Our coach has been helping players improve for almost a decade. Bringing unknown players to world prominence, boosting the careers of those who have stalled and turning around players in a slump.
In Coaching Corner we will be looking at all areas of the game, physical, technical & psychological, and all levels of player. Whether your MVG or Mr/Mrs Smith, if you want to get better, keep an eye here.
Tips for what can you take from Michael’s dedication to the game?
The World No 1 has offered a handful of strong pieces of advice. Darts World’s resident coach is very impressed: “It’s unusual for the top players to give such good information. Often the just say generic things.
“These five offerings are things that can be seen to work fir Michael and might also be practice for improving players.”
1. Perfect the set up
Michael used to have a habit of getting offline as a youngster and in fixing his set-up position allowed him to become a consistent winning machine. Try very slow motion back and through darts throws to see the true line of your dart aim.
2. Obey your natural rhythm
Great Rhythm is something Michael has always had from a young age, and has been extremely careful never to mess with it. His throw has a start and a beautiful finish with no bits and pieces inn-between. See your throw as one movement not separate pieces.
3. Start smooth forwards
Another area Michael has perfected is the transition. The shoulder stabilises the throw so make sure it stays stable as you smoothly accelerate forward.
4. Stick the finish
Michael’s trademark is his sublime extension and throw finish showing perfect balance and power. That can’t happen without a lot of good things happening in your throw first, so stick your finish.
5. Find your weakest link
A few years ago Michael found that his mind was wandering halfway through many games. Identifying that this was linked to focus and stamina Michael got himself ready for the dip, so find your weakness and make it a strength.
In many sports you may hear the refrain, from modern pundits or commentators, “the game has moved on” or ” he has raised the bar”. We all like to compare the greats, of our favoured era, with players active today. It makes for great bar-room conversation and fires up the social media ‘opinionistas’.
Our resident ‘Coach’ takes issue with the “game has moved on cry” he says:
In darts direct comparisons with previous eras can be made. Players often cross more than one “era” and with so many statistics, information and analysis tools available the archive is a virtual complete history of the modern game. Obviously factors such as opportunity to pay, competition level and equipment, must be taken into account but much can still be learned.
More important, than the booze-fuelled debates on who was the greatest, most talented, best stylist…….etc., is that almost any player can benefit from studying what has gone before. Often, especially with beginners, you will hear remarks like, “whatever feels comfortable is ok”, “don’t copy anyone else” and other similar remarks. These are meant to encourage players to develop naturally and not try, and fail, to play like someone else.
This is all well and good, as far as it goes, but to reject the information available seems wasteful at best and arrogant at worst. Bearing in mind that everyone, especially the young, will try to emulate those that they admire, or who are in the public eye, it seems questionable if they are all trying to play like MVG or Gary Anderson.
Players of almost any style and stage of development could learn a thing or two from some YouTube and or dartsdatabase.co.uk research. Some myths may be dispelled, and more confidence be found in your own method, if you seek common cause with the greats of the game.
Coach Takes a Stance!
An excellent example is in terms of stance. If you were guided by current players you might think that standing in a side on position was almost compulsory. Taylor, MVG, Cross and many other adopt versions of this position. The more face on stance could look awkward or old fashioned. In addition, you may think the short, wristy throw is a thing of the past. Yet a quick look at the most successful players, with very long careers, over many years, offers a different story.
Bob Anderson made his TV debut in 1979 and still featured in the International Darts League in 2007. Along the way, he claimed the World Championship and three consecutive World Master’s titles. Bob was unfortunate enough to have to compete with Eric, John, Jockey and then Phil all in their prime. But despite his individual style few would question his place in the elite of the game.
Overlapping, with Bob, is the career of another face on, whristy short throw, tall player. Simon Whitlock first competed in the PDC in 2004. In 2018 he was ranked back in the top ten and featured in the Premier League. Whitlock is one of the few still active, to have played in both BDO & PDC World Finals and was a major finalist as recently as 2017.
A close look at footage of both players reveals many similarities. They are tall upright men in their normal posture. Both lean in with the majority of their weight on the front foot. Both get the best results when they level the dart before release. Both are very still and deliberate in their stance but once the throw begins they are very fluid and rat-tat-tat with the three darts. Both are good at moving on the oche and their finishing can be unstoppable.
In terms of equipment both use mid length barrels, 50.8mm, medium stems and a standard shape flight. Both seem to prefer the larger surface areato the flight to get their dart to stand up in the bed.
Simon has seen the light, and now uses the tapered dart, thus both use slim fronted darts to allow superb grouping. Simon has been experimenting recently with equipment and accessories. Bob was also keen to adapt to the times and switched to aluminium stems quite early and later adapted the grip on his signature darts due to a lessening of sensation with age. Simon has not yet turned fifty so could emulate Bob’s longevity. It may be that there is something to be said for this style even today!
So if you have a wristy throw, or face on stance, take heed of these great players. Maybe look at your darts, set up or both. Make one small change at a time, to ensure that you can tell what is helpful and what is not, and give each one a decent chance to work in all conditions.
Former Premier League darts star Wayne Mardale, now a TV pundit, has often contributed to the discussion around how to help players improve.
Below he offers his latest set of video tips. This time they are centred around helping those with ‘snatcher’ or ‘loopy’ actions.
The video contains useful tips and illustrations. Give it a watch and then see, under the vid, how our resident ‘Coach’ evaluates Hawaii 501’s advice.
Wayne start by looking at the ‘snatchers’ his description is pretty good! The comments, regarding how hard work it can be are true for many.
Even Pro darters are often looking to improve how easily they can perform, rather than their actual skills.
Wayne’s suggested fix is a rhythm and practising it. While this is OK it’s not really a fix. Many snatchy players are full of nervous energy and make rapid recalibrations for almost every dart. As well as rhythm a routine for each throw can help here.
Wayne’s next target is the looped throw. He again wants us to be more direct. Bullet from a gun rather than the more lobbed arc. His suggested remedy is to focus on the follow-through to ensure the aim is fixed and the release is in line. The ‘visual confirmation’ phrase is helpful.
Lastly, Mardle looks at the abbreviated thrower. He is very catagoric in his condemnation of this and insists on, an almost over, exaggerated follow through. Again his advice is good generic information and well worth giving ago.
Much of Wayne’s advice, and demonstration, is clear, simple and well presented. If you are a newer player, or mid level and have a specific issue, it is recommended.
For higher level players Wayne’s advice is too general and too catagoric. He himself acknowledges that abbreviated throwers and loopy ones, Beaton and Barney, have risen to the very top.
I have long suspected that height and reach have a large effect. Wayne’s example, of the full follow through, Phil Taylor was very short whereas both Beaton and RVB are big guys.
This may also be why Ted Hankey needs to throw from such a long way to one side. Taller players, with longer wingspans, may either shorten their extention or lengthen the arc distance.
So give Wayne’s vids a try, especially if you are getting started or trying to develop, but remember that, despite Wayne’s effort at homogenization, players of all types, and with varied throws, have risen to the very top.
It’s one of the truly special things about darts and would be a bad loss.
These are the insults that are often hurled at people. You may have described people this way? Maybe this type of insult has been hurled at you? There is a stigma attached to being a loser. It’s embarrassing, degrading and makes us feel down. We develop a fear of failure because of those feelings.
In his latest book Mathew Syed – a former table tennis champion who ‘choked at the Olympics – points out that “we are not born with a fear of failure. It’s not an inbuilt instinct, it grows as you age”.
This is why competitors in every sport make excuses for losing. Darts players, for example. I have heard them all! Whether its the crowd booing, the opponent slowing down, the oche too long or too short, this, that or the other is always to blame. Players making excuses are merely protecting their ego – I lost but it was not my fault. I will be back to my best next time out….
Imagine if this habit of excuses was used every time there was an air crash. Air safety would certainly not have improved in the dramatic fashion it has. Syed points out that every rule, procedure and safety check is there due to previous crashes and loss of life. Although this may seem an extreme example compared to a darts player protecting their ego with some excuse for playing poorly and losing but is it?
How many players come away from a loss, work out what went wrong and how they are going to put it right? Following Syed’s meltdown, in his Olympic table tennis match, he worked out what caused his psychological stutter on the day, worked on it and corrected it. As dart players how can go about reflecting on a loss, pinpoint what went wrong and the area we need to work on?
For our darts improvement website we came up with a checklist that members could use to grade themselves after a match out of 10 (especially after a defeat) according to how they did.
We used; Match prep, Confidence, Mental Toughness, Determination etc. We then added some of the more conventional stats such as; 9 Dart Av, Checkout %, 3 Dart Av. Some areas were blank for each player to fill in for themselves. Prematch nerves, nerves in the game or characteristics of opponent etc.
From this, you can see how the feeble excuse, of playing a slow opponent, develops into something that can be analysed, thought about, solutions evolved and practise games worked on until the “problem” is dealt with. With each area resolved you are a better player and can move onto the next improvement.
By being brutally honest, in black and white, you may find an instant answer, to your issue, or a theme will develop over time which enables you to spot the area of your game that needs work or help.
There are plenty of books, blogs and forums out there (The DPC site is a mine of info, as is the dartsworld.com Coaching Corner) which can assist. Remember, don’t ignore info from other sports. Competitors go through the same issues especially mentally, whether your hitting ping pong ball or tossing tungsten.
Author/s;Paul Gillings is the founder of http://dartsperformancecentre.com and Andy Humphrey holds a BSc. in biomechanics. Both are highly qualified and regularly advise players on throwing action and improvement.
Book mentioned is: Black Box Thinking by Mathew Syed
Article Originally Appeared in Darts World Magazine (October 2015)
N.B. – Slightly edited for current times and technology.
Winmau.com recently published this detailed look at two of their top players’ style. It is an interesting piece and prompted a DW discussion over players throw styles that we admire. More on that later. In the meantime here some of the original articles together with a few of our DW Coach’s comments. You can read the original piece here https://bit.ly/2LtbqNQ
With Daryl Gurney continuing his journey with Winmau for another five years, we thought we’d take a look at his ultra-modern throw against the smoothest in the World from Steve Beaton, who recently threw a scintillating 9-dart finish on the European Tour.
Daryl has a superb approach to the dartboard, making sure he can see exactly what he’s aiming at long before he takes his stance at the oche, this sets him up target ready – immediately. His eyes are focused on the exact point he’s aiming at, where he wastes no time in raising the dart to its load position.
Daryl’s dart pre-throw position is “high” and natural, but he uses a very slight shoulder load just before he gets ready to throw, that is his trigger movement to start.
DW Coach: “This is very true, the interesting thing will be to see how this throw changes over time or whether Daryl will be able to retain it. Often, with time, wear and tear and baggage, small changes appear within any throw. These can be exaggerated and mentally difficult, with short concentrated throws“.
Steve floats his way into the oche, where he takes a relatively central position, with a very relaxed and comfortable looking stance, where he already knows to throw and simply lets his arms flow with very little conscious effort. Steve’s longer backswing and soft grip help him maintain his silky, to-die-for rhythm.
DW Coach: “It is almost impossible to overstate the quality of Steve’s throw, it has been thirty-five years in the making with any changes being slow, incremental and natural. I suspect that the update of his darts also helped significantly“.
Points of Interest
With one of the games shortest backswings, Daryl has set himself up with one of the most compact modern throws in world darts, where he’s only using forward momentum in his throw.
This technical aspect sets Daryl apart as very unique and is a very modern way of playing the game. As soon as his dart is released he has moved to take the next dart and is ready to go, almost before the previous dart has the landed in the board, allowing him to get into a superb high scoring flow. This “Flow” is vital to understand, for you to get into autopilot on your throw and how you naturally achieve higher peaks in your game.
Daryl’s release and throw are not as hard as you’d expect with such a short throw. He uses a smooth acceleration that allows him to fight the darts on a smooth curve. Paying attention to this “flight” can help players improve, as the more direct the line to the board the harder you need to throw.
DW Coach: “Daryl’s throw that reminds me of cricketer Graham Gooch. In the middle of his career, Graham remodelled his approach and virtually eliminated his backswing. This reduced the possibility of straying offline and reduced the margin for error. Players such as Colin Osborne also had short throwing styles, Daryl’s lesser use of force may also reduce the susceptibility to tension errors and thus be a genuine innovation”.
Whilst Steve’s throw is languid by comparison, it is by no means a slow throw as Steve reels off the darts in pretty rapid succession.
What we can learn from these throws is that both world class players have clearly identified and made their throw unique to them and their physical characteristics.
Both players have many superb principles in common that you can apply to your game. These are Superb setup, posture and alignment that allows either player to find their natural rhythm under the most intense pressure.
Stephen Feeney – SightRIght global coach specialist said: “I’m looking at both throws from a pure accuracy point of view, both players are giving themselves almost the perfect look at the target they wish to hit, making them two of the most exciting throws to watch and learn from in the accuracy area”.
DW Coach: “Comparing players is always difficult, and a little controversial. I strongly suspect that players throws are a combination of their personality, physical characteristics and what they watch in their formative years. These two are remarkable examples of wholly different styles that can be hugely effective.
As I always say “it’s more a set of guidelines than a code”, it will be interesting to see whether Daryl’s ‘modern throw’ can withstand three decades of rigorous use and still be as effective as Steve’s”
The body of this piece first published at winmau.com
Pic credit: Winmau / Chris Sargeant / Tip Top Pics
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