Article 3: Pressure

Here you are, in the ninth
Two men out and three men on
No where to look, but inside
Where we all respond to Pressure.
-Billy Joel

Pressure. It is the nemesis of every competitor. It doesn't matter what the competition is or what level one competes at. Every one feels it. Most succumb to it. Some seem to be unaffected by it. Some even thrive on it. I have seen good and experienced darters crumble like dried leaves. I've also seen people who seem to be completely unaware on what the current situation is and throw their darts like they are practicing at home. For years, I have been trying to figure how to handle the pressure. I wish I had the complete answer. I do believe that I know of three things that will help any darter dealing with the pressure. They are focus, confidence, and experience.

First, the focus perspective. Focus isn't just pure concentration. Focus is narrowing your concentration on one or two very specific objects, being oblivious to everything else. Don't focus on your opponent. Don't focus on the music coming from the jukebox. Don't focus on that bass drum beating in your head about 160 times a minute. Don't even focus on the dart in your hand, the shaking may throw you off. Don't even think about winning or losing. The only thing that you focus on is the intended target. Nothing else. Period. It's tough enough to consistently hit T20s or D16s. Don't make it even harder by dividing your focus on other distractions.

Confidence is also a key element in dealing with pressure. Confidence, quite simply, is convincing yourself that you can hit the target you are aiming at. The thoughts of missing do not enter your mind. It doesn't matter to you what situation that you are currently in. The size of the double, triple, or bull in the finals is exactly the same as it was way back in the first round of the tournament. To my knowledge, I don't think there is a dart board out there that shrinks in size as the night goes on, but, I will have to admit, it seems like it does. You have hit it in the past and you can do it now.

Experience is as important, if not more so, as the two points mentioned above. You can read and study all there is written about sports psychology and the subtleties of darts. But if you don't actually get to perform in a high-pressure situation, then all that reading and studying is completely worthless. In order to feel anywhere near comfortable in a high-pressure situation, you need to experience it over and over again. The first few times you may choke and miss horribly. That'll happen. But once you hit that do-or-die dart to win a game/match/tournament, all that pressure will turn into jubilation. Plus, you'll prove to yourself that the pressure wasn't really as bad as you made it to be. The next time you are in that situation, you will become a little more relaxed. Since you are a little more relaxed, the more confident you become. The more confident you are the greater focus you will be able to maintain. Greater focus equates to better darts and, in the end, more wins for you.

Even though these three points will go a long way in dealing with the pressure that comes with darts, it doesn't solve all of its problems. There are times, even now, my hand trembles. There are times that I still think of the consequences of missing the game-winning shot. Thankfully, these times are becoming less and less frequent. When I'm on the oche, my focus is on the dartboard, nothing else. I'm confident that I can hit what I need to win. Experience has shown me that. It will show you the same thing.

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