Darts are supposed to be fun, right?
So where did it all go so wrong?
If you are reading this, you are probably having problems calming your nerves when playing darts. And trust me more people are having this problem that you think – even pros.
So how to relax when playing darts? To relax and calm your nerves while playing darts, make sure to have your muscles relaxed at all times. Avoid any muscle tension. Deep breathing also has a powerful calming effect on one’s nerves. With that being said, being nervous while playing darts is normal, and even pros are known to get nervous.
I have been doing types of competitions and tournaments as well, and I have been speaking in front of an audience on more than one occasions.
So I have an idea of how bad things can get when you just cannot find a way to calm your nerves.
Throughout the years, I’ve had to deal with very stressful situations. If you are interested in finding out more about how to stop your nerves when playing darts read on.
Table of Contents:
What makes you nervous when playing darts?
For something to make you nervous, you need to believe it is very important to you in the first place. And that darts tournament or even if it is a regular darts game you have found yourself in is definitely going to feel important.
But how important is it really?
Think about it.
Even if you lose, is that going to ruin your life? I doubt that. And I am sure you doubt it too.
It takes time to get into that mindset but keep the idea in the back of your mind – the game is important, but not that important.
And with all that being said, the one thing that is responsible for all this is YOU.
It may sound a little bluntly put, but that’s the harsh truth. You yourself are behind all this. Your mind and your own ideas and insecurities. And it is high time you get these things all sorted out.
And this is what we will be talking about here.
How Anxiety affects your game
I’ve come across people that have even considered quitting darts altogether because of not being able to calm their nerves while playing
If you feel anxious, your performance and stats will be lower. So any player needs to find a way to deal with the anxiety during play.
When the adrenaline starts pumping, we will experience the fight or flight response every living creature has built-in right into their brain.
Less focus, less precision, and more stray darts are going to be the result. And that is not the worst thing as the lower your performance; the more anxiety will grow — an endless cycle.
I’m one of the lucky guys that have gone through such things. But, I’ve managed to come on top.
So why I am saying all this?
It is because I believe that we are faced with two options:
Come to terms with it and admit it
First, you have to really come to terms that you will be feeling nervous while playing. Sometimes it will be even worse if you play in teams.
However, it has to be deeper than that. Just saying it out loud will not do you good. You need to really delve deep into your subconscious. You will be nervous! And that is OKAY! Don’t expect yourself to be NOT nervous.
Find the right way to approach it
Second, you will have to face your fears if you want to overcome them. Maybe you are an introvert, and you are not used to be the center of attention. Even then, you can overcome it.
Practice, at home, alone, go to bars and pubs near you that have darts. Play, play, play. It might sound silly, but this will make you a calmer and collected.
Tips on how to calm your nerves and relax while playing darts
Being nervous is something that, if not everybody, then at least the majority of dart players do go through when they start playing competitively.
Below I share all the different tips and tricks I have found throughout the years of me playing and competing in various sports that can help out. Of course, not all of these will work for you. Or maybe all of then will.
This is not an exact science, and it is very individual.
I invite you to try and experiment with each one and see what works or does not work for you.
Acknowledge the reality
Well, easier said than done, you will say.
I admit it is. But this is an important step in the process. It will be really hard to calm down your nerves and avoid all the negative thoughts and all the anxiety from affecting your throws.
Understand and acknowledge what is happening. You may be shaking or having little pinches running throughout your body. That’s okay. Acknowledge it happening.
Become more congruent with your emotions and feelings.
You have not all of a sudden, forgotten how to throw your darts. It does not happen like that.
Lastly, the nerves may never go away. Even some of the pros like the Taylor and Michael van Gerwen have mentioned it. That they still feel nervous sometimes.
Do not shy away
Again, easier said than done. But the best way to overcome nervousness is with experience.
It doesn’t really have to be the only experience with darts, other similar types of experience and competitive play can help you tremendously. This is what happened with me as I already had some experience playing competitively in other fields.
Do not give up. The more times you put yourself in such situations, the better you will become at dealing with them. Isn’t that the case with everything?
The more times you experience it, the better you will be at dealing with the situation, and the better you will be at expecting what will happen with your body.
The better you understand what happens with your body, the better you will be at dealing with it and not have that affect you.
Develop a throwing routine
This can be anything like counting to three as you move your hand in each direction, for example.
What you need is to develop a routine which makes the whole thing a little more robotized and automated.
Especially if you are counting, it is going to be very difficult to think about something else. You will be either thinking about counting or other things.
Play against yourself
One of the best ways to improve your game is to shift your mentality.
What I mean is play against yourself, not your opponent.
Forget about the round, the game, the tournament. Forget about your opponent. You are your own opponent. Try to beat yourself. Aim to get down and out quicker than the last time you did.
Something I liked to do is develop this mindset in advance when I am practicing at home. I will always try to compete and beat my previous score and consistency.
Practice as much as possible
The better you get at home, where you can be a lot more collected and relaxed, the better and more confident you will feel playing in front of people.
If your throws are more consistent on a regular basis at home, then you will feel more comfortable that you have what it takes and that you play with the same quality in a real competitive match.
Breathing techniques that reduce stress
Breathing is one of the first things that gets altered when we are under pressure. You don’t want to be breathing in a short rapid fashion. This will not give you enough oxygen anyways.
Start by taking full control over the way you breathe. When people meditate, they are taught to focus on their breathing. Do that and use all your attention to breath slowly and deeply.
Deep breathing does several things for you:
- You will supply your body, muscles, organs, and brain with sufficient oxygen.
- You will feel more comfortable and relaxed.
- You will feel more at ease and confident.
- When your focus is 100% pointed towards your breathing, you let go of negative thoughts and emotions a lot easier.
This can and should be applied to any sport. For darts players, after your turn, while you wait for your opponent to throw practice deep breathing. Forget about what is happening around you and focus on taking deep and long breaths.
Some people have been reporting good results from resonant breathing. What you do here is inhale very slowly, usually between 6 to 7 seconds. You do not need to fill your lungs all the way up. And then exhale for the same amount of time – 6 or 7 seconds.
Additionally, practice breathing from your diaphragm (also known as belly breathing). If I had to pick one thing, that would be it.
Maybe because I have been into other sports as well, and I take what I have learned from there and adapt it to darts. But I have found that people frequently underestimate the power of proper deep breathing.
Consider playing online
Maybe the reason can be more as a result of social anxiety than anything else.
In this case, I invite you to try playing darts online. It is different, I admit, but it can frequently mimic the tension, pressure, and atmosphere of a tourney without you having to stand in front of a lot of people.
In either case, playing online can be useful to get used to and adapt to the stressful part of playing darts. It is not going to improve your throws and consistency, but you will be able to face with what YOU personally find difficult.
Take little steps.
With a decent webcam you can start playing online with people all over the world. In my opinion this is one of the best ways to practice. Just check out the Pro-Darter Online or Webcam Darts.
Reduce muscle tension
When we find ourselves in stressful situations, often, this can lead to our muscles feeling more stiff and tensed.
There is nothing worse to a darts player. The whole game and performance depend on how our muscles and body feels. A slightly tensed shoulders or wrists can ruin the darts game for anyone.
It can be extremely useful for any darts player to know how to relax their muscles during a match properly.
A lot of people have something called neurotic holding patterns. These can be very bad and detrimental to your performance and consistency, especially if they are in the shoulder and neck areas. Which incidentally is where most people have them.
Practice thoracic extension, stretch your back, and neck muscles. If you are feeling tensed in your jaw, shoulder, or neck areas, you need to address this. If you are having rounded shoulders, forward head, or bad posture, in general, you have to work on fixing them.
Start working out
Okay, I fully understand how that may sound.
But hear me out, I talk from experience here.
I have been into fitness for almost a decade. And if I had to pick one single thing that has had the biggest impact on my self-confidence and ability to persevere and do what I have to do even when I feel nervous, stressed out, or just depressed, I would have to pick fitness.
This does not mean that you need to hit the gym every single day. Three even two days a week are going to be more than enough. You are not doing it with the idea of getting Mr. Olympia big. But you are aiming to get stronger and a little bigger.
A little muscle and I really mean a little, is going to do more for your self-confidence than anything else.
Even in embarrassing situations, you will feel a lot better and more confident because you will look good and sexy.
Mistakes that will make you more nervous
A lot of people would recommend chewing gum and even drinking alcohol. Which, to me, sounds crazy.
Alcohol, for one, has been known to reduce our reaction time, focus, and overall almost every aspect of our being. It may be useful to calm your nerves, but it is not going to help you perform better.
And if you perform poorly and you are a bit tipsy, do you honestly think you will feel better? Even if you are not nervous, you will feel bad. Feeling under the weather is not a good idea. So, alcohol? No thanks.
A whole other thing is chewing gum.
What do you do when you chew gum? You clench your teeth and tighten your jaw muscles. You tighten your neck muscles and even your shoulder muscles because of that. And this can ruin your throwing technique and fluidity.
The right kind of anxiety
Yes, there is such a thing as good anxiety.
I have experience in other sports, and interestingly enough, not all stress or anxiety are bad.
According to the Drive Theory, a skilled and experienced athlete can perform better when they are under both cognitive and somatic stress or anxiety.
However, there is a limit. Too much stress will eventually lead to worse performance.
What is important is that the right balance to be found.
If you don’t believe me consider a situation that is not stressful enough. So much so that the athlete doesn’t really feel they are competing or playing a game – they will have no interest in the game. They will not have any interest or concerns as to how they perform at all.
If they are not driven by anything, then they will not perform remotely good.
Both extremes are undesirable.
So this is my final suggestion for you. When you feel nervous and worry about how you play darts and how your next throw will be.
You need the anxiety to perform better. So a healthy dose of it is going to be okay. Understanding this thought alone has helped me tremendously in calming down my nerves.