Darts Coach-Mental Game Training–Part 3

Darts Coach-Mental Game Training–Part 3

In the last post we ended in a thick spot…..so let's pick up again.

Practising in a conscious state of awareness regarding your technique is how we program muscle memory. We find the little glitches and set them right through suggestions we shouldn't be doing X, I should be doing Y.

After a few sessions on retraining your technique, it should be assumed into your natural motion. At this point, you no longer need to focus on your adjustments consciously. Take a video every now and again to make sure the changes have stuck. If they haven't or the change feels unnatural for a prolonged period, then make other adjustments to compensate.

When you play, regardless if you are in the middle of "reprograming" you should always play competition matches from the subconscious.

Even if your performance is terrible, or your technique reverts back, the overall outcome will be far better playing from a natural (subconscious) state than a forced action.

Practice is for refining, and play is for delivery.

That said, don't waste a bad day! If things aren't going your way, then try listening to your mind and body to find out what is impacting you. 

You can't escape bad days, but if you write them off, you lose one of the most valuable learning opportunity in darts. 

There is no doubt practice is essential to playing top-flight darts, however supporting mindsets are critical to playing well consistently and under pressure.

Things you should be doing in a conscious state.

  1. Counting and setting up your next shot.
  2. Focus on breathing patterns.
  3. Pay attention to the body, trying to relax muscles. (being aware it is okay if you can't)
  4. Set your routine for the next shot. Getting your breaths in, standing in a comfortable position to prepare the approach for your next shot.
  5. Reciting your positive affirmations. Nice and easy, nice and straight, 1 in 3.
  6. Setting up your stance. Relaxed, confident and balanced.
  7. Focus on your target until you can see it clearly. 

Our eyes tend to focus on an area around the target you are going for, but not locked on and focused to the point the target is all you see.

This is something you need to practice as well.

Things you should be doing in a subconscious state.

  1. Silence the chatter in your head and stay focused on your target. 
  2. Let your body do the work.

You have refined your technique on the practice board, your body has made all the necessary calculations, including contingencies for common imperfections in your throw. Your body knows what it's doing, so have faith in your body!

This draws us to the last note for this series, which is understanding how you engage the conscious and subconscious minds. These are Outcomes and Processes.

Outcomes are motivating factors, such as wins, fast legs or improved averages. Process is consciously setting up the shot and having faith your body will deliver your desired outcome. 

The conscious mind will always look for outcomes. It is part of our rationalisation process to prepare for the next event. A win may mean a speech or preparing for the next game, so naturally, your mind will try and give as much time possible to prepare.

For others is a desire not to look silly or do something embarrassing that draws their focus, others worry about their own performance and how others will perceive them.

The best example I can give you of how a conscious thinking process can sabotage a player, is in those amazing legs where someone is on 41 after 9 darts and loses in 30 darts.

Players say they felt amazing, and everything was just going in. It wasn't until they start thinking about how they can say they hit an 11 dart leg or they are in line for a trophy at the end of the season their double troubles start. The second they go past the number they had in their head (11/12 dart leg) they either lose interest in disappointment, or they focus too much on the outcome and how they are going to explain the capitulation.

If you are focused on the outcome of pegging the 41, you aren't focused on the process that got you 440 pints in 9 darts. 

You have practised your technique, prepared your mental game and have your pre-throw process set out in the 7 steps above (or your own variation). Hitting a double to win a match should have been something you have planned on and prepared for. Even if you haven't, you will get yourself to the double by following your process, not focusing on the outcome.

Going back to playing in "the Zone", you don't have a conscious recollection of much. You got lost in the game and just played… your body did the rest.

If you want to think about the win, do it the day before or moments after the match. Pre-empting the outcome always leads to complacency.

 Next week...tackling Dartitis!


Raymond Smith