See it right, hit it right

By Steve Feeney 12/08/2020

IT may seem to be stating the obvious but darts, at its core, is a game of 'Indoor Accuracy'. The objective is to propel an object, in this case, a dart, to an exact point of aim. Many activities that require accuracy to such a high degree involve equipment or aids that assist in this task.

Think, for example, of rifle shooting. A world-class marksman would be far less effective without the sighting aids (sights) mounted on the weapon. Whether they are the simple notch on the barrel or the modern, laser-guided, telescopic devices. These additions are all designed to assist the human eye to correctly sight the target. In darts, we cannot permanently add such devices to a player's arms or hands. The game would lose many of the elements that add to its enjoyment, both as a spectacle and in participation.

This should not mean that we do not use such knowledge to try to improve players at all levels. Bobby George often says, when encouraging new players, just look at what you are trying to hit, then throw where you are looking. This, seemingly simple, piece of advice is absolutely correct. However, in order to hit what you’re looking at reliably, you need to be looking at it perfectly! If you do not sight the target correctly you will, in effect, be simply finding a way. This goes some way to explaining why many players, even at the elite level, are reliant on their spatial awareness. Often, they will not actually see the dart on its journey to the target, even at the point of impact.

As the game has advanced more and more players are using variations of almost perfect visual alignment or sighting. To put it simply, more of the elite players are throwing from in front of their eyes rather than beside their eyes. Can you imagine trying to aim a gun by holding it beside your head? For example, if you watch Phil Taylor closely you can see him raise the dart and then hold it before his eyes. This would create a corridor down the flight, along the dart barrel, and on to the intended target.

It is, of course, possible to achieve a tremendously high level of skill through natural hand/eye coordination and a huge amount of hard work and practice. This is why such varied methods and styles have resulted in such success over the years. In effect players who rely on their spatial awareness have simply learned a feel for when and where to release the dart in order to gain the desired result. Such players can be vulnerable to high-pressure situations or suffer periods of inconsistency if other factors influence their process.

A correctly sighted player should find improvements easier and consistency easier to find and keep. It is most important for beginners or newer players to grasp this concept. As there are no learned faults or psychological crutches in place. In most accuracy activities, including sports, the importance of aligning the visual elements with the biomechanics has long been part of the development of players, imagine a golfer who does not align their body with their intended shot direction!

Surely the position of a dart player's feet, hips shoulder, and arm must also coordinate with his or her eyes? In the coming columns, we will look at how a beginner or early-stage player can ensure they are properly set up and sighted. This should give you a solid foundation in order to improve rapidly and in a way that will ensure ease of development in the future. We shall also look at how an established player might look to improve, recover from a poor spell of form, or make it easier to perform consistently.

----------ENDS-----------

Words: Steve Feeney & CJ Harris-Hulme

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