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
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.
Check your energy state like this:
Check your nervous state
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
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,
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
Do you have negative thoughts or fear of losing, even if your energy
state is okay?
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.
Check your awareness
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.
Check your concentration
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.
Karlheinz Zöchling, Vienna, June 28, 1997