Dr Linda Duffy was once the number one ranked women’s darts player in the world. Today she teaches sports psychology at Middlesex University and the London Sport Institute. In a two-part blog, she talks to Harrows about the psychology of our sport…

If we look at single participant sports, where a certain movement is needed to execute a drill or skill – such as golf, snooker or, indeed darts, – a distinct element of control is required to perform the action. It’s the same for team sports, when taking penalties or conversions, for example. However, when we are anxious or nervous in such a pressurised environment, then that action is often compromised.

As far as our own sport is concerned, we are all familiar with ‘dartitis’ – a term used in reference to players who struggle with some kind of psychological problem with their technique and/or release of their darts. 

Professional or amateur, young or old, dartitis – termed a fundamental movement disorder – potentially lies dormant in all dart players and is always subjective. Whether it’s a pub player throwing to win his team the local pub league or a top professional throwing to win the PDC World Championship, the pressure to throw a winning dart is always there.

So what causes dartitis? In my experience it is often something happening away from the oche which triggers the condition. Take Eric Bristow for example; one of the true greats of the sport, it’s no coincidence that his bout of dartitis came at the same as his split from Maureen Flowers – the extra psychological burden he had to carry at the time becoming too much to bear on top of playing top-level darts in an already highly pressurised environment.

Dartitis can manifest itself in many ways, in Eric’s case it was not being able to release his darts, and although he is the most high profile example, more people are presenting with the disorder than ever before. Maybe this is a reflection of society where there is more pressure in our lives; maybe it’s due to the huge amounts of money at stake in the game now in professional circles; or maybe it’s a result of more people recognising they have a problem and are seeking help.

So is there a cure? Unfortunately not, but you can learn to manage it. There are all sorts of remedies, such as a change in technique or strategy, but these should be tailored to an individual’s needs; there might be a change to the way a player stands, the way he or she holds the dart, a change in arm movement maybe… in each case it’s a coping mechanism, yet as I have mentioned previously, to find a coping mechanism you also have to understand the reason behind the affliction…

(…Part 2 to follow)

 

• Dr Linda Duffy is a former World No.1 dart player, England captain, World Cup singles champion, two-time British Open champion, European Champion and is now a consultant sport psychologist at Middlesex University. 

Follow her on Twitter @sportspsycoach

Linda was talking to Luke Nicoli