What makes a good practice routine?

From Olympic athletes to guitar students, from mountain climbing to football – the common denominator for improvement is practice.

As soon as you begin participating in any activity – no matter what it is -  there is one thing that you are acutely aware of: If you want to get better then you must put in the practice.

Darts is no different. From the very moment you begin taking the game more seriously, you know that practice is the key component above everything else that will carry you as far as your ambition and talent allows.

Here’s a common story that may be familiar to many of you:

You order a new dartboard and buy a set of shiny new lights from the local hardware store.

After spending countless hours online researching and seeking out opinions, you choose a new set of darts. Of course, this will only be the first set of dozens – if not more – of different darts you will try as you progress and improve.

You eagerly wait for all your new equipment to arrive, and you can’t wait to set up your practice area and get to work.

It arrives, and you spend half a day putting it all together and making sure the throw line is correct and the lighting works well with no shadows.

The big moment arrives; You are ready and can’t wait to hit the dartboard.

But wait! You stand there and start throwing. All you have ever heard is that the only way to improve is to practice, practice, practice.

You have researched online in darts forums. You have sought out several different websites that tell you how to practice. They all tell you different things and now you are facing information overload and you stand there not really knowing what to do.

You quickly realize that it is a lot harder than it looks. The top players make it look so easy, but if you didn’t know already, you soon find out that it is anything but easy to be good at this game. It’s frustrating and extremely difficult!!

Everybody loves the glamor shots. It’s much more enjoyable and satisfying to smash in the 100’s and the 140’s. You see people posting pictures of them hitting a 180, and you want to hit them too.

So you throw at the 20’s. All the time. The elation you feel when you hit your first 180 is something that never leaves you, and you will remember your first one for the rest of your life.

You feel good about your game, and you feel like you have improved a lot (which you no doubt have).

the only blog you'll ever need to set up, finish and out perform any of your darting rivals!

Then you go out and play someone who is slightly better than your current level, and you lose. Badly. It isn’t that you were poor – you were out finished because you couldn’t hit your doubles.

You go home disillusioned and demoralized because you realize that although everyone tells you to practice, practice, practice – you don’t actually know how to practice and the same can be said for the vast majority of players all over the world.

The scenario above may sound familiar, because most darts players go through a similar learning curve before they realize what they need to do to get the most from their practice routines.

So, after all of the above, how do you practice? What ingredients need to be present whenever you take the time to practice and improve your game?

Firstly, you need to understand that there is a major difference between practice and matchplay. Both are very important to your improvement, and you need to balance your playing time between the two to get the most out of it.

However, both have very different objectives, and it is important to realize this, and to approach each one with the correct mindset.

Matchplay is very competitive. It’s the same whether it’s a league game, local competition, super League, County, or tournament. It’s even the same if you are playing your friends at the local bar. The object is to win. This is when it all comes together, and victory is what you are aiming for.

Matchplay is the time when you will feel the nerves and the tension. Your arm and shoulder may tighten up, and you may experience sweaty palms.

This is all very normal, especially for the inexperienced, and only immersing yourself in matchplay situations will get you used to the pressures of playing. You cannot practice matchplay tension – you have to participate and earn your experience.

Practice, on the other hand, is what you use to gain accuracy, control, and very importantly – knowledge. It is when you work on your techniques – such as grip, stance, positioning etc.

Practice is the foundation on which your entire game is built: You won’t become a good tournament player if you don’t practice.

Everyone knows this, and yet very few people really know how to get the most out of their limited practice time. Mindset is just as important as it is in matchplay, and aimlessly tossing darts at T20 isn’t going to make you a better player.

So, what ingredients need to be present in every practice session in order to get the most out of it?

A good practice routine contains the following 5 characteristics:

  • It is measurable, and allows you to track your progress
  • It allows you to “Drill Down” on whatever part of your game you want to work on
  • It is interesting and enjoyable
  • It is challenging, but not so much that it puts you off.
  • It has intensity, and makes you try with each and every dart

If you cannot measure your practice, how will you ever know if you are improving? It is very important to know if what you are doing is working, and the only way to do that is to somehow track your progress so you can look back over the course of several months to see improvement or otherwise.

There are many ways these days to keep track of your practice, but a cheap and simple method is to keep a Darts Diary. Fill this out after every session and refer to it frequently. It will highlight any weak areas of your game and will show you where to concentrate your efforts to correct them.

It will also show you where your strengths are, and this will feed your confidence when you are under pressure in matchplay situations.

You need to vary your practice to keep it interesting and prevent it from becoming stale and disinteresting. This happens all the time, so it’s important to have a number of different routines available to you and to mix them up from time to time.

The routines need to be designed to simulate match-play as much as it is possible in a practice environment. Some of the routines I recommend will have your palms sweating and will see your anxiety levels increase as you get close to completing them. There will also be the feelings of frustration (which are common in matchplay), because you will miss a shot and have to start all over again.

Do not allow frustration to set in when practicing and take frequent breaks if needed. These sessions will not only improve your darts game beyond recognition, but they will also greatly improve your matchplay temperament if you keep at it and control the frustrations as they arise.

Do this on a regular basis and your confidence and skill level will explode, and you will approach every game with a locked in, laser-like focus and intensity, no matter who you are playing, or whatever the situation. You will be ready.

Bobby George famously once said - and I quote – Doubles for dough, scoring for show, and he is absolutely correct.

Having the ability to finish should be the number one goal of every darts player, and it is for this very reason I wrote the Darts Finishing Mastery series of books.

In the next post I will explain a number of practice routines that include all of the above criteria and will really help you to drill down and improve your game massively.

Until then, I wish you success on your darting journey….

Darts Finishing Mastery: How to Master the Art of Finishing is chock full of useful, useable information that uses all 5 of the above criteria. Every one of the 278 pages (print version) contains easy to understand, and yet very powerful strategies that will improve your game quickly and easily.

If you don’t already have it, click on the picture below for details on how to obtain a copy: