John and Karen Lowe were superb hosts as usual, and I was delighted that John agreed to grant me an interview for the blog :
ST : What are the main mistakes you see inexperienced players making?
JL : Too much movement when throwing. If the head moves an inch the darts will err by half an inch. This means a S20 will become a S5 or a S1, and a T20 will become a S20. Right handed players sometimes push their elbows out too far, and that too causes unwanted movement.
If you watch the good players all of them keep their heads straight and still during their throw.
ST : Given just one hour before a competitive match, how would you practice?
JL : I'd spend 45 minutes going around the board on the Doubles only, being sure to include plenty of D20 / D6 / D3 / D11 shots. If you can hit them, the other doubles are similar shots.
The final 15 minutes would be spent concentrating on T20 and the Bull. In the USA the “nearest to the bull” decides who goes first, so it is especially important to include the Bull in practice as this is an important advantage.
Throughout these practice shots it would be a case of fine tuning the co-ordination and rhythm.
ST : What is the single most useful piece of advice you could give to an inexperienced player?
JL: Some people seem to throw with a terrible product. I'm not just pushing Unicorn here, but I've seen people use unco-ordinated flights of different colours, and just generally poor equipment. Get decent darts and try a few changes to stem length etc to get the correct balance. I've seen people use flight protectors [small metal “tips” which attach to the back of the flight] just to put some weight at the back of the dart. It is better to use the barrel shape and stem length to achieve this balance.
There is a psychological side to darts, so it is better to compete with good equipment which you are fully comfortable with.
Many thanks to John for this. He really was enthusiastic to pass his thoughts on to this blog, and there's more : John has revealed details of his new coaching book to be released in December 2008 (yep, a whole year away). It may sound like a plug, but think of this : Darts is one of the few games which doesn't have a recognised form of coaching, so this new offering from JL had me really interested.
The working title is “The Art Of Darts – A Master Class”. Following firm interest from at least four publishers it will be Hodder & Stoughton who will release this important work. The book will include photographs and instructions regarding how to stand / throw / release / grip , as well as “style” and all those other aspects we spend our time on improving.
There were initial discussions on separating the contents into 3 volumes, but JL is fairly sure that this will be what we all want it to be – a single coaching manual from a 3-times World Champion.