Having survived the hectic spell of events, including the World Masters, World Cup, and two ADO nationals, we can now return to the practice
board! I would like to finish by going over the mental aspects of practice.
I have received criticism from some regarding my previous offerings, but I maintain that practice will only help if you MAKE it help. Sure, we
know that it needs to be "good" practice, but people seem to forget that the real key to success in darts is much more than simple accuracy; it
comes down to CONFIDENCE.
Anyone can hit the target in practice, because there is little or no pressure on us, but it's never as easy when it comes to competition. There
is no substitute for competition, but with a meaningful practice routine, and a focused approach, we can at least give ourselves a better
preparation for competition. Of course, that is easier said than done, but we should at least try.
The problem is that while practice can build confidence, it can also destroy it. After all, struggling to hit the target when there is no
pressure can be pretty demoralizing, and you can easily begin to doubt your ability and/or mechanics. It does sound pretty ignorant to
state that you should use successful practice to your advantage, but forget your unsuccessful practice, but that really is what you should do.
That is why I don't usually practice when I am struggling; it's so easy to lose what little confidence I may still have. I practice when I
am playing well, which reinforces my confidence.
This is why I have to make the point that I am very cautious when it comes to players practicing on a Champion's Choice board. Some call it a
"Champion's" board, or even just a "practice" board, but whatever you know it as, this is the board that has narrow triples and doubles.
Naturally, going to a regulation board after using a Champion's Choice board can make the triple look huge, but is that really much of an
advantage if you've lost all confidence? If you are hitting the narrow triples, of course it will help your confidence, but if you are not,
you can easily start to doubt yourself.
I never advocate the use of anything different to what you will be using in competition, as even simple appearance can be off-putting.
I actually noticed this a couple of weeks ago.
Having played a long weekend of soft-tip events, I was surprised at just how different the board appeared when I went to play steel-tip league
on the Monday! Fortunately, I have learned to rely on feel more than vision, so it didn't really affect me, but I'm sure that it can affect
people detrimentally. So, practice on the equipment that you will use in competition.
Anyway, how should we approach a serious practice session? Firstly, try and ensure that you have minimal distraction. I don't have a board
at home, so I have to go to a bar and practice. To minimize distraction, I will go during the afternoon, when there will be fewer people.
It will be generally quieter, and I'm not going to have to deal with groups of loud obnoxious bar-goers. Neither will I be bugged by players
wanting to challenge me. I just really try and focus on what I am doing.
I'm sure that I get funny looks from others, as I often react to my shots - good and bad. That does prove though, that I am in "competition
mode"! I can actually get pretty worked up when practicing like this, but that is good. As I said, it's no substitute for the real thing,
but it's a lot better than just aimlessly lobbing darts at a board. You will never learn anything from that.
While I can teach you to throw a dart, I cannot teach you to use your head; you have to do that yourself. Sadly, it is much more difficult
than mastering the art of simply throwing a dart and hitting a target, but it really is the one thing that will make the difference.