When I ask players about their goals in receiving dart instruction I often hear a common response. “I really want to be more consistent.” Well yes, of course, but what does that mean? Whether you are a new player or have been around a while, we all have caught a wave where everything is working perfectly and we ride it as long as we can. Until, all of a sudden, it’s gone and we don’t know why it came or went. Wanting to be consistent is a bit amorphous. We don’t want to be consistently bad, and in the same vein we need to slow down and be mindful to understand what we are doing-when we are doing it consistently well. The more pointed question to find the answer to is: What leads to good consistency?
Good consistency is in large part about finding, keeping and repeating good balance on the oche.
Before delving into particulars of dart form lets talk about – Balance (physical and emotional). In doing so, allow me to make a case for Gerwyn “The Iceman” Price, the former professional rugby player who is currently ranked#3 in the PDC Order Of Merit.
For those of you unfamiliar with him, he is an athletic and temperamental sort. He often steps back towards his opponent with prolonged uproarious fist pumps. In doing so, it sometimes impedes the opponent from stepping to the oche in rhythm. In his World Championship semi-final match against Peter Wright there were many throws of Wright’s where Price was standing with his feet in the yellow exclusion zone, and on a few occasions he was nearly throwing his first dart at Peter Wright’s head as Wright was retrieving his darts from the board.
My case for Gerwyn Price is not to defend or decry, but in recognizing: what can we learn from him with regard to his physical and emotional balance ?
There is always something to learn, whether we like a particular player or not. In saying so, let’s treat his participation on the big stage as a great case study.
Some history in brief: Price came into the PDC in 2014 after qualifying through Q school. As a former rugby athlete, training was a combination of strength and endurance workouts. Through his early dart career it is evident that he still trains and stays in peak physical condition. By 2016 he cracked the top 32 in the PDC Order of Merit-a huge threshold to cross to be automatically invited to all tournaments. I argue that he was able to achieve this so quickly in large part because of his balance.
Physical Balance: There is no dart player in better physical shape. Though not in professional rugby anymore, he has made a decision to stay fit. His choice to stay fit is worth noting for players of all levels. It is a choice, one we all can make. From an outside perspective most people would laugh in thinking about fatigue in relation to darts. But as players, we know when we are in our stance for a while repetitively over a night, an event, a weekend, we feel the strain. Over the long haul, this wear and tear builds up quietly and our body unconsciously compensates ever so slightly by adjusting our stance-unknowingly we compromise consistency for comfort. I argue that physically Gerwyn Price has better balance than most, and theoretically fatigues slower than others because he is fit. His core is strong. Having a strong core leads to greater physical balance. In comparison physically: Gerwen Price is 34 years old, Adrian Lewis is also 34, Michael Van Gerwen-30. We have seen Lewis and Van Gerwen playing for many years with neither presumably at their fittest currently. The argument being made is getting and staying fitter can only help your performance on the oche.
Overall I like advocating for general life wellness, and in saying so to the dart community, I know moderation can be challenging at times. When it comes to the important muscle groups we use in a dart throw; the lower back, abs and obliques (think: side abs) all engage repetitively with everyone’s dart posture. These muscle groups are often referred to as your core. Primarily they are for standing straight and walking. The way to look at any type of exercise is for life benefit first. Therefore, if it can help life, it can help darts. Hyper-extensions/Toe-touches (lower back), and side bends (obliques) can be done at home. They can be done to a greater degree at the gym. We all know what a basic sit-up, crunch or plank (abs) looks like. Now, before anyone gets out of breath thinking about exercising for the sake of darts, think about when we have seen an opponent (or ourselves) bending over behind the oche to stretch something tight. That something is related to core muscles that have fatigued.
While I am not the epitome of a chiseled physique, I incorporate these very basic exercises into my life on a routine basis.
Something else that is good for basic wellness with ancillary benefits to the dart game: Cardio. Think about what we often do in a pressure-laden moment before we step to the oche. We take a deep breath, and let it out. Why? What happens when we do this? It is multifold but it is all in an effort to relax, calm nerves, be still. On a cellular level we are oxygenating our blood, and attempting to slow our pulse. When we are at ease (balanced) we tend to shoot better than when we are tense. I am a huge proponent of getting a cardio workout in the day of a match. Getting the blood pumping, the lungs breathing deeply, and the pores sweating, for just 20 minutes feels great. A fast walk, running, biking, steps etc. You feel a unique serenity on the oche that night. I could do it justice with words, but reading about exercise can only do so much for you, and, if you are willing, you need to experience it for yourself to see the profound difference it makes.
For those who shun even the word “exercise”, think of it more as the edge you need against your opponent. A type of practice to improve your balance that your opponents are not engaged in. Sometimes a trick of the brain is all we need to do something healthy in life.
(A few disclaimers: We all are at different levels of wellness, fitness and health. We all have ailments or injuries that prevent us from doing certain things. No one should do anything they are not able to or are comfortable with based on their station in life. Consult your doctor or a personal trainer for more information regarding your ability to do anything physical. Also, if you do anything physical, please recognize if you are not used to such activity, or it has been a while, there is obviously the potential to feel sore on the oche. Work it all in to your routines and lifestyles as you see fit, and drink plenty of water, on and off the oche.)
Emotional Balance: Back to Gerwyn Price. We have seen the levels of professional etiquette morph over the years. There are plenty that took issue with Michael Van Gerwen’s excitement during his ascension to #1. Gerwyn Price’s “look at me” moments are during the matches though and directly affect his opponent (and perhaps himself). Regardless of what you think of his behavior, there is something to learn here.
Being boisterous and intimidating on the oche is nothing compared to what happens on a rugby pitch. That is no excuse for not exhibiting the proper decorum of his new chosen profession. More importantly he should recognize how being in better control of his emotions might benefit his own game. Staying emotionally balanced is so vital. The exultations on great shots and the vehemence on horrible ones can really mess with mental focus and physical balance. You can feel the adrenaline spike and dump with each show of emotion. The swings can be too great to overcome. In addition, it is equally valuable not to show your opponent any cues as to what is going on inside of you. Just like a ‘tell’ in poker, showing your emotions on the oche can lead to bad results.
Eventually we all end up coming across a player who thrives on being animated and riling up others. It is challenging to deal with. My advice: Don’t get mad. Don’t react. Don’t take it personally because it has nothing to do with you. Recognize what the behavior is about and allow it to motivate you to get better. Use these moments as a reminder to keep your emotions calm. Don’t feed into such behavior. Getting mad does not help your cause, your team, or your bar. If you are not the kind of player who thrives on that type of energy you will go on tilt, and then you have lost, the confrontation and the leg.
No matter how justified your feelings and response might be, be the model of what you expect from and for your dart community. Be above the fray.
Overall the game would be more respected without such behavior. (Notice, I said “behavior”, not “people”). Behavior can be modified. On the pro level it is often modified with suspension or fines when rules are enforced. If those who make the rules decide not to enforce them, then a larger statement is being made about the narrative they are trying to sell. I think it is fair to say if all the players failed to keep their emotions in check, a lot of the league/personal sponsorship would dry up. On a local level, such behavior usually corrects itself in time. Either the offending person recognizes their missteps in a community, or they slowly ostracize themselves. I think the important thing to glean from this is that poor sportsmen can be skilled and win, but you don’t have to be a poor sportsmen in order to win. Many winners aren’t. If Price could find the stoic emotional balance of many of the past greats, I think he could be recognized and revered like them because of how skilled and physically balanced he is… Take the good, leave the bad, and recognize what this case for Gerwyn Price can teach you about your game if you stay willing to be the consummate student.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the policy and position of Magic Darts, Inc / a-zdarts.com. Opinions and assumptions proposed are not reflective of any other entity except that of the author’s.
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