We all know that if we want to get good at something, no matter what it might be, then we have to practice. It is possible to learn or develop a skill over time if we do it enough, in other words practice. This must apply to darts too, but is there a way to improve at darts other than practice?
Surely there must be other things I can do to improve the way I play darts. There must be certain techniques that will give me an advantage over my opponents. What are the secrets that will give me the winning edge?
Is There A Way To Improve At Darts Other Than Practice?
There are many tips and techniques that can improve your darts game other than practice. A simple adjustment to your stance could improve your game no end. Thinking about darts in a different way can also change the way you play for the better, it’s a mind game. The secret is to get the basics right and then practice does come into play. Whatever else you do to improve your darts game, you cannot get away from the practice element.
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How To Become A Better Darts Player
Whether you are an absolute beginner or have been playing darts for a while, the basics matter. Learning any new game or skill is easiest when we start off on the right foot so to speak. Changing or adjusting how we do something along the line is harder to achieve.
Remembering to adopt the new way of doing something can be challenging. It is way to easy to slip back into old habits without even thinking about it. When playing in your own home bar it is easy to set reminders to keep you in check. This is why it would be good to practice before you try new techniques when playing elsewhere.
Lets take a look at the basics of darts to see if any improvement can be made. Be honest with yourself and you just might make a few adjustments that will raise your game.
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Dartboard Set Up
I am sure that when you hung your dartboard you set it to the regulation measurements. Now you think about it are you doubting yourself, no, lets move on then. You are just going to get your tape measure and double check, yep, I would.
Like I said you probably did it right when you set it up, but it is worth checking. If your board is set different to another one you play on at a bar for instance, then your game won’t be consistent. We would like to think that any commercial premises that has a dartboard would have set it to the right measurements. But again you never know, if you play regularly with friends in your local bar, why not check.
Anyway on to the correct measurements for set up of a dartboard.
Dartboard Height – The board should be hung so that the bullseye is 5ft 8 inches (1.73m) from the floor.
Throw Line – The throw line or Oche should be marked 7 ft 9 1/4 inches (2.37m) from the front face of the board.
The throw line can be marked with a strip of decent floor tape or a purpose made darts mat. Once set you are good to go on to the basics of throwing.
Darts Are Part Of The Game
You can’t play darts without the darts right, so getting the right ones for you can be important. The main points are the barrel thickness and weight, then the shape of the flights.
These are made from a few different materials, brass, nickel and tungsten, with the latter being the choice of the pro’s. Most barrels have different grip levels, some being smooth and others having heavy knurled surfaces to aid grip. Personal choice comes in to play here, it is an individuals feel preference that will determine which is best.
Probably the most important part of the barrel is the weight of it. Darts can range from around 16 grams to as high as 50 grams. The weight can make a difference to your game and there are a few things to bear in mind.
A light dart would suit a player that throws with force, where as a heavier dart would suit a lighter thrower. To get the right weight is down to trying out different weights and seeing how accurate your throws are.
If you are aiming for the bull and it consistently lands above the bull, then try a slightly heavier dart. This may bring your dart down, the same goes if your dart is landing consistently lower than the bull. Try a lighter dart to see if your aim comes up a little.
It is trial and error with the weight, but worth getting it honed in to the perfect weight for you, it could improve your game considerably.
A darts shaft can vary in the material it is made from and the length of the shaft. Materials used are plastic, metal and carbon fibre. There is a difference between the weight of these materials, but it is slight. You can experiment with the different materials, but it is more about personal choice.
The shaft length is more important than the material and they come in short, medium and long. The rule of thumb is that if you hold your barrel closer to the front, then a shorter shaft would suit. This is because a short shaft shifts the center of gravity towards the front.
You can work out the rest, a medium would suit better if you hold the barrel in the middle. A long shaft if you hold the barrel more to the back end.
The flight does make a difference as to how the dart flies through the air. Flights are made in different shapes and sizes, as well as materials. Each variation of shape and size will affect how a dart will fly through the air.
The smaller the flight the faster it will travel, the larger the flight the more drag and the slower the speed. It could be an article in itself because there are so many variations. The best way to find the flight that suits you is to try different shapes and sizes and see how your darts behave.
Body Position Is Key
The way you position yourself to the board can be an important factor, so getting your stance right matters. An awkward position will not help you throw darts well. Try a few different stances until you find a stable but comfortable position.
Positioning of your feet is where your stance starts, there are three basic positions to consider, but tweak them to suit you.
Probably the most common stance and one that is a go to for beginners. Whatever hand you throw with, that is the lead foot. If you throw with your right hand, then place your right foot forward. Angle it around 45° to the throw line with your other foot behind it, heal up. Adjust the feet to suit, just make sure your are comfortable and stable.
This is the other common stance for many dart players and a variation on the middle stance. The lead foot will is placed lengthways along the throw line, so you are side on to the board. The other foot again is behind with heal up and will provide support.
A lesser used stance, but may suit you, so worth trying out. I find it a little awkward, it just doesn’t feel natural to me and doesn’t seem to be stable enough. Place both feet directly in front of the throw line so you are facing the board.
Holding Your Darts
The best way to hold a dart ready to throw is to find what feels comfortable. A two finger hold, or three fingers, whatever feels right. Obviously you will need to involve the thumb. I personally feel most comfortable with my index and middle finger touching and the thumb directly in the middle of the two.
It is best to hold only the barrel and not involve the stem to give the most accurate type throw. Try using one, two, three and four fingers and see which one feels natural. Play around, but the main point is to feel natural and comfortable.
This really does differ between players, but the upper arm is normally more or less parallel to the floor with the elbow slightly downwards. The upper are can be vertical or slightly leaning back, with the hand closer to the face.
Again the most important thing is to be comfortable and find your sweet spot. Watch a few of the pro’s online and study the techniques, from hand grip to arm positions. It will expand your options and give you ideas to perfect your own positions.
How To Become A Better Darts Player
What we have already covered will improve your darts throw. Concentrating on getting the right stance, grip and arm position for you is a good start. The right dart set up is also an important factor. Balance is important to throw accurately, so don’t rush on perfecting your stance.
When you are up in front of that board and you are ready to throw keep your eye on the prize. If you are going for the bullseye, zone in on it, lock your aim right on that center spot. Another important tip is to follow through, let the arm finish the full throw motion. A bit like a golfer follows through with their swing.
Knowing how to throw and finding your unique style will not win you games alone.
What else is needed?
As you would expect the mind plays a big part in any sport, as it does in many avenues of life. The right mindset is just as important when playing darts. Doubting your ability to play well, will lead to feeling anxious, and angry when you miss a shot.
This will only help your opponent and they will take full advantage of your short comings. Play darts with confidence and an air of strength and calm.
Keep A Cool Head
The mental side of darts can be the hardest part, and keeping a cool head is the best way to play. Lets say you have done every right leading up to your throw, you aim and throw. You miss the mark and become consumed with frustration and anger. How will that help your game?
It won’t help your game one little bit, all it will do is give the advantage to your opponent. On top of that your next throw will be just as bad, if not worse. Your darts will spiral out of control just like your head did.
Instead keep calm, take a few deep breaths and compose yourself. Talk to yourself, tell yourself you will focus on your next throw and get the dart on mark. Lots of athlete talk to themselves before or during a game. It is what is known as self talk and affirmations and it helps you zone in on the job in hand.
Don’t Get Pushed Around
Controlling your mind and emotions is one thing, but you can’t control your opponents. Don’t let the other player push you around mentally. It is a common tactic in sport to get inside your opponents head and mess with their game.
Ignore cheap comments and sly remarks that are designed to put you off your game. A comment about a shot you missed is to try and get you to doubt yourself. Don’t let those comments in, stay focused.
Another classic trick is for the other player to rush you into a mistake. Urging you to hurry up while you are lining up to take a shot. Block them out and focus on your mark, see only your mark and talk yourself through a perfect shot.
Play With Confidence
If you doubt you can win, you have already lost. This is really important if you want to be a good darts player, doubting yourself will kill your game. Believing in yourself will enhance your game and you will go from strength to strength.
How many times have we seen an underdog come through and win, not just in darts, but any sport. It is about confidence and the desire to win. Having confidence in your ability to win will give you the desire to win. Doubting yourself is a defeatist attitude and will kill your desire.
Make your attitude a confident one and know that you will improve with every shot. Even when you miss a shot, don’t let that confidence turn into doubt, stay strong and move on. Know that you can beat your opponent, be stronger in mind than the are, and win.
Is There A Way To Improve At Darts Other Than Practice?
Clearly there are other ways to improve at darts. Your darts set up, your stance and position, how you hold your dart and your arm position and throwing technique. Time spent perfecting these so you feel comfortable and natural will improve your game.
So too will your attitude, keeping a cool head and staying composed, not getting pushed around and playing with confidence. All these things will improve your darts game, but, there is always a but, right?
Practice is key to your overall darts success, there is no getting away from it. If you are passionate about darts, then practising your game should be an enjoyable. The other thing that becomes enjoyable is when you start to beat opponents you haven’t beat before. This makes the art of practice totally worthwhile.
Set A Practice Routine
Organize your darts, make it a routine part of your week. Determine how long you want a practice session to be and what days you will practice on. This could be an hour every day, or it might be two hours four days a week.
You don’t need to do it five hours every day to improve, not unless you intend to go pro, in which case go for it.
Plan your practice sessions, play around the clock to get better at nailing every number on the board. Play this with single numbers, then doubles and then triples, don’t forget the bullseye. This will hone your skills to picking out any number, double or treble.
Play 501 to practice getting high numbers for high scores, then practice your outs. Getting out of a game with a double can be crucial to win. Don’t always go for the same route every time, try different combinations. This will teach you different ways to complete 501 and give you all options of getting out.
Perfecting your throw and mindset and all the aspects of them are important and will improve your game. But practice is the catalyst to being a great dart player. You have to put in the hours, and like I said if you like darts, then it won’t be a chore.
The main thing is to have fun with darts, do everything you can to improve your game. Just don’t get hung up on it, even if you lose most of your games, just enjoy playing it. Over time you will improve and will soon start seeing a higher success rate. You may even become the best player in your group, a player to be feared.