In order to remedy that I asked a lot of friends, I went to a bunch of forums and websites, consulted a guru or two, and even read a book or two on sports psychology (darts or otherwise) and amongst all the positive self talk and imagery of conquest and glory, the most common advice on how to deal with it, was to actually immerse yourself in it. make your practices tough and as close to competition as possible, play tough opponents as often as you can and so on.
This is all good advice, and while there are also other aspects that I think are equally important, it is still the advice I would share with others. There was, however still one tiny ingredient that was missing, and once I realized it, it made all the difference in the world.
That is, I simply was not good enough. It didn't matter how often I played against a great player, if they made a great shot I could maybe match it, if they made a couple, well then I knew my ability to keep up dwindled.
At first I thought this was purely nerves, but then over time I realized that yes, it was nerves, but it was also that I lacked intrinsic confidence, not in my ability to compete, but in my shot itself. This in turn became a barrier to dealing with competition nerves in an ongoing negative cycle.
I mean, no matter how many times you go to battle, bringing a toothpick to a claymore fight has got to be unnerving!
I'll leave the specifics of how I did the 'getting better' to a future post but if you wanted a hint at the 'one simple trick' it involved focus, patience and practice but I think (hope) most of you already knew that. It also involves a fair amount of belief. Not just the 'one day I will be able to' belief that I already had a good supply of, but the I can do it and do it now sort of belief, which is harder to cultivate.
Now that is not to say that I am ready to play the likes of John Part or Raymond Van Barneveld (although that would be totally cool) I still have friends that I get a little wobbly kneed playing against. No I am not free from nerves and psychological distractions at all, but I am a lot, lot better at it. For the times that it is there, I just accept it as a normal part of competition. What I do have, on my side, is an increased confidence in my throw and what it is capable of, and knowing that I have a fairly good chance of delivering consistently enough to always be a threat. (at least to other players in and around my level).
What about all of you? Is this helpful or something you know/did ages ago? Did you have any of your own 'I get it' moments that helped you become a better darter? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section!
Notice To Subscribers
Sorry for the mix up with the double email.