Practice Makes Perfect: Part 1 - Intro

 Hello and welcome to my column. Over my short time playing and studying darts, I’ve learned some principles and lessons that are worth sharing with my fellow darters. Part of my education, reading many darting books and articles, has had mixed results. There have been some excellent articles and insights, but far more of them were not helpful at all. I think many of these dart-darting authors spent too much time on personal stories or praising this darter or that one. These articles are the result of my desire to put forth well written information so that you, the darter, might put these principles to work and see their worth for yourself. For the most part my wish is to share proven practices and methods that I have experienced, limiting my opinions. Please forgive me if I slip up now and then and state my personal opinion; take it with a grain of salt.

My first series of articles will be on the subject of personal practice. This is an area of darting that doesn’t get a lot of coverage, and I believe is quite important if you want to improve your game. Whether you want to become an ADO ranked player or wish to win more matches on your league night, personal practice is your greatest ally. Think about it. Without practicing on your own you cannot hope to improve any faster than the people you play with, unless you play for many many years. There aren’t many prodigies that just pick up darts and throw like a pro from the beginning. If you only practice when you play on your league team, you are likely to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, since nothing is really changing. When you play games against an opponent, your number one objective is to be fully focused on the game. The time to be thinking about problems you’ve encountered in throwing or trying out new ideas is in personal practice, when nothing’s at stake. Also, personal practice time gives you experience to try a great many variations on any technique to see what works best for you. We all want to know what works, don’t we?

So lets talk about some of the dimensions of personal practice. First of all, it is probably much better if you can practice on a regular schedule, say every day for one hour. The more frequently you practice during the week, the better. If you have less practice time, it is still better to practice on multiple occasions rather than once a week for a lengthy duration. I say this because practice helps your body to go through the same routine frequently so that it remembers the motions. It also helps you by giving your mind some time to absorb the learnings and incorporate them into your unconscious mind. In this way you don’t have to think about how you’re shooting unless your shot is not working as planned.

Secondly, practice should always be more than just "pounding darts" at the board. Your goal in practice must be to elevate your skill to the point that you always hit what you are aiming for. This effort should be true for all three darts, every trip to the line. With this in mind, personal practice provides the perfect opportunity to try a variety of different techniques, minor adjustments and accidental motions, which sometimes prove to be improvement insights. Let me take this thought one step further. When you are practicing, if all three darts don’t go where you are aiming, there are adjustments that you can make that will correct this situation. You must discover them, practice using them, and commit to higher goals. I am so sure of this fact that if you will follow some of the simple suggestions that I make in future articles, your game will improve. A great deal of performing and winning in darts is the belief in your skills. Skills are simply the technical and mental discoveries you make and practice, which make your game consistent, solid and highly repeatable.

Let’s talk a bit more about gaining skills. Many dart players I know, including myself at one time, have the belief that winning dart games and matches is about beating opponents. The difficulty becomes how do I beat an opponent that seems invincible? This is the wrong approach to take for a winning game. What wins matches are skills, both physical, strategic and mental. By gaining and performing the correct skills at the right time, you enable yourself to win games. When you don’t win, your best response is to assess what went wrong and which skills you need to improve to win. All personal practice depends on developing, maintaining and improving skills.

Also, I would include the following process for developing and improving skills. First, recognize when some aspect of your game or technique is not working. This is very important because I see darters all the time that continue to do the same things over and over with the same poor results. How can they expect their game to get better by repeating actions that have proven to be mostly unsuccessful? Second, identify what is causing the problem or what prevents better performance. This step is the tough one, which often takes me many practice sessions to realize. It is often helpful to ask other darters what they observe about your performance in the problem area. Sometimes others can easily see what we overlook. Third, experiment with different techniques to find out what you could do to move closer to your desired performance. I will provide a number of examples of this in my future article on improving weaknesses. Fourth, develop some simple practice routines to help you work on developing and including your new found technical discoveries into your regular darting skills tool kit. After practicing these new found skills, they will become automatic and unconscious.

There are five areas of personal practice that I have identified for discussion: Stroke, Physical Techniques/Setting Up, Improving Weaknesses, Math and Counting, and Sports Psychological Methods. Each one of these areas will be a future article. It is my sincere hope that these articles benefit you and help your game.

All the best

Top of page

Practice Makes Perfect: Part 2 - Stroke

 There are five areas of personal practice that I have identified for discussion: Stroke, Physical Techniques/Setting Up, Improving Weaknesses, Math and Counting, and Sports Psychological Methods. The area I’m discussing in this article is Stroke.

 One of the most fundamental elements for throwing winning darts is developing and maintaining a smooth, complete, and repeatable arm stroke. Yet very few of the darters that I’ve played with actually emphasized this aspect of their game or worked to improve it dramatically. Some of you may be wondering to yourself "what are you talking about, Charles? If I can hit what I’m shooting at, what difference does it make." Well, it occurs to me that almost all of the great players, including most of the top players in our darting association, have a smooth and consistent stroke. The great players of this sport, like Phil Taylor, Paul Lim, John Lowe, Alan Warriner, Roger Carter, Gerald Verrier, Eric Bristow, Rod Harrington etc.., all have silky smooth, complete strokes that look graceful and each stroke looks the same.

What does this type of stroke do for your game? It makes your shots consistent, repeatable and accurate. With a good stroke, even if your aim needs work, you can consistently put three darts in the same tight area. That gives you more Ton-Eighties and Nine-Counts, not to mention those important Bull’s Eye game winners, when playing cricket. Another excellent benefit to a practiced and perfected stroke is that pressure tends to affect your game less, when you stroke the dart the same way over and over again. One time I asked Dieter Schutsch, an ADO ranked darter, how he made his double out shots so consistently under pressure. He told me that it was muscle memory from throwing for so many years. This is another description for an in-the-groove stroke, which Dieter has a great one. I admit if you play long enough you will develop a repeatable stroke. If you don’t work to improve it, you’ll end up with a stroke providing results than are less accomplished than what you are capable of.

So now to the nitty gritty. First, let me describe the elements of a good stroke and then I’ll give you a practice routine for working on it. Once you square up to the oche (I will cover stance, grip, throw and release and follow-through in the next article), bring your arm to the normal starting point for your throw. Most people start with their throwing forearm at a 90o angle to their upper arm, although many successful darters begin with their hand closer to their face or arm almost fully extended. Any of these starting points are okay as long as they feel comfortable to you and produce good results (if not, try something else until you get good results). Let me emphasize this point again; comfort and results are the targets that you should always aim to get.

It is important, regardless of where you begin, that you take a full backstroke before moving your arm toward the board. When I say "full" I mean 6 inches or MORE if possible. A full backstroke provides you with the motion and energy necessary to easily propel the dart in a straight arc to the board without "pushing" or forcing the dart toward your intended target. I’ve noticed that some darters struggle with their whole body to get the dart to their intended target. Darts only weigh grams (16 to 28 grams are standard) and don’t require much effort to throw 9 feet. Those darters would benefit greatly by working on their stroke along with some release timing practice. It is much easier to completely follow through your stroke if you take a large draw back.

Next, make a smooth transition to thrust your shooting arm forward, at the same speed as your draw back. It is important for you to bring your arm fully forward so that your arm is completely extended. Try to end up pointing with your index finger at your intended target. This big forward and backward motion may feel uncomfortable at first, but will yield more consistent results.

Think about it for a moment. When you really feel the pressure in a dart match, and you know that you need one last single to win, many times you will throw a tense dart that totally misses the mark. I bet that missing dart was jerky and short in stroke, because you wanted to guide it toward the target and not stroke it. Right after the game, you will throw that same shot and "boom," you hit it perfectly. That shot had a longer and smoother stroke; check it out the next time you find yourself in that situation. Besides, the longer your stroke is, the more it takes to throw your shot off of the intended target. Longer strokes require greater energy to move the dart from it’s directional path. Try throwing darts with both a long and a short stroke to see what happens and judge for yourself.

Another element of stroke is alignment. You must try your best to ensure that the path of your dart stroke is straight back and then straight forward. This is easier if your arm is straight up and down instead of at an angle. It is also easier if your body is turned sideways, on your throwing arm side, toward the target. I say this because your arm is designed to move certain ways and not in others. The less twisting and turning means less effort to throw and is more consistent in vertical alignment. I also advocate keeping your wrist locked at the same angle, rather than moving your wrist like a whip. Moving your wrist adds one more variable to your throwing equation and makes it difficult to repeat the same stroke all the time. If you hold your UPPER ARM STILL and only move your forearm, while keeping the rest of your BODY STILL, you will find that a good, full stroke will put the dart in the same location time after time. This is what you want. Using your ELBOW as a HINGE is the key. The two most important technical lessons I’ve learned were keeping my head/body/shoulder/upper arm still and using my elbow as a hinge.

I practice the following routine almost every day and always before matches, to ensure a good stroke. It really does no good to aim at targets and hope to hit them with regularity until your stroke is strong and smooth. I start by throwing 100 darts on the out edges of the board, outside the point field. The reason for this is that I want to concentrate fully on stroke, with good alignment, without being distracted by hitting or missing targets. Twenty-five darts are thrown at each of the four compass points (above D20, right of D6, below D3, and left of D11). I know my stroke is coming together when all three darts are within an imaginary circle of about one inch in diameter. Keep with this routine and you will soon have a good stroke without thinking about it.

All The Best

Top of page

Practice Makes Perfect: Part 3 - Setting Up

 In the previous article, we discussed the necessity to practice arm stroke. A darter’s stroke is without doubt one of the most important attributes they have, and usually does not improve without deliberate practice. Improvement happens best and quickest when you practice, since it allows learning to occur away from competitive events. Stroke fits in with the next subject matter, setting up. ‘Setting up’ is my term for all of the physical things that a darter does before each shot. Setting up improves your chances of making good shots. It also is a ritual that you do each time you shoot. The psychological benefits are almost as important as technical advantages.

For this article I am describing the Setting Up process using the following sequential activities: Deciding Shot Selection, Stance, Grip, Aiming, and Stroke. Although I’m talking about these activities separately, they should blend together and flow from one to another. Since the last article focused on the many aspects of Stroke, I’ll not take any time talking about it. Please note that these observations are from my experience and reason. All of us have different physical characteristics and internal make-up and there is not ONE answer that works for everyone. Therefore, I ask that you not get hung-up on something I suggest if it does not work for you. When you try out various set up techniques, apply these two criteria: economy of motion (don’t waste energy with unnecessary motions), and use what works (if something doesn’t work consistently, try something different).

Each time you play or shoot there is a very important step to take before getting into your stance; that is THINK about what you are going to do with all three darts and Decide a course of action before moving to the oche (toe line). Many times darters are in a big hurry to throw and rush right to the line to throw. To become an excellent player, you must analyze each game situation, determine what you need to do next, and think about what to do if you do not hit your intended target (including triples & doubles). For both cricket and the ’01 games, you have to assess where you are in the game, where your opponent is, and what throws will put you in the most favorable position. Doing this before you go to the line helps you to concentrate on making your shots, so that you are not distracted and your throwing rhythm is not broken by the need to think too much.

Next, find your Stance. Although there are many possible stances, I want to suggest a couple that I believe are most helpful. The angle that you face from the oche line to the dart board is one of the most important physical elements that determine how easy or hard it is for you to hit your target. I recommend that players line their lead foot (the foot that is on the same side as their aiming eye and their dominant hand) either parallel to the oche line, or at a 45o angle to the line. The reason for lining up this way has to do with human body construction, or kinesiology (the science of how the body will and will not move). When standing this way you make it easy to line up your aiming eye, you shoulder, your elbow and forearm, and your dart with the dartboard target. These stances also provide the best method of balancing your body, while isolating your forearm to throw the dart from your elbow. In other words, you make it easier to throw your dart, while eliminating any unwanted movements or engaging extra muscles. As I mentioned in the last article on Stroke, holding your body completely still and moving only your forearm and elbow are key to making repeatable and accurate shots.

Whatever angle you decide on, most throwers choose to lean slightly forward. Leaning forward or standing up straight are equally okay. The important points are that you feel well balanced and maintain an angle to the target that requires little adjustment. Leaning affects the shot height on the dart board, while the angle of your stance helps to align your shots left and right. If either of these are askew, you will find yourself trying harder and using more muscles to make your shots. If one of your shots hits left or right of your target, but your shot seemed correct, try moving your stance angle slightly toward the target.

Grip is a very important throwing element, but also one of the hardest to master. In general, fewer points of contact between your throwing hand and the dart are better. The standard grip uses three fingers, with the thumb and forefinger pinching the dart, and the middle finger acting as a steady guide. The dart should be griped lightly. If a darter holds their dart tightly, chances are they will get unnecessary arm muscles involved in their shot, making it harder to hit the target consistently. The thumb and forefinger grip the dart at the "balance point" of the dart, keeping these two fingers directly across from one another. When the thumb and forefinger are not directly opposing, the dart will fly and land at a left/right angle. Holding the dart too far back or forward changes the vertical angle that the dart enters the board; it also negatively affects the darts aerodynamics in flight. Remember these two preceding points when examining the way your darts enters the dart board and make any needed adjustments.

The next step, Aiming, is certainly the most critical of all. Once in your stance, turn your head so that there is a straight line from your aiming eye to the target. It helps immensely to keep your head up and your body as straight as possible. The target you choose should be very specific. Don’t aim at an area (like the twenty wedge); aim at a point on the wedge or target as small as you can see or imagine. By doing so, you enable your brain to focus and give yourself the best chance of hitting that target. Now that you have the target in sight, bring your shoulder, elbow and hand (dart) in line with your line of sight to the target. Make this alignment with your peripheral vision, so that you don’t take your eye off the target. Align until it seems right to you, then make your stroke. Don’t take the shot until you feel the alignment is correct. Mediocre players will take their shots before they can see the shot lined up. They do this because they are unfocused, feel uncomfortable at the line, or feel that their opponent is winning and there is nothing they can really do to win. This is known as "Giving Up." The best players don’t shoot until they feel relatively confident that their shot will hit the target. I call this "Standing Up."

All The Best

Top of page

Practice Makes Perfect: Part 4 - Improving Weaknesses - A

Hi again. Let’s review what we’ve discussed so far in this series on practice. First we talked about the importance of regular personal practice in improving your skills. Just throwing darts at the twenty wedge is not really practicing. Practicing includes examining your playing strengths and weaknesses and soliciting feedback from other good players to know what you need to work on. Once you have a good idea of those opportunities to improve upon, you have to analyze what is causing the problem so that you can experiment with new techniques. Trying harder will probably not improve your game in the direction you need. Honest examination of your game and aspects of play will help you. Players that refuse to try something different to alter their performance are limiting their own growth in the sport. Excellence is not an accident. Once you find the right recipe for improvement, write it down and find practice games and routines that help you to integrate the new skills into your regular performance. After a while the new skills will be automatic and subconscious.

We also went into practice for improving your dart stroke. Probably the most obvious skill that a darter can have is a great stroke. Everyone notices a darter that has a smooth, precise stroke, and it can become your number one asset in winning more games. Stroke falls into the sequence of events I call "Setting Up." The setting up routine is something each darter does with every turn they take at shooting. It consists of Deciding What To Shoot At, Stance at the Line, Gripping the Dart, Aiming at your Selected Target, and as I mentioned, Arm Stroke. Avoid getting into a Set Up routine that is habitual only, and does not produce the desired results. I think we have all seen darters that have interesting or strange set up habits that do not seem to add any important benefits to the thrower, other than being compulsive or superstitious. You may wonder if a movement or practice you have is giving you a benefit; experiment by using that practice for 30 throws and use a different practice(s) for an additional 30 throws. Compare the resulting numbers.

Once you have a good idea what areas or techniques you need to improve, you might wonder what you can do to make and sustain a lasting improvement. This article is all about practicing to improve skills. To find the right practice though, you have to use your creativity. Practice routines should be designed to recreate the game or shot situation that you want to improve. When you develop a specific practice game or routine that helps improve an area of weakness, you must use it regularly over a sustained period of time until the skills are fully integrated into your repertoire. Another important aspect of this type of practice is recording your results as you practice. You won’t really know if you are improving or not unless you do the same practice routine over a time period and record your results each time. The numbers will tell you if you’re getting better, worse or staying the same.

So let’s get into some actual situations that you may want to work on. Let’s focus on cricket this time and in the next article we will focus on the ’01 games. Most of the practices you learn in either one of these type of games translates to the other. Cricket, being the popular game that it is, requires a lot of difficult but predictable skills.

In each game there are times that you need to have all three of your darts hit the same wedge; like closing a number with three singles, closing and scoring, or just scoring a whole bunch on the same number. A good practice technique is to throw all three darts at each cricket number, sequentially (e.g. 20s, 19s, 18s, 17s, 16s, 15s, Bs). Do not move from one number to the next until you’ve hit three darts in a row on that wedge. Record how many total darts it takes to go through all 7 segments. Other cricket skills require two darts at one number one at a different number, or all three darts at different numbers. You can create practice routines that help these situations. As in the technique above, start with the 20s and move in sequence. Throw two darts at the 20 and one at the 19, etc.. Don’t move on until you’ve hit all three targets. The reverse practice routine is also helpful; that would be one 20 and two 19s, then one 19 and two 18s, etc.. To recreate the game situation in which you need to score on three different numbers, throw one dart at 20, one at 19, and one at 18. Then move to the next sequence. Variations on these practice routines can be as many as you can imagine. For instance, with the last routine, you could throw one dart at the twenty, one at the 19, and the last at the Bull. Next you could go to the twenty, 18, then Bull, continuing the pattern. Keep in mind that you can vary the difficulty of these practices by aiming for singles or triples. It gets much more difficult to complete these routines when you aim for triples.

There are so many other cricket skills needed that I could not be able to cover them all, but let me talk about a few that are not usually mentioned. In cricket, the game is usually won early on, within the first couple of throwing turns. If you notice this to be the case, you would agree that the beginning throws are the most important, most of the time. Winning the bulls eye is paramount. Practice throwing darts at the bulls eye to give yourself the best chance to start each game. I often shoot 30 darts at the bull, recording how many times I hit it and how many double bulls I made. Another important cricket starting skill is closing 20s on your first turn (that is if you won the bull). Create a practice routine of hitting three fat 20s, so that you know you can do it in the game situation under pressure. A good way to start is by throwing your first dart, aiming just under the double 20. By getting those first two darts into the 20 wedge, you take a lot of pressure off yourself to hit a third. With the twenties closed, you improve your chances of winning immensely. Another important cricket situational skill is being able to hit a single bull at any time in the game. It takes at least two darts to close the bulls (a single bull and a double), so capturing a single early in the game can be very helpful. Practice throwing two darts at other numbers or targets, then throw the third at bulls. Record results. The important thing is that you assess weaknesses from competition play, then work on them with these drills.

All The Best

Top of page

Practice Makes Perfect: Part 5 - Improving Weaknesses - B

The last article dealt with practice strategies for the cricket game. Many of the same skills acquired through those practice routines can also be used for the "01" or Standard game. In this article we will focus on the different skills and strategies that may be employed for all 01 games. I’ve heard many people say that cricket is a more difficult game than 01, since you have to think through your strategy constantly. Although cricket requires you to respond to both the game and your opponent, I believe that there are many more physical and technical skills required to play 01, which are not as apparent because it takes most players many shots to hit finishing doubles. For instance, in all 01 games you have to be able to hit the same number multiple times (20s or 19s usually), you must be able to hit any single wedge, and you must be able to hit most any double on the board. In addition, good players are strategizing with each dart from about 300 points downward. Part of this strategizing includes shot selection, giving the shooter beneficial misses, like shooting at the odd and even wedges. Playing cricket you may move from number to number but in 01 all parts of the board are used and any shot hitting the scoring area counts; to your benefit or not.

I’ve noticed that most folks just focus on hitting twenties, deciding what out-shot sequence to shoot, or making doubles. There is much more to winning in this game. For example, there are many times that your need to hit a non-cricket triple to set up an out-shot (for example: trip 14, double 16 to take out 74; or trip 10, double 18 to take out 66 with 2 darts). The 01 games require important examination of what to throw in order to save darts (ending the game in the fewest darts possible). You’ve got to be able to hit triple and single shot combinations to set up double out shots. There are many skills needed, so there may be many opportunities to improve aspects of these games.

One great player in our league, Bob Barbosa, told me that it is extremely important to hit singles in many out-shot situations. There are times you must hit a single, not a triple or a double, to set up your double-out. He practices by throwing at each wedge on the board, beginning with 1, shooting sequentially through 20, and ending with the Bull, then counting how many darts it took. His goal is always 26 darts or less. This may sound easy, but try it sometime. I have used a similar practice game to work on singles, triples and doubles. The game is similar to "Around The World." I start with 1 through 20 and bull, shooting for singles. The trick is that you must hit 3 singles in a row on the same number before moving to the next number. Triples and doubles do not count. When finished, I move the opposite direction, from Bull to 20 through 1, shooting at triples. Only one of each triple must be scored before moving to the next number. Finally, I return to 1 through 20 and Bull on the doubles. Again, only one double of each number is required.

Work on scoring by throwing at your preferred number (20s or 19s) in each practice session. My favorite routine for this is shooting 100 20s (100 dart hits), and counting the number of darts it takes to do so. I also keep track of the number of triples hit. After you have practice this one time, you can calculate you percentage of hits by dividing 100 by the total number of throws you took. The same can be done with your triple percentage. Then you can set goals for each practice session. My goals are 80% or better for 20s and 33% or better for triple 20s.

Many people have told me that they seem to be able to hit doubles, etc. in practice, but when game time comes around they can’t buy one. Pressure and anxiety create a different throwing experience for most people. The following strategies can help. I read an interview article of Peter Everson, one of the best players in the PDC today. He said that he gets ready for tournaments by creating pressure in his practice. For instance, before a tournament he plays a game, shooting 1 dart at each double, beginning with 1 through 20 and Bull. He only shoots one dart at each double. For each double missed, he must shoot at them on the next turn until hit. For example, on the first round he shoots at double 1, 2, and 3, hitting double 2. On the next round he starts with double 1, 3, 4. This continues until each double has been hit. After finishing, he shoots at each double, beginning with 1 through 20 and Bull, and must hit 2 out of 3 darts on each number double before moving to the next. Both of these practice games create psychological pressure.

In my last article I explained how I like to create practice routines that mimic a real game situation. When I have trouble in a game or match, I analyze my performance to see if there were skills I need to improve. Then I create a practice situation that is like the problem area I need to improve. In 01, I developed a practice procedure like a real game. The object is to shoot one dart, at a scoring number, then shoot at a double. In a real game you must set up each double-out situation before you can shoot at the double. I begin by shoot at the triple 20. If I hit the triple or a single, then I can shoot 1 dart at the double 1. If I miss the 20, I must shoot at the triple 19, hitting either a triple or a single; then shoot at the double 1. Only one shot can be taken for each double. Once the double is scored, advance to the next triple and double out number. This game puts pressure on you to hit set-up shots and doubles. You’re using every number on the board and shooting at every double.

One of my favorite warm up games can be played with one or more players. I call it 170 out. The object is to constantly be shooting at a 3 dart out situation. You begin with 170 points, and shoot 3 darts to set-up an out shot and double out. If you do not double out, you (individual practice) or the next player (multiple players) will try to take out the remaining score with three darts. If you finish the double with less than 3 darts, you reset the score to 170 and shoot your remaining darts. You can continue this game as long as you want. It helps because you concentrate on what you need to finish, rather than anything else. It is also beneficial because you must think about what to do with 1 or 2 darts if you cannot double out (for example, you have 2 darts left and the score is 103, do you shoot at 20s, 19s, 17s to set-up the final double shot?).

All The Best

Top of page

Practice Makes Perfect: Part 6 - With Multiple People

In previous articles I’ve given you some practice ideas for improving the two major games played in the US; cricket and ’01. Let’s continue this theme but with more than one person practicing. There are occasions that we are with other darters, getting together to practice. These opportunities should not be wasted by playing only the traditional games. After all, practice should serve the purpose of challenging you and expanding your expectations. This won’t happen if your just competing against one of your darting friends; you may get better against them but you probably will not improve beyond their best efforts. All of the games I’m suggesting in this article will challenge your skills and help you to focus during matches.

Let me separate the games into ’01 and cricket types, although many of the skills in either type can translate to the other game. I want to begin with the standard game (’01) for practicing with more than one person. In the previous article I explained the fundamentals of a game I call "170 Out." This game can be played with as many players as you like. You will find that your not directly competing with the other players but it really helps you to focus on out shot strategy and individual shots. Start the game with 170 points and try to take 170 out with a double shot (e.g. T20,T20, DB). Whatever the first person leaves (that is if you don’t take out 170 in one turn), as you count down, the next person tries to take out. If you double out on any turn, start over with 170. Use any remaining darts in hand to start counting down. I really like this game when preparing for doubles 501 with my partner. Pairs timing and strategy are fine tuned.

An interesting game I learned from Eric Kobaly Jr. and Brian Leicester, I call "501: 60 or Better." This one will really challenge most players. Begin by playing a traditional 501 game. The goal is to score 60 points or more on each turn, until you are down to an out shot. If you score less than 60, you give your score to your opponent. This game can be played with other variations, like a different starting number (example: 1,001), or using a different goal (examples: 57 or 80 or better). I’ve learned not to give up when far behind, from playing this game. It also teaches you to have scoring goals on each trip to the line.

One of my favorite games for 2 person ’01 practice is "Challenge 101" (double on double off). Flip a coin for starting. The winner of the toss throws first, but the loser calls the double that they both have to shoot to start the game (can be any double on the board). Whoever wins the game will shoot second and call the double out number for the next round. Both players must double on with the previous game winning double. Doubling on and off using atypical numbers improves doubling skills and provides both players with other out shot strategies than they are used to. It’s easy to repeat the same shot combinations each time you play, but this doesn’t improve your thinking about your strategy. This game will cause you to "think outside the box."

Now that I’ve provided you with three ’01 type games that can be played with multiple players, let’s do the same with cricket. "Around the Cricket World" is a useful game for providing clutch pressure and situations like match play, when you need to hit a single or key triple to move ahead. Each player starts with 20, and must hit each of the cricket numbers in sequence, plus the double 16 or double 20. Player score one point for successfully making through all of the numbers (20,19,18,17,16,15,Bull, D16). Here is the fun part. You have only one dart to hit each number, except for double 16, which gets a maximum of two darts. If you hit your target number, you move to the next number; if you miss, you move back to the previous number. Any double hit allows you to skip the next number in sequence (a D20 puts you on 18 for your next target). A triple hit skips two numbers (a triple 15 skips Bull and D16, to shoot 20 next). In this game, hitting T15 is very helpful. Play your opponent to an agreed upon number of points. Remember, if you miss enough targets, you can lose points gained. You should have a chance in this game to improve any numbers that you have had trouble with in the past, since you spend a lot of time shooting them (moving backward motivates you to make sure you hit the number).

Here is a game called "10 Of." Using the cricket numbers (20,19,18,17,16,15,B), you and your partner take turns shooting at one number. You each take turns at this same number until one of you hit ten marks (or more). The other player has one remaining turn to equal or exceed that number of marks. The winner of each cricket number gets one point, or in a tie you both get 1 point. Play until someone has 7 points.

The last cricket type game is called "Cricket Close Out." It can be played with one or many players. Played much like cricket, you must shoot the cricket numbers in order; 20,19,18,17,16,15,B. You must have 3 marks on each number before moving to the next in order. If you don’t get three or more marks on any number you’re shoot at in any turn, you must shoot all three darts at that same number on the next turn. Count the number of marks you have at the end of the game and divide by the number of turns it took you to finish the game. Your goal should be an average of 3 marks per turn or more. This ends up being 7 turns or 21 darts to average 3 marks per turn. This game creates a game like situation, since many times if you do not close a number on a turn you must go back at it on the next turn or shoot for points on a different number.

A few points to think about when shooting cricket type practice games. You have to respond to your opponent in cricket. Cricket is not just a game of responding to your opponent but also you should be trying to close numbers with as few darts as possible. Any number with marks, but not closed may mean wasted darts. During the game you must be able to move from number to number with ease, which is quite difficult. It is very important to know when to shoot at triples and when to shoot for singles. All of these skills are emphasized in the practice routines I’ve described in this article and also in article number 4 (Improving Weaknesses – A).

All The Best

Top of page