The F Word - Fear!
This year we had our regular sports psychologist back, Matt Johnson, who lectures at my former university, Southampton Solent. He came back to give a talk titled appropriately "What Do You Fear" and was aimed at helping players get over all those negative thoughts dart players get when stepping up on the oche.
Virtually every player had at least one fear strike them when stepping on the oche. These ranged from letting team mates down, letting themselves down, making a fool of themselves by missing doubles and nerves wreaking havoc on their technique resulting in a poor performance.
Any of these sound familiar? Yes I thought so! Some of the areas Matt discussed to help combat these negative fears on the oche we have covered already. Self-talk for example. We have done an article about that in Darts World and it can be found on our website.
The advice I liked the best was what Matt called Thought Parking. It is something he uses himself when he gets nervous before delivering a lecture in front of a room full of eager students. For Matt it involves transporting his mind to a happy and relaxed place. In his case it was a small flat he lived in whilst he was a surfing instructor in the Caribbean.
So if he steps into a room prior to a lecture and the butterflies and nerves kicks in he takes a few deep breaths and then imagines himself "chilling out on the balcony, hearing the waves and sipping something cold!" The effect of this is that it calms his nerves down, he is in a more relaxed state, yes there is some anxiety but at a much more manageable level and at a level that is actually good to get the most out of your performance.
So if we transfer stepping into a lecture hall with stepping on to the oche you can see how this technique is absolutely perfect for darts. You will first need to find the place in your mind that will relax you and allow you to park your negative thoughts and focus in on your positive and relaxed ones.
With some practice and work you can keep these thoughts going whilst waiting for your turn or whenever you feel another wave of nerves coming on. The ultimate goal for this strategy is to play with "No Fear". With enough practice and the right thoughts in your head you can achieve this.