Three practice games to improve your average
Let's kick off the first discussion with a rundown on practice routines.
Everyone has a theory about the best routine, however, like everything else in darts, there are no real right or wrong way to do things. Darts is all about doing the fundamentals well.
Throughout my learning journey, I have modelled a lot of my thinking on the advice of Michael Jordan (NBA), who emphasised the importance of drilling basics until they become a habit.
After countless hours reviewing players techniques and measuring results, these are the 3 practice routines I found to be the most effective when coaching players and, in my opinion, are a must for all players of any skill level.
Before you read the next part, let me premise the routines by providing an understanding of why they work.
If you want to improve, it isn’t about increasing your triple count. Though more treble 20’s help, your average will improve more consistently by reducing bad darts.
Adding 1 treble a leg will nett you 40 points. Cleaning up 3 bad darts a leg will save you 45-57 points a leg.
This is a simple game that builds your consistency through reduction of errant darts. It is also your first game as it allows your arm to warm into the session.
The goal is to reach between 10 and 15 scores of 60 or more, throwing at 20’s only.
If you are new to the game, try for 5x scores of 60 or more in a row and build up to 10.
Depending on your skill level, you should be looking at doing this consistently; (PPD Points Per Dart)
5x Beginners and local pub players. (17-20 average PPD)
10x Solid id tier local players. (20-23PPD)
15x Representative players. (23-25 PPD)
Once you start pushing past 15 on a consistent basis, you will have mastered your line and can move into more challenging games. (Game 3)
Game 2 – Doubles
The game its self has had a lot of conjecture, as there are a few ideas on how to practice doubles. Doubles are often met with an untested science or belief on the right way to practice doubles, ranging from practising in order of how you would use them (i.e. 32, 16,8,4,2) to practising favourites for X time, then least favourite for Y time.
The reality is, it doesn’t matter. Don’t over complicate a routine by adding in a variable that has nothing to do with science.
If you throw at 32, the adjustment is minor. You need to learn to make that calculation and adjust accordingly.
If you throw at doubles in order, you either don’t move to put your body on a comfortable line or you move, essentially changing the throw altogether anyway.
Make practice as simple as possible, so you can focus on the critical points.
Doubles practice is all about finding your bodies line and experimenting with positioning to find a confident play to throw from while working on less favourable doubles.
If you want to know the biomechanics behind this, happy to provide the longwinded explanation.
Play doubles from 1 to 20 (or bull) trying to either hit 2 doubles in a single walk or hit the double 3 walks in a row.
It is important to listen to your body in this practice and make sure you are relaxed and confident in your positioning when you’re playing this game. Confidence can come from posture, feeling strong over the darts can improve your percentages.
If you are struggling on a double, try adjusting your line slightly, or open/close your body angle slightly.
Game 3 has many variations, however (in my mind) is the perfect game.
Bringing together the fundamentals of games 1 and 2, game 3 adds in 2 new elements. Pressure and movement.
The game is simple enough. You have to go around the board on doubles hitting each double once, however, you must score 60 or more with your 1st or second dart to get a shot at the double.
I call this game Frustration…for several reasons, but mostly because it will make every darts count. Find which variation is best for you and progress as far as you like. But be warned, the game is aptly named!
Must score 60 or more with the first or second dart, before shooting at a double.
Each shot must start with scoring 60 or more within the first 2 darts.
If you hit 60 with the first dart, you have 2 darts at doubles and can hit 2 doubles in a single walk.
If you score 40 or less with 1 darts in hand, hitting bullseye gives you a free set at the double next walk.
Same rules as Rank 1
Can not split an odd-numbered Double.
Same rules as Ranks 1 & 2
If you don’t score 60 or more in a set, go back 1 double. (i.e. from double 5 to double 4)
Same rules as Ranks 1 to 3
Must hit a double in 3 attempts or go back 1 double.
Rank 5 – (pressure starts)
Same rules as Ranks 1 to 3
Rank 1 bull option removed.
If you don’t score 60 or more in the walk, go back to Double 1.
Rank 6 – (gets hard)
Same rules as Rank 5
Miss a double 3 walks in a row, go back to double 1
Rank 7 – (gets brutal)
Same rules as Rank 6
Must have a shot at a double within 5 walks or go back to Double 1.
Rank 8 – (How I got the name)
Same as rank 7
Must hit a first darts treble 20 at least 1 in 5 walks.
Must progress on doubles in a maximum of 3 attempts.
I never created a variation past rank 8. It was painful enough!
Frustration is the only game I played that could accurately simulate internal pressure and forced me to focus on how my body reacts to certain stresses.
Game 1 is designed to reduce bad darts and effectively improve your game by removing darts that lower your averages.
In addition to improving your average, you build passive pressure on opponents by throwing straight darts. Players know they need to hit trebles to beat you.
Game 2 helps you find your natural line into doubles. However, you want to practice it is completely up to you, though I recommend keeping practice as simple as possible while you are developing your game.
This leads into the importance of what level you step in to with Game 3. Staying between ranks 1-3 is recommended.
I won my first major event while I was consistently finishing rank 4 in an hour, making my first national side bouncing between ranks 5-6.
The last half of 2017 was arguably my career-best, where I averaged 30+ in singles events. I won’t say I was making rank 8 easily, however, got it more often than not……then again, I missed 19’s an hour and a half into the game and decided to walk off in a huff. Hence the game was dubbed frustration.
All 3 games will improve any stage of your game up to you reach the 28 PPD level. Once you break into the 85 average category, practice needs to take a more focused approach and time on the board is the only answer.
So now let’s talk about time.
Game 1. Even if you don’t feel like practising, have a throw and get to your number of 60+ scores in a row. (5, 10 or 15)
You may only have to throw a few sets a day at best, however setting habits takes 14 consecutive days.
Game 2. Aim for at least twice a week, but do so when you have time to work through your lines and get comfortable on each double.
Game 3. Practice at least once a week. Personally, I do this once a day for 2 weeks before an event and always go well.
Good luck and good darting!