Category Archives: Coach’s Court

The Myth Of Adding Gramms

​NO this is not another article on the dangers of obesity, nor is it a guide to healthy eating for darts players. Instead, we’re taking a look at one of the most popular techniques adopted by players who seek to improve their game or restore former glories.

Over the past decade, AIM has encountered a number of professional players who have either endured a tough spell or who think that they need to add something to their game in order to improve their performance at the higher levels of the game. Almost all of them have flirted, at minimum, with increasing the weight of their arrows. When asked they all repeat the same mantras: “It will increase my consistency, I need to add some stability” “A little extra weight will help me increase my doubles percentage” or “As I have gotten older I feel I need more solidity” Personally, we blame Phil Taylor!

The Power made a quantum leap late in his career by adding at least 2 grams to his standard weight. But those who cite Phil’s incredible effort forget the most important part of the change. Taylor not only changed weight but also transformed the shape of his arrows and his entire setup. Instead of a heavily gripped parallel barrel, he adopted a bomb shape similar to that of John Lowe.

Using the Stoke legend’s remarkable reconstruction as an excuse to go from, say, 20 to 23/24g, for no reason other than hope, is doomed to failure. Players who have achieved great success with 18-21g darts suddenly seem to think that adding multiple grams will improve their consistency and remove some of the small errors that have crept into their game. Often we find that this is merely a way to avoid tackling actual problems. Such issues can be technical or psychological but are rarely solved with such a blunt tool as weight.

We do not oppose change; indeed equipment assessment is a very early part of working with any new player. We have found that subtle changes in grip, flight shape, and even point type can assist players or add a small percentage to their performance. But we always ask: What is the perceived problem? What do you want to change? Why do you want to change it? How will you measure its success?

Older players may find that the sensitivity in their fingers has dulled and thus they may benefit from increasing the grip on their barrel. Elite players may benefit from using older darts in floor events and brand new sets on stage, or the other way around. Newcomers to the game should experiment with various weights and styles during practice and then play matches with the darts that feel most comfortable.

Dennis gently moved up, from 13g to 17g, throughout his storied career.

Like all rules or guidelines, there are exceptions. If you use a very light dart (12-17g) you may find that adding small amounts adjusts for natural changes in muscle elasticity due to age. Dennis Priestley (Above) gradually increased the weight of his darts, from around 13g, over more than a decade, to 17g. Wayne Warren added two grams in the months before his World Championship win; his form had dipped severely over the previous 6 months, although this was prompted by a wrist injury.

So, before you take the easy option and ‘blame your tools’, try smaller steps first. Make any changes one at a time and give every change a fair opportunity, in all conditions, to succeed or fail.

Our experience of working with highly talented players has shown that subtle grip changes, minimal profile adjustments, and working on confidence and relaxation are far more effective than dramatic weight gain. Again, in darts, as in life.

Article originally appears in Darts World Magazine (Issue 574) order yours now!

Take A Stance

​There has been a trend in recent years to homogenize darts and to identify ‘the perfect way’. This effort is flawed and counterproductive for new or improving payers. An excellent example is in terms of stance:

If you were guided by current thinking you might think that standing in a side-on position was almost compulsory. Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Rob Cross, and many other adopted versions of this position. Hence the more face-on stance could look awkward or old fashioned. In addition, you may think the short, wristy throw is a thing of the past. Yet a quick look at the most successful players, with very long careers, over many years, offers a different story.

Bob Anderson made his TV debut in 1979 and still featured in the International Darts League in 2007. Along the way, he claimed the World Championship and three consecutive World Masters titles. Anderson was unfortunate enough to have to compete with Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Jocky Wilson, and then Taylor all in their prime. But despite his individual style, few would question his place in the elite of the game.

Overlapping, with Anderson, is the career of another face on, wristy short throw, tall player. Simon Whitlock first competed in the PDC in 2004. In 2018 he was ranked back in the top 10 and featured in the Premier League. Whitlock is one of the few still active, to have played in both BDO and PDC World Finals and hammered MVG in August’s World Matchplay.

A close look at footage of both players reveals many similarities. They are tall upright men in their normal posture. Both lean in with the majority of their weight on the front foot. They get the best results when they level the dart before release. Each is also very still and deliberate in their stance but, once the throw begins, very fluid with the three darts. Both are skilled movers along the oche and their finishing can be unstoppable. In terms of equipment both use mid-length barrels, 50.8mm, medium stems, and a standard shape flight. Both seem to prefer the larger surface area to the flight to get their dart to stand up in the bed. Both use slim fronted darts ( although Whitlock keeps changing) to allow superb grouping.

The ‘Aussie Wizard’ has been experimenting recently with equipment and accessories. Anderson was also keen to adapt to the times and switched to aluminium stems quite early and adapting his tools over time. Whitlock, 50, could also emulate Anderson’s longevity. Perhaps there is something to be said for their style even today.

So, if you have a wristy throw, or face on stance or any other idiosyncrasy take heed of these great players. Maybe look at your darts, set up or both. Make one small change at a time, to ensure that you can tell what is helpful and what is not, and give each one a decent chance to work in all conditions.

Following the crowd is not always the solution. Remember in darts it’s a little like the ‘Pirates Code’, more a set of guidelines……


A version of this article appeared in Darts World Magazine during 2020

Lead Image: Darts World

Article Image: PDC

Practice and Preparation. Our Coach & Mystery Pro Talk Specifics.

A while back our resident Coach was somewhat surprised when he asked a player how they has improved their game. Unusually, the player, who has played the biggest stages in darts, responded with a detailed daily/weekly timetable:

Playing on the biggest stages is a goal for most tour players, but how do you get there? (Pic: L Lustig)

Coach: I noticed you have been on a upward curve, in performance terms, for quite a while now. How do you think that improvement has come about?

Pro: I refocused on my ‘behind the scenes’ efforts and structured my practice much more than before. It has worked better than I imagined.

Coach: So how much darts do you play?

Pro: I have been playing league darts for over twenty years. I still play as many different formats and leagues as I can. From 401 double-in, through to best of 11 leagues with other tour / talented players.

Coach: Do you do any specific practise or just competitive leagues?

Pro: I tend to concentrate on the quality, of additional practise, rather than quantity. I plan and tailor my practise around the Pro Tour timetable and those events which I am scheduled to play. I play at least three quality sessions per week, every week. Extra, individually planned, sessions are done in the weeks leading up to major events or matches.

Coach: This sounds very focused, what do you mean by “…..quality” and “…..individually planned”?

Pro: Over a typical split my effort two categories, competitive or directed practice. An outline of a normal Pro Tour week might be:

  • Monday – Day time – Rest Day. Evening – League Darts usually a more social evening, but near the end of the season, it’s pretty competitive!
  • Tuesday – Day time – directed practice with practice partners. Evening – League 501 darts.
  • Wednesday– Singles League ( Best of 11)– At least two matches, highly competitive darts, measured performances with incentives to win!
  • Thursday – Formal practice over professional formats with other PDC or equally capable players. Several PDC or BDO players have joined in at times along with some very capable local or aspiring players. Everyone benefits if they put in the effort and concentration. Evening – Super League if we are in a quieter period.
  • Friday – During the Pro Tour, it’s best to relax and or travel on Fridays. I may have some fun practice in the evening. Half-it etc. with friends. Outside of Pro Tour weeks, I may attend a local open or league singles.
  • Saturday/Sunday – Daytime – Open competitions are the best practice available, hugely competitive, and of a really high standard these days. Matchplay and adaptability skills are honed with every event. Pro Tour events are the ultimate test of this. Evening – Relax!

Coach: That’s a pretty heavy schedule!

Pro: It was worse when I was working full time! I now treat darts very much like a job. I still try to play some ‘fun darts’ but most of the week is darts focused.

Coach: That’s a pretty impressive structure, do you have an overall plan as well?

Pro: The plan is to improve, and groove, my game during the week. It’s then tested in competition, whether open or PDC. I adjust the structure of the week according to my results/stats or what is coming up next. I do set some general overall goals each year but they are between me and mine!

Coach: You mention changing your practice and prep for major events?

Pro: My routine is reworked for Major event preparation, my practise is related to the formats and timescale of the competition, for example in preparation for the recent World Championships we practised over the full format – the great Eric Bristow was a fan of this method – with a similar style player to my opponent, always at a time to replicate my tournament schedule.

Coach: Anything else we should know?

Pro: I try to get good solid rest periods to recharge and then refocus fully on my game. It is not always easy with the addition of more and more events (not complaining!).

There are always improvements to be made and areas’ to learn in. I look at every game from both points of view, learn from wins as well as defeats, often people dwell on why they lost rather than looking at how they won!

Coach: Thanks for sharing that. I am sure it will give other players some food for thought.

‘Coach’ has worked with players, at all levels, for over a decade he has developed players into the top ten and on the biggest stages in world darts.

Coaching – A Bit Like The Pirates Code?

Coach’s Court is our regular look at how to improve your darts game. Our coach has been helping players improve for over a decade. Bringing unknown players to world prominence, boosting the careers of those who have stalled, and turning around players in a slump. He has also developed younger players, those recovering from injury and those who wanted to win their local league/pub games. 

Coach’s Court will be looking at all areas of the game, physical, technical & psychological, and all levels of player. Whether your MVG or Mr/Mrs. Smith, if you want to get better, keep an eye here.   

As with all major events, the upcoming World Championship will inspire people to play, or improve their current standard. With that in mind our first “Coach’s Court” will concentrate on the first question for any player: 

Your Stance. 

How you stand dictates a lot of how you play as a darter. The thing most often forgotten is that you must be solid and stable, you must also be able to adopt the stance easily and without thought. Like most things in darts, your stance must be exactly repeatable without having to be reconstructed with every visit to the oche. If you take-up your stance and get a playing partner to nudge you from the side, does a gentle nudge causes you to lose balance and sway from side to side? If so you are vulnerable to moving on the shot. Although most players have their weight mainly on the front foot they use their other foot as a counterbalance to ensure they are secure.  

Taylor is perhaps the clearest example of the side-on stance. (Pic: L Lustig / PDC)

There are two main schools of thought with regard to stance. They can be summed up as side on or face on. The majority of the greatest players stand with their front foot turned sideways to the oche. The rear foot is then held, with the heel raised, behind. The head is then turned to align with the front shoulder. Check out this YouTube analysis of Red Dragon’s Peter Wright to see a great example here.

Legends, such as Eric Bristow and many current elite playersincluding MVG, favour this general stance. 

The other main school chooses to place their front foot pointing forward as if walking toward the board. Most turn their heel slightly for solidity. Again, the rear foot acts as a counterbalance to the weight on the front foot. The position of this foot, and its elevation, vary greatly between players of this style. Bob Anderson began his career with a superb example of this style. Some have the rear foot flat, and directly behind the front one, and others move it quite a long way to one side and lift their heel. Your weight should feel centered on the ball of your front foot. The body then mirrors the slight angle of the feet giving a straighter, less twisted shape to the torso and neck. Winmau’s Simon Whitlock has a very straight on version check it here.

As with all techniques there are many variations between the two extremes. Multiple World champions of past and present, Gary Anderson & John Lowe, are also superb examples of solid easily repeatable stances that could be described as a middle way.

If, after 20-30 mins of playing, part of you is hurting, it is likely that your stance is placing too much strain on that bit of your body or you are compensating too much because you are out of natural alignment. A future piece will look at alignment more closely. 

OK, so you’re now standing comfortably at the oche waiting to throw. Over the next few “Coach’s Court” sessions we will look at where you’re going to aim, what you’re going to throw, and how you’re going to hold it. 

Coach Says: “Darts Coaching is a bit like The Pirate’s Code, it’s more set of guidelines…….” 

Get in touch with your questions or queries. ‘Coach’ will answer as many as possible. Drop us a line via our Twitter or Facebook pages and add #askcoach