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Mental Quickfix Program

Sometimes we find that things aren't going the way they should, and we are playing weaker than we know we can. If you discover that something is wrong mentally, it is time to go to red alert mode. In this issue I want to give you a short checklist (and a nice story on strange thinking in the end) for use in an ongoing match, when you discover that things are slipping out of your hand.

The main reasons why a match gets lost mentally are poor energy state and negative or strange (unconcentrated) thoughts. While mentally weak players can't do much about this 'cause they simply don't know there are strategies against, other players have some kind of a list of parameters they are checking and changing when necessary.

So whenever facing troubles in a match of darts go through this useful list:

Quickfix Checklist
  1. Check your energy state (if you don't know what this term means in sports psychology refer to Energy) For me that's the most important chapter of the story.
  2. Check your energy state like this:

    • Are you having fun? Do you enjoy yourself and the match?
      If the answer is yes, then your energy state is perfect. If the answer is no-
    • Do you feel bored or down?
      Then you run on very low energy. Put all your effort in increasing your energy level.
    • Do you have negative thoughts, do you grumble or are you even highly upset?
      Then you run on high negative energy. You must try to move to positive energy. Say "stop!" to negative thoughts, you are playing a game you love, don't you?

  3. Check your nervous state
    Are you nervous, are your knees or your arm shaking? If the answer is yes, use a relaxation technique, like "The Quiet Place" described in Tension.

  4. Do you have negative thoughts or fear of losing, even if your energy state is okay?

  5. Say "Stop!" to your inner self when discovering negative thoughts (works pretty well!). Try to talk to you quietly like this: "I am having fun. It's all okay. I'm cool. I know how to play well and I just do it now." This kind of self - persuasion will turn your thoughts positive again.

  6. Check your awareness

  7. Do you have things under control or are you drifting out of the situation? It's important to anticipate the things going on, and to be aware of your overall mental state. Only if you know what you are doing you will be able to take proper actions against things not working right.

  8. Check your concentration

  9. Are you annoyed by these foolishly talking guys in the background? Or do you think about e.g. where to go for dinner after the tournament? A fully concentrated player would never consciously hear spectator talking and would never let thoughts not concerning the game in his mind. Whenever I discover that I feel diusturbed by something around me I think of the world class billiards player Blomdahl. After a successful final he was asked by a reporter if the sometimes very loud applause was disturbing him. He answered: "Applause? Was there any?"
These five points are well enough as a during-the-match-quickfix. I especially like the Blomdahl quote, because maintaining concentration seems tricky even for some great sportsmen. What strange thoughts some people can have during a competition is shown by an anecdote of former chess world champion Mikhael Tal. Once in a chessgame he was thinking about the sacrifice of a knight, and he suddenly remembered a russian song about a hippo falling into a swamp. He tried to develop a strategy for getting the poor animal out, but everything he could imagine didn't work. Finally, fed up by the impossibility of a rescue, he sacrificed the knight on the chess board intuitively. The day after a newspaper wrote "At this stage Tal made a well - thought knight sacrifice..."

 So whenever I discover a hippo or some other strange creature in my mind during a match of darts, I think of Blomdahl and Tal and ask myself honestly: Is there any? That's all it needs to vanish.

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Karlheinz Zöchling, Vienna, June 28, 1997