FORM, MECHANICS and ETIQUETTE
Form and Mechanics
One of the two things that appear to affect how people play is their individual mechanics and confidence in themselves and their game. Just like golf players, or baseball players, or anyone that has to perform the same motion over and over again to achieve a perfect result, darts demands repetitive motion, and being able to complete that same motion over and over again can be a great key to success.
Most players seem to think that when they start playing, they have to hop, jump, skip, or do a shot-put dance to get the dart to the board. They think they need to throw a dart like they are throwing a baseball, hard and fast, rather than employing any type of finesse. I remember meeting a young lady once, who was a new player, and she told me that because she was only 4’ 10”, she felt she had to put some extra effort from her body into her throw for the dart to reach the board. And she exerted even more energy when she had to throw at the top of the board. When we met, and she saw my mechanics and that I was only 4 inches taller than her, she realized she was jumping around far too much. There are no rules when it comes to size, shape, and gender for throwing darts.
Players should remember to find a stance that is stable and comfortable for them. They should not base their on stance on how someone else stands or how someone else tells them to stand. There is no law set in stone that says you need to stand facing the board at a 45-degree angle or at a 90-degree angle. It is important for you to be comfortable in your stance and to be steady and relaxed. Experimentation is also critical when determining your stance, especially if you have any physical problems that keep you from standing or turning a certain way. You do not want to be uncomfortable or experience any pain in your stance, because this will cause you to make slight adjustments to compensate for pain or discomfort, which then can affect your throw. Many of the top players prefer to put the majority of their weight on their lead foot at the oche line and the rest of the weight on the back foot, which acts as a point of balance or the anchor for your stance. Center yourself with the dartboard, as many oche’s can be placed offset from the center of the board.
Your grip of the dart itself should be stable and firm, yet relaxed without any tension placed on your fingers, while still being able to maintain control of the dart in the throwing motion. Some players are more comfortable gripping the dart with two fingers, some with three, and some with four. Do whatever you are comfortable with; however, the coordination of your fingers while releasing the dart can affect the direction of the dart once it leaves your hand. You should push your thumb against at least two of your fingers to grip the dart.
To set your arm for the throw itself, hold your arm at a 90-degree angle parallel to the floor. To set the dart in motion for the throw, bring your hand back toward your face, usually at eye level. This helps maintain accuracy and improve hand-eye coordination. The arm should then proceed to the forward motion of throwing the dart toward the board. While the entire process is not forceful, some impetus must be given to the projectile to get it to fly to the dartboard. The trajectory of the dart will depend on the amount of force placed in the throwing motion and the arc of the dart as it travels to the board. A major thing to remember is that the more motion you have during your throwing process, the greater the chances that something will go wrong in that process. Your throwing motion should utilize your entire lower arm with minimal motion from your upper arm. On your follow-through, once the dart is released, you should continue following through with your arm and end with at least one of your fingers pointing at the target. The core of your body should remain balanced with little to no movement. The process is similar to taking a wadded up piece of paper and trying to toss it through a small opening, such as a basket. The finesse used in the motion is the same finesse that should be used when throwing a dart. Just because the object is heavier does not mean that finesse is not required. The process involves the use of hand-eye coordination.
As a new player, always remember that you are not going to be perfect. The darts you throw when first starting out will go everywhere, and this will only get better with practice. There is only one person in the world that I do not apply this to, and she happens to be my mother. At the time this happened, my brothers and I had been playing for about a year, and finally one day while I was practicing, she came in and asked me how to play. I explained the different scoring surfaces of the dart board and that we did not throw at the bulls-eye for score, but at the triple 20, since this would achieve the highest maximum score. With that explanation, we began mom’s lesson on how to throw. I showed her the proper stance, showed her how to hold the dart, how to just use her arm and to use some finesse. Now mom was ready to take her first try at throwing darts. I stepped back and to my complete surprise . . . thunk, thunk, and thunk . . . three triple 20s for a maximum score of 180 on the first three darts she threw. And not only that, she did it with brass darts, which are a lot fatter in the barrel than the traditional tungsten darts of today. Needless to say, mom was forever banned from the dartboard since none of us had ever been able to hit a maximum score in practice or play. I wish we had video back then because the moment was priceless and is one that I will never forget. To this day, she has yet to pick up any darts again. And why should she? She was perfect on her first try; she doesn’t need to improve on that at all.
The best practice for a brand new player to focus on would be trying to get all three darts in a certain section of the board, like the larger section of the 20. If you try at first to hit smaller targets, your success rate will be lower, and you might experience some frustration, which you should try to avoid as a new player. As time goes by, and with more practice, you will be able to narrow down your target base. I received great advice from someone a long time ago when they told me that if a player could manage to hit three single 20s per turn, that player would win a majority of their matches against other players. Since I was a female player, this applied easily; however, with the men’s game, a little more consistency with higher scoring is usually required. This mentality, though, will help take away a lot of the pressure in competition, as you won’t be thinking that you have to hit big scores each turn to win a game. It also creates more confidence in you as a player.
Repetitive motion and muscle memory are also contributing factors for your form and mechanics. One sees players every day that will have one dart land in the area they intended, only to have the next two darts land in completely different locations that may be more than an inch away from their intended target. It has been said the repetitive motion leads to muscle memory, which in turn can allow a player to start to repeat the same motion over and over again with as little variance as possible each and every time, resulting in the darts landing in smaller, tighter groups.
Darts has always been considered a gentleman’s sport and a game that begins and ends with a handshake. Sportsmanship is a prevailing quality that a majority of players try to maintain from the beginning of the match to the end. There are some aspects of the game that fall under etiquette or a code of conduct of sorts that seasoned players take for granted, but that new players may not be aware of. A new player may make an error to breach this code known to all the other players and could lead to many players being angry or frustrated with the new player. It is important to remember to educate all new players on some of the simple basics that we all have learned along the way. Treat other players in a courteous manner. Distractions while a player is at the line concentrating on his shot can be very disturbing. Give the thrower plenty of room to throw and stay behind him when he is taking his turn at the line. Obviously, not all conditions will allow for a quiet atmosphere and most players are used to background noise, music, and general chatter. The sudden loud noises stand out, however, which can cause a distraction. Speaking to the player or speaking behind the player while he or she is throwing is frowned upon. This also applies to spectators in the area. When your turn is completed, leave your darts in the board until the scorekeeper has marked down the correct score or you as the scorekeeper have written down the correct score. It is best to leave the darts in the board until completion of this task in the event that the opponent questions what score was thrown. As a scorekeeper, you should not make any sudden movements, and you should remain as still as possible while the shooter is throwing. The scorekeeper should not announce any scores to the shooter unless the shooter asks. If you have a question about what has been thrown, the scorekeeper is considered the official of the match and should be the only one relaying your score or a remaining balance of score left. Your teammates may also assist in this and can also tell you what to throw at next, however, the scorekeeper is not allowed to advise you on what should be thrown next. The final aspect to remember also ends with sportsmanship and a handshake. Always remember that someone will win and someone will lose. If you are the winner, take the time to appreciate the efforts of the player who did not win. If you are not the winner, take the time to appreciate the efforts of the player who did win. We all want to be on the winning side, but it does not work that way, and learning to win or lose gracefully will go a long way with you and your career in darts. Sportsmanship is best described as the direct actions of a person who exhibits qualities that are held in high esteem by many who participate in the same sport. Such traits as fairness, courtesy, good temper, as well as winning and/or losing gracefully are some of the many well-favored aspects of being considered someone who conducts themselves with good “sportsmanship.”