Confidence: the secret sauce of top darts players
Confidence. It's hard to teach and tricky to learn. It’s intimidating and from a distance, it can look like arrogance. But rather than loud bravado, true confidence is a quiet, strong self-belief that’s your secret sauce for winning at any level of the darts game.
It’s been said that darts is 10% talent and 90% mental. In other words, get your head right and your arm will follow. But your head can mess up your game. Let’s say you’re nervous knowing you have to throw a winning shot. Your brain tells your body, and your body answers by shaking and tensing up. A few bad throws and your brain cranks up the volume even further.
What if the dreaded board call doesn’t go your way? If you’ve played a few tournaments you’ll know the feeling... Your name gets called against one of the players to beat. Your brain fast forwards to what you’ll do with the rest of the day once you lose – hopefully keeping some of your pride intact. So it’s no surprise when you do lose. That game went to your opponent as soon as you heard the board call.
You’re shaking in your shoes, the top player knows it, and you can bet he or she is using this knowledge to their advantage. They know what they’re capable of, and have confidence in their ability. It’s pretty intimidating. At this point, they’re holding all the cards and just have to play a steady match to beat you, while you go all out trying to hit 180s because you think it’s the only chance you have of beating this type of player.
Ok, so how do you turn this around? The best way to build solid confidence in your game and yourself as a darts player, is dedicating yourself to consistent practice. The best people in any field devote hours and hours to what performance experts call ‘deliberate practice.’ Deliberate practice requires intense, repetitive focus, and aiming for goals just beyond your skill level. It’s also about getting feedback on your results.
Proper throwing mechanics and feeling comfortable and natural with your throw are vital. As is being fluent on your outs: practice to the point where you don’t have to stop and think of what to shoot at. Anne shares a great piece of advice that she still swears by. “I was told that during a match, if I could manage to be consistent enough to hit three fat 20s on every turn and know my outs, I’d probably beat about 90% of the female players in this country.”
Retired Australian pro darts player Wayne Weening also understands the importance of getting your head in the game. “Mental preparation has been the key to my success. As the tournament date nears, I begin to visualise and rehearse some of the tense situations that may arise during a tournament, and so mentally preparing myself for all situations. This won’t guarantee success but it does put you in good stead when the day toughens up for you. If you give your time and focus to the practice board and dare to dream of a positive outcome from a tournament, you’ll be well on your way to success.”