John Lewis

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!


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!


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.