Month: January 2016

51 THE PRACTICE GAME

We are going to work on your mental math skills by playing a game called “51 by 5s”. The game is fairly simple; the winner is the player to reach exactly 51 points first, starting from zero. BUT, the actual score thrown is divided by 5 to get the scoring amount. In other words, a thrown score of 20, divided by 5, would actually score 4 points on the chalkboard.

Play proceeds like this until 51 is reached. Like ’01 games, it is possible to bust.. if you have a score of 50, for instance, and throw 20 points, your new score would be 54… a bust. Go back to 50 next turn!

If any one dart misses the board entirely, then none of the darts in that round count. Hence all three darts must be in play for every round. If you only need one point to win, then all three darts must add up to 5 (ie S1, S2, S2).

The two best places on the board to focus are the 20/5 wire or the 10/15 wire and bull. Each gives a large target to accumulate points.

For an added challenge, try to hit a perfect game (180, SB, DB) or a finesse game, three straight handfuls of 85pts each.

Good luck, enjoy the practice and see you at tournaments soon!


The Million Dollar Darting Question

I have often wondered and speculated on what it would take to turn the game of darts in America to the sport of darts that England knows today.  The debate has rolled on and on with a plethora of ideas on what can be done, yet I wonder, how can we really do it? Some say, that a professional tour needs to be developed, yet, what will we develop and who will devote the time and effort to do so? Some say that tournament formats need to switch to less events and higher payouts for the singles. Yet, who is going to make those changes, or try to ensure that this happens? Should we just, as a nation, throw everything as we know it out the door, forget all that has happened, and start with a fresh clean slate?

We often find that we are very much a “stereotypical” type of nation. Once we get it in our heads that this is the way things are perceived, it is a rough road to travel to change those opinions. Could our stereotypical opinion of dart players in the US be changed? It seems to be an unknown answer to a very tough question. In the UK, darts is part of their culture and what they grow up with, whereas in the US, it is not. However, there are many other games/sports that started in other cultures that we seem to have no problem embracing in the US. Why does it seem that darts cannot? Is this why we are failing as a nation to compete?

Many times I wander back in time to the early 80’s where darts was on the rise in the US. What was it then that we are missing today? Why was it so successful, yet now we cannot seem to find that secret to success? Where did it all go? Was it the people involved that disappeared and they did not forward their knowledge on to new blood? Was it the changes introduced in tournament formats? Was it the influx of the soft-tip generation? We seem to want to always find a culprit in the demise, yet we cannot find an answer to fix it.

We tout the US players of today as the legends of tomorrow, yet they cannot seem to step up to the level in international play as much as the actual legends of years before them have done. Yet we do not seem to remember, or even care to know the past legends or their accomplishments. Maybe what made them the legends of days gone by needs to be relearned by the players of today before they can progress to become the legends of tomorrow?

We all have ideas on what could, should or might be done, yet we seem to be stagnating as a nation without any efforts to progress further. What will it take? Ahhh…..the million dollar darting question.


Overcoming the "Yips" or "Dartitis"

What is this so-called affliction called the “Yips” or “Dartitis”? Dart players around the world seem to contract this motor skill malady without notice or build up. One day you are throwing fine and the next, the dart won’t leave the hand or will fly in precarious directions, or as is happening in my own throw, the dart is being left on my shoulder or being dropped in the back of my throw over my shoulder. This has seen an increase in my vocal disappointment, pulling from a vernacular not heard since my early days as a sailor.

England Cricket Team sports psychologist Dr Mark Bawden suffered from the yips himself as a teenager. He completed a PhD on the topic and has published a paper on the yips in the Journal of Sports Science.

Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, Sheffield Hallam University, UK.

The ‘yips’ is a phenomenon that affects individuals who perform finely controlled motor skills. The result is involuntary movements that occur throughout the execution of a skill. A qualitative study was conducted to identify the psychological characteristics of the ‘yips’ experience in cricket bowlers. Eight bowlers of varying ability were interviewed about their thoughts, emotions and feelings before, during and after their initial experience of the ‘yips’. After the interviews, inductive content analysis revealed 15 general dimensions that were descriptive of the overall ‘yips’ experience: conditions before the initial experience, the first experience, anxiety, emotions and feelings, conscious control of movement, self-presentational concerns, inappropriate focus, negative thinking, future performances, reasons for not bowling, bowling experiences after the initial experience, the difference between the ‘yips’ and bowling badly, characteristics of good bowling performances, personal characteristics and personal explanations for why the ‘yips’ were experienced. We conclude that the experience of bowling with the ‘yips’ shows many characteristics similar to a severe form of choking.

In 2007, webmaster for Patrick Chaplain Darts Historian, David King, managed to convince the folks at the Oxford English Dictionary that the word was a well-established one and, as a result of David’s hard work, from that year the OED included ‘dartitis’; the official definition being:

‘A state of nervousness which prevents a player from releasing a dart at the right moment when throw”

Knowing how to cure the yips begins with understanding what causes it in the first place. While we’ll talk about the many psycho-physiological aspects of the yips, our focus will be on what you can do to eliminate this nightmare from your game.

Anyone who has needed a cure for the yips knows that calling the experience a nightmare is not an overstatement. Many of the best players in the game suffered from the yips. In fact, it is fair to say that the yips, or dartitis, has caused more players to prematurely leave the game than any other reason.

Since this experience seems uncontrollable. And in fact it is. The very nature of the yips is an uncontrollable tremor or “flinch” in the hands while attempting to throw and is associated with repetitive motor skills.

I have always compared a properly thrown dart with that of a skilled basketball player shooting a foul shot. Proper stance, firm grip, focus on your goal, then its elbow, wrist and fingertips following through to your target.

A couple techniques that I have found to help with this is similar to therapy exercises for strengthening the wrists and fingers.

The following hand strengthening exercises are designed to improve strength of the muscles of the wrist and hand. You should discuss the suitability of these exercises with your physiotherapist prior to beginning them. Generally, they should only be performed provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Begin with the basic hand strengthening exercises..

Hand Strengthening – Basic Exercises
To begin with, the following basic hand strengthening exercises should be performed approximately 10 times, 3 times daily. As your hand strength improves, the exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions and strength of contraction provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Tennis Ball Squeeze
Begin this exercise holding a tennis ball. Squeeze the tennis ball as hard as possible and comfortable without pain. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Thumb Opposition
Begin this exercise taking your thumb to your index finger. Squeeze your thumb and index finger together as hard as possible and comfortable without pain for 5 seconds, then move your thumb onto the next finger. Squeeze your thumb and middle finger together for 5 seconds and so on. Repeat 3 times on each finger.

Finger Adduction
Begin this exercise with your fingers and thumb parallel. Keeping your fingers straight, squeeze your fingers and thumb together in this position as hard as possible and comfortable without pain. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 10 times.

Hand Strengthening – Intermediate Exercises
The following intermediate hand strengthening exercises should generally be performed 1 – 3 times per week provided they do not cause or increase pain. Ideally they should not be performed on consecutive days, to allow muscle recovery. As your hand strength improves, the hand exercises can be progressed by gradually increasing the repetitions, number of sets or resistance, provided they do not cause or increase pain.

Resistance Band Wrist Flexion
Begin this exercise with a resistance band around your fingers, your hand palm up as demonstrated (figure 4). Your elbow should be at your side and bent to 90 degrees, your forearm supported by your other hand. Slowly curl your wrist and fingers up against the resistance band tightening your hand and forearm muscles. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions as far as possible and comfortable without pain.

I hope this add some light to this bizarre affliction that has hit so many athletes from different sports. I personally believe that this condition is not a psychological one but that is rooted in mechanical aspects of repetitive motor skills. But I’m not a doctor and maybe it is just in my head.

Here is a video of Eric Bristow talking about dartitis.

Good shooting!


The darts world as we know it is coming to an end

The darts world will never be the same. The darts world as we know it is coming to an end. These are some of the words that epitomize some of the feelings expressed after Benjamin Dersch of Janesville, Wisconsin, a predominately soft-tip darts player did the unthinkable and won both the 501 and Cricket singles events at the steel tip darts event known as the Las Vegas Open.

The Las Vegas Open has been around for a very long time. This year marked the 38th annual event, which for all you math geniuses, that means it started in 1979. Benjamin Dersch was 1.5 years old. I have attended this tournament for more years than I care to mention after doing that math. However, I do recall in 2003, the doubles team of Chris White and John Kramer won both open doubles events that weekend and it was noted that this was the first time since the start of the tournament in 1979 that this had been accomplished. It has since been repeated by the team of John Part and Dan Olson. But nowhere in the record books is it written, that I and many others are aware of, that one player has gone and won both men’s singles events until this past weekend with Ben’s wins. To me, this is the surprising part! Out of all the incredible players that have attended the event in previous years, this feat has not been done before. Even with the likes of players in attendance such as 3 time World Champion John Part. Multiple PDC top players such as Wes Newton, Simon Whitlock and Ritchie Burnett have all been in attendance at the Las Vegas Open. The tournament has been home to the Cricket National Championships for over 10 years now, which invites many of the top elite steel tip players in America to compete. Yet, with all these well known, top players in attendance year after year, the feat has never been completed. So why is it a big deal? Is it simply because Ben is primarily a soft-tip darts player? Obviously a darts player needs some sort of skill and/or talent to be able to compete at the levels that Ben has competed at in the soft-tip darts world. So why is it such a surprise to see someone who has skill and talent go out and win a couple singles events in steel tip? Would it be any different if a predominantly steel tip player were to go out and win a huge soft-tip event? Well, we all know that has been done and seems to be not such a big deal after all. Or was it because Ben won the Friday night LOD too? That has to be it!

But hey, guess what else happened that no one else seems to be talking about? Ben now has an invite to compete at the World Masters over in England later this year. And if he can really make his mark there, he could possibly get an invite to compete for a spot at Lakeside. And for those that don’t know…..that’s the BDO World Championships! And it’s all steel tip…imagine that!


Confidence

Oftentimes, many players wonder where their confidence is, or how can they obtain it to further themselves in the game. Years ago, I had the opportunity to experience such a metamorphosis and would like to take a moment to share this not only for new players, but mainly for the ladies out there.  Who am I? Does not matter. Do you know me? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. Have I done anything great so you would know my name? Probably not. Will you believe my words? That is entirely up to you to decide.

I started playing this game a long time ago at the local level. I participated in leagues, blind draws and annual tournaments. I was told I was pretty good. I never believed it. I knew I won when I could, but put me up against a bigger name from somewhere other than the home town and forget it, I was toast.  I went through this for years and see other players go through the same event after event.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to play regional events against the top lady players in the country at the time and each time, felt like I was sent running home with my tail tucked between my legs. Did I play any differently was the question. I knew I did. I was nervous. I failed to maintain any consistency and I failed to deliver on the doubles when needed.  What was it about playing at that level? Why could I go home and literally beat up on the locals and play some fantastic darts and then once put in a tougher situation, I folded like a cheap suit.

The answer came after just over 4 years of play. Confidence. A huge factor that I obviously lacked.  Most players wonder, where does it come from and how can I find it? Well, if others could bottle it and sell it, someone out there would be a millionaire. You can have all the talent in the world and play great at home against the invisible man, but if you do not have the ability to step up and deliver when it is needed most, you oftentimes are sent scurrying home, left to wonder what happened.

Yes, it can be apparent that some players have more talent than others. Many players put more into the game to get more out of it. But on the whole, the game of darts is pretty limitless as far as the abilities needed. Age, gender, and size do not play a factor. Once a player has figured out the basic mechanics, it is only the dedication and the mental part of the game that differentiates the players.

My personal metamorphosis was in 1984 after playing for just over 4 years. I happened to meet someone, who at the time, was one of the top players in the country and very well recognized for his achievements in the game.  During the course of our conversations, he mentioned a few things to me about me and my game. He said he had heard enough about me and knew that I had enough talent to compete with the best. To prove his belief in that, he set me up to play some mixed events with some of the top players in the country. I had never been more intimidated in my life.  Seriously…throw darts off the board type of intimidated, I was so nervous. But in his own little way, he gave me the secret. He showed me what it takes to get to that next level. I know is sounds silly that one could all of a sudden think great things about themselves just from the words of one person. I don’t think I will ever be able to explain the why of it. It just happened. I practiced differently and I played differently. Three months after these conversations happened, I won my first ladies singles title at the young age of 18.  That same year, I played in another regional event. Not only was I finally able to beat the #1 ladies player in the US, but I was able to finish tied for 3rd, but I lost the playoff and ended in the 4th spot. Coming from years of finishing last or next to last, this was a phenomenal thing for me.

Alas, life moves on and changes. I never did much more after that since we started a family and eventually moved away from darts, for the most part. Yet, I could come out and play and still have that same confidence in myself. Did not do me much good for awhile since I did not practice, but eventually, the people started changing. New people came into the game and the older people moved out of the game. This opened up the path of the usual “who is this person and where did she come from” type of attitudes from the players. And here I come along with my little secret known as “confidence” and win their event. Locally this went on for years and years. I never really knew a lot of the players because I did not play league. I just showed up at tournaments. To them it was irritating. To me, I just scored a big bonus. They are irritated and thinking about me. They are not thinking about their game.

Fast forward to many years later. I had since started playing more frequently and gotten to know more of the local ladies that played here.  They were still the same. Totally ticked off that I came out from nowhere and won the event. By this time, I had already had over 25 years experience in the game.  One day, when speaking to one of the local players, I asked “what is it about playing me that you have a problem with?”  Her answer was that I intimidated the heck out of her.  Apparently my confidence was so strong and so well perceived, that the battles for my matches were half fought before we even stepped to the line. My next question was “what makes you think that I am any more talented than you?” There was no answer. Our conversation progressed more and I asked what it was that this player thought when they stepped to the line against me. Their response was that they thought they had to pretty much hit a 180 every turn to beat me. Of course, my laughing response was “do I look like Phil Taylor to you?”…lol….but my serious response was to explain to them how when I get to the line, my main goal is to hit three fat 20’s. By then, there was quite a few ladies listening and I explained to them my way of thinking. I had been told a long time ago, that basically, three fat 20’s every turn will beat probably close to 90% of the women players anywhere. Sure I may luck into a triple every now and then, but it’s not like I am putting the pressure on myself to hit them. I do not have to. I just need three fat 20’s. It is amazing how some people cannot grasp simple logic.  So here I am with my simple logic of hitting three fat 20’s and my simple confidence of knowing I can hit three fat 20’s…and all the while, they are intimidated as heck because they think they need to hit 180’s to beat me.

Step forward now to present day. It’s been a slow process, but some of the local ladies have listened to my words and understand what I am trying to say. I am proud to say that a few of them have taken it to the next level. They have beaten me and in their minds, it is like getting the proverbial monkey off their back.  But in my mind, they have achieved what I have taught them through my words….

CONFIDENCE

I may win another local event….I may not…..but in my mind, wins and losses come and go. With this, I have passed on a legacy to the game that hopefully future generations of players will be able to learn and enjoy.

 


What would you do?

Previously I posed the “Million Dollar Darting Question”. Along those lines, I would like to continue the topic from what would the top players do, to what would we do as a nation and a culture of darters to grow the game in America.

Now all of this is supposition. We start with an idea and expand on it. Yes, it is purely fantasy. But without dreams, where would this nation be?

So, suppose we start with the (large governing body of professional darts) has announced a North American Players Championships Tour. Open to all North American residents only and seeding is based on an already pre-set adequate seeding system already developed. Ten events total, with one in each major city in North America.

Now enter…..The (large governing body of professional darts) North American Player’s Championship Tour brought to you by a major corporate sponsor. The major corporate sponsor has decided to front $50 grand for each event to be the exclusive sponsor and only allow their products sold at the event. Also incorporated into the venue will be a large merchandising area for the major corporate sponsor to sell its merchandise.

Room rates at each venue have negotiated to a decent level by the major corporate sponsor.

Discounted airfare rates have been negotiated with a major airline by the major corporate sponsor.

Entry fee for each player is a set amount…..say….$100.00 each.

Secondary space has also been allocated for a vendor area and the folks at Unicorn, Bottlesen, Puma, Laserdarts, and any other dart manufacturer or sales company, all have a place to set-up shop, introduce us all to their latest products and technology, and allow us the opportunity to meet their sponsored players.

So, with all that being done and laid at your feet as a dart player in America……what are you going to do for them in return? Will you fly the airline? Will you stay at the hotel? Will you buy their major corporate sponsor’s products? Will you visit the vendors, sample their merchandise and maybe buy some of it?

We think nothing of going to the store and purchasing a (major name race car) driver’s hat because we are a fan. We attend (major league/pro team) sporting events because we are fans. We purchase (major title) fights on pay-per-view because we are fans.

You play the game. And we talk so much about it. We want it to grow. We want to see it at a professional level in America.  We want to be able to view it on television. We all want it to happen.

With the old adage in mind…”you have to give some to get some”….what will you do as a dart player to grow the game and support an event, so that it becomes a reality in North America?  Will you be willing to give it all you can to support it? Or will you shy away for one reason or another.


WHO INVENTED THE NUMERICAL SYSTEM?

While this question has crossed the mind of many a frustrated dart player, very few people know the name Brian Gamlin. Mr. Gamlin was a carpenter in Lancashire County, England in 1896. There has long been a claim that the traditional dart board was invented by Bury carpenter Brian Gamlin in 1896. Experts are unsure of this, as the first record of the numbering sequence it uses is from 1916 and the idea that it took the board 20 years to be noticed is a dubious one.

The son of the other man credited with creating the standard board, Thomas William Buckle, said in 1992 that while Gamlin may not have created the standard board, he probably did create the Manchester board.

That said, there are some who say Brian Gamlin never even existed, so mystery remains around the origins of both versions of the game. According to Patrick Chaplin, legend says, that Gamlin died in 1903 however records on Lancashire have no record of this in 1903 or any listings plus or minus 3 yrs. The current number system has remained in place for over a hundred years, but is it the most optimum arrangement?

Enter Science and Math to make the sport better.

A few years ago, a revolutionary new dartboard arrived at the BDO World Professional Darts Championships at Lakeside in Surrey.

The “optimal” dartboard rearranges the traditional positions of the numbers 1 to 20 to make them as mathematically perfect as possible.

In a standard dartboard, low numbers are placed next to high ones, so as to penalize players who miss their targets. That’s why the 20, for example, is next to the 1 and the 5.

Mathematicians have long come up with improved arrangements that maximize the differences between adjacent numbers, in order to penalize mistakes as much as possible.

Now David Percy, Professor of Mathematics at Salford University, has added to the debate by designing a dartboard that adds two more constraints:

1) The numbers go odd-even-odd-even all the way round the board
2) Similar clusters are spread around the board as evenly as possible.

David says the new dartboard will make most difference at the end of a game, when the rules are that a player must finish on a double.

Currently if a player is on an odd number, and therefore needs an odd number to leave himself with an even, he can chose from the southwest sector of the board where four odds are adjacent: 7, 19, 3, and 17

Even a bad player can expect to get an odd number. But if the odds and evens alternate it becomes much more difficult.

Also, the most common finishing double to aim for is double 16, since if you miss the double and get 16, you require double 8. (And if you miss the double and get 8 you require double 4, then double 2, and then double 1.)

On a traditional board 8 is right next to 16, which makes the game easier, since you are already aiming for that section of the board.

The new board is also pleasing to the eye since all the evens are black and the odds all white.

Dartboard manufacturer Winmau has produced prototypes of the optimal dartboard and road tested it with contestants at the world championship.

“It would be lovely if this challenging dartboard were to become the new gold standard,” said David.

Ian Flack of Winmau added: “I think it will be too big a change for the sport, but the whole point of making the prototype is to see the reaction.”


ROUND AND ROUND

I want to talk about board rotation and the longevity of your home boards. We have all been to a friends home or to the corner bar only to find a dart board that has long outlived its usefulness that only a Celtic/Viking funeral pyre can cure.

Quality dart boards are made of natural rope fiber (sisal). These fibers are compressed under tons of pressure and banded with steel, then bonded to a non-warping backboard.

The surface is later sanded smooth and then screen printed with the appropriate colors. Finally, the wires are stapled on and the number ring attached with clips, to allow easy rotation of worn areas.

Most high-quality dartboards are still made in England, home of the sport of Darts. One company, Puma, makes a line of high quality boards in New Zealand.

Note: It is a common misconception that dartboards are made of hair or bristles from pigs, camels, or horses. This is a myth… No such animal fiber boards have ever been made!

In order to maintain long life of your board, you should lightly spray the surface of the board with water, (DO NOT SATURATE IT) the sisal rope fibers will swell keeping a tight surface and reduce bounce outs. Once a month (or sooner for tournament boards or those of heavy use) should be turned counter clockwise 20%. Move the “13” segment to the top, then remove and reset the number ring to its proper alignment.

I practice two or three hours per day and I’m still using the same board for the 2 years now. Boards have come a long way with newer technologies. Some of the best boards I’ve ever used are the Winmau Blade 3 or 4 with ultra thin wires and brilliant color markings.

Get practicing and we’ll see you around town.