Darts coach: mental game training - part 2

Written by
Raymond Smith

Hi all, this week's tip is a direct continuation of Part 1 published in a previous post.

Shutting off the conscious mind is difficult for several reasons. The most notable reason is self-preservation behaviours. These rely on how you pay attention to surroundings to accurately make threat assessments to feel comfortable. We all have something we are wary of, and there are environmental factors at play that make us feel uneasy at times.

How many players do you know that play phenomenal darts at home, but play very average on league nights? You may also know someone brilliant in their local club, but average on the road?

Chances are they haven't gained enough trust in their immediate surroundings to feel the level of confidence needed to focus the necessary energy required for peak performance darts.


Having the ability to play from a sub-conscious state is making yourself completely vulnerable to your surroundings. Do you recall a time you played your absolute best?

I bet you recall;

  1. You didn't hear anything or anyone, except a positive voice.
  2. You didn't notice what the opponent was doing.
  3. You didn't realise the score.
  4. You have no idea how well you played.

These are all results of playing from a sub-conscious state, where your conscious mind couldn't record memories. This state is referred to as "The Zone" in many sports psychology publishing.

But playing in "The Zone" isn't where you set a performance limit. You can play in the zone while you are a beginner and reach a mid-range average. This is an indication you are on the right path, not a glimpse of your limit. In no time, you will be playing better than your breakout moment consistently, it just means your body and mind was able to get in sync to deliver the result of your practice as it stands at that time.

Practice leads into the unmasked (for most) contradiction in applying the principles of Conscious Vs Sub-Conscious debates at the entry-level.

Practice is also heavily reliant on awareness (conscious mind) to identify issues and make the necessary adjustments, with a continual conscious review of technique to ensure the adjustments are working, and you are sticking to the changes required and identify what else may need to be tweaked.

This is a direct contradiction from what is required during a game, making it difficult to implement when it time to compete.

Practice is taking an issue and using repetition to fix issues until you assume the change into your technique. Call it reprogramming muscle memory to eliminate bad habits.

This is not forcing a change in natural technique! I can't stress this enough. It is cleaning up minor technical inefficiencies.

During practice, your internal calculator has smashed out all the equations and is prepared to deliver what you have practised.

Your first up outing with adjustments may not be the best with the new changes as your body will fight you on changes. It is important to remember the body will naturally try and get back to a position you are more comfortable with, means your trials are subject to confidence. (This is why practice is essential)

This is a sub-conscious reaction relating to self-preservation. As you are trying to push to a more sub-conscious playing method, there will be some conflict in your mental game.

Desire to improve vs natural action to protect yourself.

We'll cover this in the next post.

Remember: Confidence is essential; the process is king!

Happy darts

Raymond Smith

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