dartbase.com - The Dart Thrower

Against the board or the opponent?

I was updating the FAQ section (by the way, check it out, 3 new Q&As), when I re-discovered this very interesting mail. Then I remembered how long it took me to respond (hopefully) convincingly, and as I read this response again, I found the problem is that basic it's worth a single article.

        I read your article on the white area,
quite interesting.
My name is Darren Kam and I live in Calgary,
Canada ( a hot little dart bed if I do say so
myself) and we have a different Philosophy on
the matter.

we find if you ignore the other persons shots
and score there really is no problem of Psyching
ones self out. We go on the premise that it is
the other persons score and there is nothing you
can do about it. It basically comes down to you vs.
The board. The only person you have to beat is
yourself. But most important is have fun.
you could be at work.

                Thank you for your time,
                                Darren Kam
Dear Darren,

Thank you for your mail.
You are talking about a very basic problem: Should I play against the board or against the opponent? It's one of the really big questions, most controversial even amongst players of high standard, and there are practical and, as I want to say, philosophical approaches to it. Here is the point of view I advocate:

First the practical. It seems that ignoring the opponent's play is a good way of keeping cool and win. Main problem here is that it is nearly impossible not to get influenced by the opponent. A key point to a good performance is awareness. This awareness has to be understood broadly, it means involvement, focus and being by sins, sensoric ability to feel one's own throw, and so on. This is absolutely necessary even for playing alone, because it goes together with the energy state. High positive energy requires awareness, fun requires awareness, and from sport psychology we know we can only give 100 per cent on high positive energy. But how can I really be aware of things going on when I'm ignoring something? You would have to ignore only your opponent and his play, which is highly difficult (I'm going that far to say it's impossible). As you can see we have two things working against each other - the need for high energy which requires high awareness and the need for limited awareness required to ignore the opponent. Even if you really manage to exclude the opponent completely from your head, there is finally one situation you can't ever ignore and have to deal with: the opponent's game shot.

For a short summary of the above:

  1. Maybe a person who ignores the opponent and still maintains a perfect energy state would be the perfect competitor, but we know we won't ever be able to achieve this.
  2. Because of 1) and because we know this is valid for our opponent as well, let's try to use it in our favor and try to influence the opponent in the best way we can (and of course within the rules of fair play).
Now for the 'philosophy': Ignoring the opponent is like playing alone. Why then should I enter a tournament? What does winning then mean to me (except for maybe $$)? Would I play tournaments when I could have the same fun playing alone? That has nothing to do with a practical approach, but if I don't have fun I won't play well - that's a general rule in sports psychology. I have fun when playing an interesting match, in which I can feel the tension building up and it's great to work on keeping this tension under control. I wouldn't ever have the same fun when ignoring the standings or sg. like that. Remember - fun isn't just a nice thing to have, it's a necessity to win! Of course the term fun doesn't mean here to cheerio and hoorey all over the match, it's more some kind of 'good vibrations' and enjoying oneself quietly and aware (I'm no native English speaker, so I'm not quite sure if the word 'fun' is the best description for this mental state).

I've had some very valuable discussions on this subject amongst fellow players, and I'm ready to get further into it, if you like!

Related topics:
For behind or in the lead part 1
For behind or in the lead part 2

Karlheinz Zöchling,Vienna, 7 September, 1997