Endurance at the top of darts is often talked about as a physical phenomenon; the ability to resist the effects of fatigue for a prolonged period of pressure. The arm dropping lower. The increase in heart rate. All things that dart players practice to prevent. But what about mental endurance? Is that even a thing? And can we practice it?
Who better to ask than the World No.1 Michael Van Gerwen, World No.7 Daryl Gurney, The World’s Top Technical coach Steve Feeney and GoDartsPro practice expert Anders Östman. They all know a thing or two about major event endurance. And there’s no doubt in any of their minds that the mental aspect of the game can make all the difference between winning and losing.
Michael said "My practice sessions need to be with a calm mind where possible, but having a tired mind isn’t a reason to skip practice, as the chances are you will have to play many games feeling tired".
Daryl added "For me one obvious way is practicing longer and harder when I don't really want to. Especially if you’re training for a TV Major as you need to be able to learn to relax and recover at different times in the event and these longer sessions can help that".
What both agreed was that the mental fortitude to believe you can overcome anything is immensely important, no matter what setbacks are thrown your way, as you can guarantee in darts they will keep coming.
Your 6 Key Takeaways for Mental Strength
The Winning Mindset
- Practice hard, play easy
Steve Feeney’s mantra for all his players is to practice for the mental challenges you will face on game day. If that’s a short format league singles or 701 doubles, prepare your mind for the game ahead.
Steve said “Make sure you play at your pace to find comfort when the discomfort of pressure comes on. And practice long to get used to the endurance that you'll need to reach your peak”.
- Get on the board all the time
Basically, if you can’t practice like it, you can’t play well like it says Michael. So whether your tired, or a bit ill or just feeling stiff, hit the board in all conditions. That way, when how you feel changes, you know you can endure whatever is thrown at you on with an MvG style calm mind.
- Find your reason
Anders' research has found that darts gets really under our skin and we all have totally different reasons for playing.
He said “No matter if it’s to qualify for an event, win an event, hit a winning double, to show ourselves what we can achieve, to be part of a team, that’s all powerful ammo in the fight for mental strength. Use it. Feel what you love most and let it push you forward”.
- Know when to relax
Michael is probably the best in the world at knowing when to relax and what it means a key mental strength. MvG said “Taking the whole day off before any big game is the best advice and be cool with it as at this point you can’t get any better and will only drain your mental strength and adrenaline from the next day”.
- Keep things simple
While the mind is anything but simple, Daryl's tip about keeping things simple is a valid one. Simplicity is recommended for calming the mind for maximum performance and it should be as simple as thinking about where the next dart should go and nothing else.
Not winning, not losing, just visualising where to put the next dart.
- Focus on the positives and try to smile
If practice is going badly, or your losing a game don’t worry you will be back with renewed motivation as a result. Refer back to Michael's tip and remind yourself of the great players before you that have all suffered setbacks and defeats and what they went on to do afterwards.
Have fun. Keep working hard. And remember to relax.