 2 hours+ straight (or some other amount of time), I aim to do multiple sessions of about 25 to 35 minutes throughout a day. Do a session, take a break for at least the same amount of time, and then do another session. Rinse and repeat as they say.

  • Technique - Since most tournament dart matches (3 to 5 games) tend to average about 25 - 33 minutes, it helps my body and arm get use to the feeling of playing constantly for a period of a match, taking a break waiting for the next match, and then playing again.
  • Mental - Along the same lines of Technique, I feel I am preparing my mind for the on and off of tournament dart matches. If I had a good practice session, I try to carry my mental state and hopefully confidence through the break and into the next session. On the contrary, if I had a bad practice session, I try not to let it affect my mental state and confidence. Just let the bad session go. They will happen at least occasionally. I use the break to forget about it and try my best to play the next session as if the last one didn't happen.
  • Strategy - The combination of the Technique and Mental impacts are a strategy in itself. I have prepared myself to play the way most normal matches would go. Maybe my opponents do not practice this way and may not be use to the on and off of play, giving me an edge.

Warm-up

Just like with most physical activities it is a good idea to have a warm up routine. I don't know about you, but if my body has not been performing particular actions/motions for a while, my muscles might be a bit tight and not feel as cooperative as I might like. So, I take my first practice session and make it mostly about warming up and not caring about results. I will stretch out my upper body a little bit, arms, shoulders, hands, and fingers. Then I will start out and throw about 30 darts in a motion similar to how I normally would throw, but quicker, a little bit exagerated, and without really aiming at anything. I find this helps get my arm ready for the motion and I know I mentally don't care about the results of where the darts land. Then for the rest of the session, I will pick a spot on the board and just throw at it. Just focusing on the mechanics of my throw.

  • Technique - I think it is pretty obvious that this one in mainly about technique. It is mainly about trying to make a consistent throw on a repeatative basis.
  • Mental - The first darts of the day are most often the hardest ones. By not caring about the first 30 or so, I don't have any negative thoughts about how bad the darts are flying. Then by focusing on the mechanics, I am implanting muscle memory, so that hopefully when it comes to a practice drill, or a match I don't worry about technique, but rather just what I need to accomplish in the game.
  • Strategy - It still amazes me how many players will pay rather large entry fees, and then walk up to their first match with very few practice darts thrown, if any. Again, if I am warmed up and my opponent is not, again another edge.

Pace Yourself

I don't just throw my darts, go up to the board and grab my darts, and then go directly back to the oche. I instead throw my darts, get my darts, and then wait at least 20 - 30 seconds before stepping back up to the oche.

  • Technique - Again this is about mimicing the pace of play of normal matches, getting my body physically use to the pace of play. If  you play a lot of doubles matches/leagues, up the wait period to a little over a minute.
  • Mental - Basically, identical to the Short Sessions topic,I am mentally preparing myselffor the delay between throws. If I had a bad turn, try to shake it off. If I had a good throw, try to carry the momentum into the next throw.
  • Strategy - Also very much like the Short Session, if I practice at the pace I am use to it, and my opponent may not be.

Have Fun

Hopefully this is rather self explanatory. Don't make practice a chore. Darts should be a game you love to play. Always use games or little drills during your practice sessions. Make goals for yourself and be sure to celebrate when you reach them.

  • Technique - It is amazing to me how second nature technique can be when I am having fun. I will just step up to the oche and not think about how I am throwing.
  • Mental - Also, hopefully very obvious, but if I am having fun, the easier it is to stay possitive.
  • Strategy - Think about it, if you are having fun and maybe your opponent is rather serious, it tends to affect them negatively. If they are not having fun they get frustrated knowing that you are having fun.

Final Notes

Another very important thing about practicing, is I make it a point to not over do it. First, too much of a good thing can just be too much. Darts should be fun, and I want to keep it that way. Also, darts is a very repeatative motion sport, and injuries can result because of the repeatative motions. I recently have been dealing with a painful tightening in my throwing shoulder. Since it gets its worst after darts, I know it is related. I have learned that quite a few players suffer from similar ailements too. So, in short, if your arm is tired or sore... stop, don't play darts for a couple of days if needed. Otherwise, if symptoms persist, seek medical advice.

 

Thanks for reading and SHOOT WELL!

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