The Practice Board: Down & Out

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As a coach to elite players, one of the more difficult tasks is devising games/routines that can be played or adapted for improving players. Imagine my delight when Joe Reid got in touch with a game that focuses on the lower end of competitive legs but is not as demanding as the versions I use with professional players:

Practicing at home can become mundane and repetitive. I’ve found myself struggling to motivate myself to properly practice, instead just playing endless games of 501. As a relatively strong scorer, I never really had too much trouble from 501 down to 201, frequently scoring around 300 points in my opening three or four throws. At this point in the leg I’d already scored nearly 60% of the required points.

Logically speaking, it should take me another eight darts to complete the leg – this was scarcely the case, however. The first 300 points of the leg never seemed an issue for me, so I simply removed them. Starting from 201, you have nine darts to complete the ‘leg’. The only rule is you must imagine at all times that your ‘opponent’ is on a finish. So should you leave 84 after your first six darts, and then fail to hit the T20, you must gravitate towards the S14-Bull/T14-D11 route, rather than T16-D8/T8-D20.

If you manage to complete the ‘leg’ in nine darts, you go 1-0 up – likewise, if you don’t, you’re now 1-0 down. You then move up by a point to 202, in the same way you would if you were playing a game of 121. The same rules apply – nine darts, imagining your opponent is on a finish.

At the start of the game, decide on a format for the match. I typically tend to do short ‘Best of 11’ games, as I feel this benefits my own development more. Despite the lack of a ‘physical’ opponent, the points system helps make the game competitive.

Variations: For an added twist, you can add in a ‘wildcard’. You can play this once per game, which allows you three more darts in a leg of your choice, so long as it isn’t a deciding leg (if you’re 5-2 up in a BO11 match, you cannot play your wildcard anymore). The wildcard can be played after the ninth dart in the leg has been thrown, so you don’t have to predetermine the leg you wish to use it in.

If you’re struggling, simply increase the number of visits per leg from three to four. Likewise, if you begin to find the game too easy, you can raise the starting number from 201.

Since developing the game Joe has seen his own finishing prowess increase and managed to maintain his success in practice sessions and back in the pub. This excellent mix of familiar numbers, competitive edge and flexibility makes ‘Down & Out’ a game that is fun to play solo or with opposition and one that can be enjoyed by players at all levels.

Original appears in Darts World 575 OUT NOW

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