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PART'S DARTS ONE
ONE: WHY PRACTISE ?

There are two general reasons why anyone would want to practice throwing darts. The first reason is somewhat obvious. We all want to increase our ability for upcoming competitive situations and simply get better. It is commonly held in virtually every sport that competitors must practice or train to increase performance levels. It is also believed that that the quantity and quality of practice coincides directly with an increase in ability. It does. 
       
The second reason to practice is for the sheer enjoyment. Throwing darts can be very enjoyable in a completely non-competitive way. It can be relaxing or it can be stimulating.
There is a mysterious enchantment we feel as we attempt to propel our dart through the air towards a seemingly ever elusive target. Nothing matches the feeling of satisfaction from a successful strike. The throwing of darts can approach a state of meditation. After all, we know that state of mind is a major factor in success at the dart board. The addiction of the game stems from the constant craving to come closer and closer to perfection. There is also the thrill when your game comes together. Is there not pure joy when anyone hits their first 180? It is an ethereal elation to become World Champion. Every dart player and fan has an obsession with the 9-dart game. Why? It is the symbolic attainment of being one with the game, if only for a fleeting moment. 
       
Phil Taylor continues to fascinate dart fans around the world. Is it because he wins such a high percentage of the time? Certainly winning is admired in any form of competition, but I think it is how he wins that mesmerizes us.I'm not referring to the lopsided match scores. It is the averages that amaze even the best of the rest of the pros. We've all had good matches, but Phil seems to have 100 or better 3-dart average every time he plays. No one else has equaled his standard. So how did he reach this level of play? Practice. It is the only way. No other player had the capability to force him to play THAT well. Phil is a pioneer of sorts. He knew he could play better and he worked through practice to push himself further. Why?
The answer is that he is no different than any of us, pub players and pros alike. He loves the game and he yearns to master the game and himself. 
       
I believe that I can work hard and get my averages to continue increasing and so should all players. In 1987 I got a board and darts after watching the game on television a couple of times. During the first two years I played all I did was teach myself and practice. The hour or two that I practiced each day was entirely enjoyable and relaxing. I eagerly worked and increased my skill level, never accepting that I couldn't be better. It was an exercise for it's own sake. Today I have been through every level of the game and I still look forward to those couple of hours a day when the world is just me, my darts and my dreams of mastering the art of dart throwing. Enjoy your practice.
PART'S DARTS TWO

Practice is a great way to enjoy a session of dart throwing, but if you really want to improve there is an important first step. You must construct your dart throw. That is to say that you must decide on the mechanics that suit you, and identify any bad habits you may already have.If you don't take the time to decide what is right and wrong for you, you run the risk of reinforcing bad habits that will only hold you back from achieving your goals. There definitely is such a thing as bad practice and it will result in bad darts.


Step number one is to try and educate(or re-educate) yourself about good dart mechanics. If you have access to video of pro-darts then try to identify the things that all pro-dart strokes have in common. There will always be exceptions, so make sure that you watch several players before drawing any conclusions.For instance, don't just analyze Phil Taylor and then copy him. The chances are that some aspects of his throw are unique to him and are suited to his physique. He may even have some bad habits. If you see a half dozen players all doing one thing the same way, then odds are that it will work for you.Reference sources such as books and instructional videos can also be helpful but once again, try to consult several sources and identify the constants.

I feel it is important for players to make their own observations but now I will share my views on the common threads of a good solid throw.
First of all find a comfortable, well balanced stance - not leaning over too far . The orientation of the feet to the oche is not important as long as you are consistent. Your stance should be erect and the only movement should be in your forearm and hand.

Simplicity is best, so that you can more readily develop consistency in your throw. The elbow should be extended fully towards the target. Really extend and stretch the elbow out. It may feel unnatural at first, but it is an excellent habit to develop. When the elbow is fully extended, the shoulder is by default, pulled in under the chin.  Now the dart should be brought back to the dominant eye (or between the eyes). At this point your arm has effectively become a catapult and all that remains is to move your arm forward and release the dart.
At the completion of your throw, your arm should be fully extended as though you were pointing at the board. This is called following through. Following through is very important for helping you to establish a consistent release point.

If you really want to concentrate on your mechanics, try throwing with your opposite hand. This will teach you to be much more aware of your mechanics. At this point you may be asking how to hold the dart? I believe that the grip should be natural and feel comfortable. The grip is in part determined by the equipment that is used. A good grip for a short fat dart is not going to be a good grip for a long skinny dart. Normally when you purchase darts you throw them a few times to see if they feel comfortable. This is the beginning of the development of your grip. My advice is to concentrate on the mechanics of your arm, ensuring that the arm goes straight over top of the elbow and through to full extension and let the grip develop itself.

One last bit of advice on the throw may seem obvious. Your eyes should be locked on your target. Never aim high or low to compensate for your throw. That is a bad habit. Just work hard until the darts go where you aim them.

Remember, the early days of practice are about developing good mechanics, so don't stress yourself out if your scoring isn't where you want it.
Your first goal should be to establish good fundamentals and your results down the road will be much better. Good mechanics allow you to continue to throw accurately when you are really nervous. When you start making successful shots under duress, the nerves will dissipate, and your confidence will soar.
PART'S DARTS THREE

You have your darts and your board so you are ready to play darts. Now what? You need to establish some guidelines to maximize the benefits of practice and to keep yourself interested enough to keep at it. If you were to just start throwing at the board without a game plan there would be no focus or concentration. You need to have goals to work towards, both short and long term.These goals can be entirely related to your practice as you learn to measure yourself against the board. This will help you greatly when you are in a real match against a tough opponent and the old darts cliche comes into effect: play the board, not your opponent.

There are three key points when developing your practice regime:
- Avoid distractions
- Blueprint your routine 
- Calculate your averages

Avoid distractions:
This seems obvious, but it might be the most difficult aspect of your practice session.Once you have an idea of how long you wish to practice, you then must decide when to practice. Some people have more options than others, but the goal should be to pick a time when you are least likely to be called away, or a time when you can turn your telephone off.
Let the people around you know that you do not wish to be disturbed(for what it's worth). Play some music that you enjoy in order to mask any other sounds that might otherwise distract you, such as children or noisy neighbors.Don't start practicing if something else needs to be done that will preoccupy your thoughts. A half hour of dedicated practice is far more effective than a hours worth of distracted throwing.
       
Blueprint your routine:
Once you decide how long your routine is going to last you then need to structure it. This structure should be based on the minimum amount of time you are likely to have to practice. This way you will repeat the same routine every time you practice, which is very helpful in determining if you are improving or not. If you find yourself with extra time in a given session you can repeat the session or just do some supplementary drills(see future articles). The first part of your routine should be a warm-up drill. You will want to loosen your arm, align your mechanics, and gain your focus. The first thing to do is to go around the board on the big single segments (from 1 to 20), then the small single segments (between the treble and the bull) and then the 25 segment. By then your arm will be nice and loose and you can move on to the doubles, the bull, and finally the trebles.After hitting all those doubles and trebles you're ready to test yourself seriously. The second and main portion of the routine should challenge your limits. This will maintain your interest in practicing.

I try to simulate potential match conditions. For instance, if my next competition is double-in 501, that is what I play. If the format is best of 3 or 5 legs per set, that is what I play. I play against an imaginary opponent who is very consistent (30 points per dart). If I have the start I know I have 18 darts in which to win the leg, or I lose. Against the throw I have only 15 darts. You can tailor these numbers to your skill level, but if you are winning more than you are losing you should make it more difficult. A good method of simulating throwing for the bull is to designate a 50 as a win, a 25 as a tie, and anything else as a loss. 
       
Calculate your averages:
The only way to rate your performance is to chart your progress. I always use pen and paper to keep my scores while practicing. If you play 20 legs of 501, multiply 501 x 20 and then subtract any remaining scores. Then add up how many darts you threw and divide it into your point total. This will give you your points per dart (p.p.d) average. Divide the number of games you won by the total you played and multiply by 100. This will give you your win percentage.

For practice purposes the p.p.d. average is more important than the win percentage, but they are both good measuring sticks. At the end of your session enter the date and your averages into a practice log. If your average does not gradually increase you will be alerted that there is a problem. In most cases, I think you will be very pleased with the results.
Good luck with your practice
PART'S DARTS FOUR

Enjoy the Challenge

John Part gives some handy hints on how to make sure your practice routine doesn't stagnate and to help you add a little 'match pressure' to your sessions.

The most common complaint I hear regarding practice is that it is boring. More specifically, that people have a hard time maintaining interest over any length of time. A disinterested effort is probably of little or no value. Part of the job of practice is to maintain your interest level.  A practice routine, as I outlined in installment three, is just that. It is a routine. While there are tremendous benefits from having and maintaining a routine, there is always the danger of complacency.


The solution is to have a reserve of practice games available. In most cases these are games that you would only play in practice, but some of them are enjoyable with friends at your local. In any case, your goal should be to create a challenge that you enjoy trying to meet.

Clock
The clock is a tool that you can use to create challenges for yourself. By no means should you rush or hurry your throw when using timing as a tool. The idea is to set a standard and then try and improve on it, based on performance, not speed. For example, you might see how long it takes you to hit fifty double sixteens. All this exercise requires is to count how many you hit as you go and time the session. It is much easier to time the effort rather than actually count how many darts you have to throw to get fifty doubles. You can also do it the other way around. Give yourself fifteen minutes to hit as many double sixteens as you can. Whatever target you select, and however you time it, always throw at your normal relaxed pace. Using the clock creates a form of pressure that simulates the stress of playing in a competitive situation. A sense of urgency is created and you learn to play with that sense of urgency hanging over you.


Halve-it
There are a number of games that I have come across that are similar in nature. The similarity is that you have a series of targets to hit from turn to turn, and you accumulate points.
The catch is that if on any given turn you miss the designated shot or target, your score is halved or some similar penalty. The most common version of this game is called halve-it. This game is a quite popular group game in pubs, with each player maintaining their own score. Depending on where you play there are variations and innovations, but it is an excellent practice game no matter how you structure it. A typical example is as follows: first three darts at twenty and count the score of all darts in the twenty, next turn at nineteen, then at any treble, then eighteen, then seventeen, then any double, then sixteen, then fifteen, and finally twenty-five and bull.
 
This game can be modified by making the targets more specific; for instance, double twenty rather than any twenty. Whatever targets you choose, keep the same set up for practice purposes. In this way you can keep track of your scores and your personal best. When you are looking for an extra bit of practice, taking a shot at your personal best is often a great way to end your session. 
       
Another good game for practice is called 27.
27 is the number of points you begin with. Your first three darts are for double one, and so on until twenty and then bull. For each hit you get the value of the double hit (three double fours would score 24). If you miss three darts at a double you lose the value of that double. If your score reaches zero you lose. A good score is 400, and a very good score is 600. Once again, keep a record of your scores and your personal best. Don't be afraid to create your own games. As long as you have some way of measuring your performance, you will be able to push yourself to improve.

Most important of all is to remember to have fun doing it.
PART'S DARTS FIVE

The Tournament Lead-Up

The time we find it easiest to motivate ourselves to practice is when we have a major competition on the horizon. Of course, we all procrastinate with various aspects of our lives, as we find we have less and less time to do everything we want to do.


So you suddenly realize that the big tournament is next weekend, and perhaps you have not practiced as much as you should have. Panic sets in. Is it possible to whip yourself into top form in that short amount of time? Maybe not, but you can do things to give yourself the best chance possible for your competition.

If you have practiced on a regular basis your confidence will be sky high. You will be very comfortable with your mechanics and you'll have a good idea of the skill level that you are playing at. If you have not practiced as much as you would have liked to, you must not expect too much from your practice. There is a danger of psyching yourself out. Expect to be below par and use those few remaining practice sessions to work as hard as you can at bringing your game up to par. Do not be distraught if in that first practice session you cannot finish well, or your scoring is inconsistent. 

Patience is your most valuable asset when time is short. Have belief in yourself and your past efforts. Know that if you can display poise in adversity and persistence in practice, that you can turn your game around.

Practice prior to a tournament is a time for concentration on the things you are doing well, not to dwell on negative thoughts. The structure of your practice routine should remain essentially the same for the few sessions before the big day. One change that can be quite helpful however, is to adapt the format of the upcoming competition for your own practice.
Still do the normal warm-up portion of your routine, but change the format at the heart of your routine, to reflect your upcoming event(as I discussed in the third article).
Keep the standard you are trying to play to very high (but still within reach). This will help make the real thing not seem so hard. While you should try your hardest to win in practice, it is winning the real thing that counts.

It is also a good idea to focus some extra time on finishing. Do some extra drills on your key doubles (whether you like them or not). I find it very helpful to work through the various finishes, so that they are all fresh in my mind when I come to play.

People tend to always want to practice "difficult" shots. In reality, it is the easy ones that you do not want to mess up. I start by finishing 2 left(in one turn), and then 3 left, and so on. It gives you a chance to think about shots we often overlook. For instance, with 17 left your first dart should be for 9. If you go for a 1, an 18 or 20 that will cause you to bust, whereas if you miss 9 on either side you are still alive. There are many shots like this, and regularly practicing so called "easy" shots will give a new awareness to the possibilities. I usually do every finish up to 100 and sometimes beyond. Once again, do not skip over the early numbers.

Prior to a tournament is also a good time to practice against a live opponent. This will give you a good feel for the pressures of competition (like the head games we can play with ourselves). Try to find someone who is a good match for your skill level. Playing against someone that rarely beats you will not test you against mental duress.
On the other hand, playing someone that you find very difficult to beat can destroy your confidence. It is also a good idea to play for something so as to get an honest effort out of both you and your opponent.

One last piece of advice. If you have practiced a lot before an upcoming event, take a day away from darts the day before the event. In this way your arm will be fresh and strong.
PART'S DARTS SIX

John Part completes his six installment practice series with 'Match Preparation', taking us through how to gear yourself up for the local pub match, or the big game in front of the Sky Sports cameras.


The final phase of practice comes on the day of, and directly before any real competition. Whether it is your weekly league match or the final of a world championship, you must prepare yourself both mentally and physically. It is always beneficial to be well rested. This has more significance if you have to play in the morning. An early start can be especially important if there will not be a lot of boards to practice on. If you leave your warm-up too late you run the risk of sharing a board with several other people. 


It is quite difficult to loosen up when you are throwing every four or five turns. It is best to show up early enough to have a board to yourself for twenty or thirty minutes. If you do get a good early warm-up make sure you do not sit to long before your match. Try to get five minutes on the board every so often. Think of it like stirring a pot.

Sometimes it may be difficult to find an available board during the day. If this is the case you can still do arm stretches to keep your arm loose. Extend your arm down from the shoulder and rotate it both ways, stretching your muscles each way. Bending your wrist back and forward as you stretch your arm will help to get more stretch. Any time you feel tired or your arm tightening up, the stretching can be quite helpful. 
       
Maybe the most important ingredient for success is your frame of mind. You want to be focused and alert, yet calm. It is good to socialize because it will help you relax and settle in; but socializing should not occur to the neglect of physical warm-up. Often the best solution is to do both at once. 

I find that cycling through the out shots is a great warm-up. One board with two or more players on it can challenge the adjacent board to a race from 81 to 120. this can be a fun distraction that actually helps you to prepare to focus on what might end up being your most crucial shots. In most match situations the players are entitled to at least six warm-up darts, but if you are on the ball you can usually get several more shots. Be as aware as possible about when and where you are going to play.


Don't leave using the toilet to the last minute, thus squandering your prep time. Getting to the board early gives you an opportunity to become accustomed to the throw.
Always do your best to identify any problems with the throw. Is the board too high or too low? Does the board need to be turned? Is the oche the right distance? Is the lighting acceptable? These questions should all be answered before the match starts. If there is a problem, fix it yourself, or alert the tournament staff. If the problem cannot be rectified ask to be moved to another board. The last thing anyone needs is to be distracted throughout a match by something that easily could have been resolved beforehand.

My last piece of advice is to ignore all the practice darts before the match. Ignore your darts. Ignore your opponent's darts. Good or bad, they are meaningless. What your opponent hits will often not reflect his match performance. Often I see an opponent hit a 180 warming up, who then struggles to score during the match. I've also seen it the other way around.
Do not let yourself fall prey to psychological game playing. Always focus on your next dart, not your last one.
Thanks for posting Evgeni! +1
And this is why John Part is the Don.

Taylor is the Greatest winner in Darts, arguably the greatest winner in Sporting history.

In my opinion; John Part is the Greatest Darter, know what I mean. John's given, and continues to give so much more to the World of Darts. It comes from his heart and soul, nothing contrived, from being just an ordinary Bloke that could throw a decent Dart along with a bit of good timing. I find his mind erudite and inquisitive. A fine Gentleman.
A great and useful read and a +1 for posting.
(12-31-2015, 01:32 PM)Getagrip Wrote: [ -> ]Thanks for posting Evgeni! +1

Thanks mate, i hope you don't mind i split it in different posts, thought it would be more readable like this. John Part is one of my all time favorite players, so humble yet so great.
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