Darts technique: the big 3
Coaching is a passion that allows me to demonstrate my love of darts through the sharing of knowledge. It is something I could do for hours and one thing I have endless motivation for. As an aspiring player, I tried my best to work with coaches and gain access to development structures, only to find they either didn't exist or I was paying for services the coaches were ill-equipped to deliver. In Australia, most of our accredited coaches are volunteers trying their best, but too few have any experience in playing at mid-tier levels, let alone the elite tier and most have only done a weekend training course designed to get them to deliver a rigid coaching structure they don't understand and the material itself is at a high-level overview at best.
My technique breaks a lot of rules, as do many world champions. Training guides aren't equipped to support coaches understand players with irregular techniques like a Bristow, or Lowe, let alone trying to support someone with a throw like Alan Tabern. In the coaching sessions I attended, the narrative was I must stand 1 of 3 ways, hold the dart a certain way and the throw couldn't deviate from what the book says. All of which cost me 3 years recovery time from terrible advice that didn't have any basis apart from its what the coaching manual said to do.
The worst piece of advice anyone can give you is to change your grip. Your grip is natural and impacts 90% of your arm movement. Changes to the middle finger change the tension level in you Flexor Carpi Radialis and will likely trigger tension in the Extensor Carpi Ulnaris. (forearm / wrist)
The knock-on effect can lead to tension in the Deltoid (shoulder) and before you know it, you're carrying tension in the arm, making you more susceptible to tightening up under pressure.
This is the dilemma people are facing today. Coaches are doing their best with what they have, while governing bodies don't have the investment capital to engage sports scientists to deliver quality training materials for our coaches. Development is run on opinion and opinions rarely contain any science to support the process.
Each step of our lessons to date has worked on science and math to challenge basic thinking and provide practice routines to deliver sustainable results. It may not meet everyone's expectation, as we are focusing on fundamentals which lack the glitz and glamour, while not providing the instant reward component that will catapult you to the top in a week. It's all grind work.
I will post comments on each point from time to time to detail why each lesson will work if you invest the time. But for now, I will try and keep things to where they need to be to get you the gains you want if you are prepared to put in the time.
So let's move on to technique and discuss the Big 3.
The big 3 are the only things in your technique that need attention. Even then, nothing compares to your bodies natural calculator, also known as hand/eye coordination.
The Big 3 are the only parts of my technique I consciously work on when I practice. There are other parts such as stance etc. however, these are personal preference and not something that can translate from my throw to yours.
1. The Axis
There are 2 axes you play on with the horizontal axis controlled by your elbow and vertical axis controlled by your fingers.
Your elbow should not move from the set position until you start releasing the dart.
Your fingers should be pointing at your target at the release.
Throughout the throw, you should be able to visualize the line your arm is moving on and how the dart is going to get to your target.
There are players I have seen successfully break rules; however, in the case of elbow movement, the release point comes back to the setpoint near-perfect every time.
Players snap the fingers towards their target at release, before the hand drifts off the line.
2. Release to follow through
Release Point and follow-through are critical. Regardless if you fully extend your arm at the release, or half extend, it must be consistent and controlled.
Consistency comes from arm speed control, the tension in the muscles at release and mastery of point 1. Practising natural timing is the reason physical practice is essential to reach your potential.
Bob Anderson was a player who made this look easy with little to no draw, just all wrist and finger speed to get the power and a lovely long throw.
3. Muscle control
Muscles control is more aligned to controlling muscle tension and is directly tied to your stance. There will be a lesson on stance requirements in future, however, due to the complexity involved, it will be a video session to try to capture the information required. The short version for this guide is best described as trying to identify what muscles of over-stimulated in the throw and see if you can reduce/remove tension in the muscles.
I tell everyone I coach your grip should be just enough to control the dart, but not too much I can't pull the dart from your grip easily.
I always try to work on using the least amount of muscles possible in each throw and what I use, I can't single out during the throw.
Point 3 is a very dangerous topic as it works hand in hand with dartitis in so far as overthinking technique is the basis for the affliction.
I will do a separate discussion point on dartitis, premising the basic understanding that the issue comes from an over expectation of perfection and a fear of not reaching your expectation.
If you become obsessed with trying to throw the darts exactly the same way every time, try drawing 3 freehand lines on a piece of paper, making them all exactly the same length, same width, the same width apart and perfectly straight. You can't do it consistently. It's the same as throwing a dart.
Fortunately, your body can make the necessary calculations a lot faster than your brain can. Let your body do the work!
This blog post may be a somewhat controversial subject, but I am happy to debate the principles and speak from experience and domestic engagements more than a worldly view. Leave your message below.
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