“Are you any good?” ARGH! The dreaded question that comes to anyone seen in close proximity to tungsten… How do you respond to that? Rather than get philosophical, I’d prefer to just say no, or a semi-desperate; “I try!”
So what makes a good darts player?
I asked my followers on Twitter this question a couple of months ago and had varied responses from many different people.
Some people keep count of their 180’s. Yes, scoring a maximum is something to be proud of, but unless you score them frequently is it luck or skill? A good way of monitoring your skill may be to keep track of your averages, but then what constitutes a good average? The only way would be to compare, but who would you compare with? No one is going to want to judge their averages on Taylor’s 118 are they?!
According to Justin Irwin’s book Murder on the Darts Board (published in 2008); “Wayne ‘Hawaii 501’ Mardle claims that a PDC professional averages between 90 and 95, a county player about 85, a Superleague player (the next level down) 72, and a pub player 51.”
How about a more scientific measurement? The precision of the darts is a good indicator of skill – or as we would cheer “Grouping!” particularly when someone score a stylish 9 via T1! On the other hand you could judge by accuracy. Two darts players may be aiming for T20 but one “groups” on the other side of the wire by millimetres, in 5, 20 or 1 (scoring a maximum of 60 and minimum of 3). However another dart player may accurately score one T20 and his 2 other darts may land an inch away from each other – scoring him a maximum of 100 and a minimum of 62. So, player 2 has the higher score and is that much closer to finishing, but player one’s darts were more precise.
That brings me to finishes. Are either or both classed as good players, when one scores high but can’t finish, or the other scores poorly but gets the double? Are you automatically a good darts player if you practice 4 hours a day, every day? Or if you never practice, but you can get up and throw 180 – are you just lucky? Do good darts make for a good dart player? Or perhaps a combination of good darts, stance and fitness and so on and so forth?
Could the secret lay in psychology? I’m not talking about Positive Mental Attitude so much, more along the lines of just having an all round good attitude. Does it make a difference going into a game thinking “I will win,”, “I won’t win,”, “I’m just playing for fun,”, or my thought of choice “I will play my best darts”. I’ve heard a lot of people say “Play the board, not the player”. I wonder how many people take this on board and what difference it makes to their darts.
I once played a game against someone I took an instant dislike to and all I thought was “I have to win this, I have to put this guy in his place”. I have only ever done this once. Suffice to say I learnt my lesson, felt like an idiot and have played every game since, playing the board. So much so, that after a game I couldn’t pick my opponent out of a line up.
I was recommended a book; Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell, which I am told refers to the 10,000 hour rule. I was previously unfamiliar with this, but I’ve read that Gladwell claims that 10,000 hours of practice will produce an expert, excelling in their field. A quick bit of maths tells me that you could be making tracks up the World leader board in about 4 years if you practiced 8 hours a day. So you can start young, practice hard, or live forever…
Then again, after all that, I hear 3 pints is usually the bench mark for optimum darting performance…
Edit: Before you embark on 10,000 solid hours of darts practice I would suggest you get the basics right. Find a grip and throw which will suit you in the long term and then find darts which suit your grip and throw. I have been busy for the last month experimenting with grips and darts and even the stance. Once you have found the right grip which is consistent and comfortable, at a certain time there will be a tipping point (Gladwell fans, see what I did there) where everything clicks into place, muscle memory starts really kicking in and everything starts becoming more accurate and more importantly more consistent.