I am a Darts Historian, not a professional dart player. My skills at darts are strictly pub level but my knowledge of the game is extensive. It is, therefore, just a little surprising that folks contact me occasionally for advice on whether or not they should be undertaking any special training regime to ensure that they are always at their best when stepping up to the oche.
The image of dart players as archetypal lager-swilling podgy persons - which of course most players are not - tends to make one think that they undertake no practice or exercise at all. Clearly, there are those who fit the image and believe that they cannot play up to the required competitive standard unless they drink many litres of alcohol before each match. Many like a drink beforehand, but nowadays not to excess.
Beyond the beer-belly image, the better informed know that, although there are such players, the majority are relatively active and fit and have their own training regimes.
Naturally, I cannot speak for the hundreds of thousands of 'social' or local pub team players for whom darts is but a small part of their social lives but, as far as the professional players are concerned, research does reveal that fitness and practice are amongst their top priorities. Many (Eric Bristow and Bob Anderson in particular) can be found on the golf course whilst others, including Bobby George, enjoy fishing. The latter could hardly be classed as fitness but, like all sportsmen and women, dart players also need to learn how to relax.
The majority of professional dart players practice every single day. Eleven times World Champion Phil Taylor used to practice up to eleven hours a day. Now I understand it is slightly less. That’s how he honed his game to become ‘The Power’. Others, like Rod Harrington, used to practice at his local pub with a 'sparring partner' whilst others prefer their own company and practice alone. Like any other sport, darts players will only ever take out of the game benefits in direct proportion to the amount of effort they put in.
The bottom line is always 'Practice. Practice. Practice.' On one occasion, in the 1986 Embassy finals, former World Champion Bob Anderson beat Eric Bristow. Eric said something about luck playing a part, to which Bob replied, "Eric. I’ll tell you something. The more I practice, the luckier I get." Players new to the game could do a lot less than ingrain that statement in their minds.
John Lowe stresses the importance of playing regularly in competition as being the 'best way of improving your game'. John also mentions the importance of ensuring the right mental approach, that is, it's no use practising for hours every day if, on the night before a big competition you don't come home until two or three o'clock in the morning. Drink is always the temptation. It comes with the territory. Many dart players say they can't play until they've had a few. One well-known dart player of the 1940s and 1950s is said to have only played his best darts after fifteen pints of Guinness! Would you describe that as 'training'? I doubt it. Key message then must be lay off the booze on and before match days and cancel that pre-championship late night session at the curry house until you really have something to celebrate.
Surprisingly, Dave Whitcombe, News of the World Individual Darts Champion 1988/89, is found quoted as saying 'Unless you are totally out of condition, your fitness will probably not affect your game.' Although he mentions, in passing, swimming, walking, Dave makes no real recommendations on fitness at all except that 'whatever exercise you care to take, it is best not to overdo it.' Dieting seems to be his key recommendation for losing those 'few pounds or stones’ which might be affecting a players' game.
Increasingly dart players have become aware of the need to exercise and to remain fit for what can often be tortuous, long periods on the oche - anything up to two hours in fact. Concentration and durability are key and few find long-lasting success in the bottom of a glass.
The county 'circuit', or more correctly the British Darts Organisation (BDO) county league structure, is the best grounding for future England players, starting in the B team, rising through to a permanent place on the A team will then possibly get you noticed by the BDO selectors. More recently the Professional Darts Corporation championships have afforded further opportunities to join the elite.
You will find ‘Tuition’ elsewhere on my web site, but, just briefly, if you want to know how to play darts, it is really worth looking at World Champion John Part’s website, www.johnpart.com and clicking on his tuition section. There are a lot of very useful tips there for both the professional darter and the amateur or fun player.
One other interesting web site has been brought to my attention which concentrates on darts tuition. This is www.dartguide.com which is run by a darts enthusiast, Charles E. Brandish. It’s well worth checking out what Charles has to say. He has some excellent points and tips for all beginners who want to learn the basics or amateur and professional darters who are looking to improve their game.’
Finally, the word is that three-times World Professional Darts Champion, John Lowe, is working on his own darts tuition book. All being well, the book should be in the shops by Christmas 2008.
As you probably know, in 2009 John Lowe published The Art of Darts and in the following year I had my tuition book The Official Bar Guide to Darts published in New York by the Puzzlewright Press. Naturally I would recommend both books to anyone wishing to take up darts or improve their game. Both can be purchased via Amazon.com.
© Patrick Chaplin 2005-2012
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